Readers may recall when I blogged about spending several days watching a court trial in New Bern. Well, I'm at it again.
This time, the trial is for 2 charges of vehicular homicide. The accident happened in November 2009, when Libby and I were up in Vero Beach. It is the second trial for this case, the verdict in the first trial having been tossed out by the appeals court.
I must say that I'm fascinated by real life trials (as opposed to the Hollywood version). There are so many people involved, playing so many rolls. In this case we have two prosecutors, three defense lawyers, two English-Spanish interpreters, and a small army of witnesses, and of course the judge and all her courthouse staff.
So, what have I learned by this experience so far?
- There is a whole other world of Spanish speaking immigrants who live in Trailerama down on 15th street in Marathon. That is a culture I was mostly unaware of. Libby and I live in the cruiser culture centered in the harbor. Then there is the culture of the wealthy landowners that surround us. We've had occasional contacts with them. Then there are the working folks of Marathon, and finally the underclass in the trailer park.
- That our whole process of legally determining what people thought they saw seems horribly outdated. Privacy concerns notwithstanding, we should have cameras on every vehicle and every utility pole watching everything all the time. It seems criminal to not have that in today's world. (Yes of course I hate the idea of big brother staring over my shoulder. I'm not asking for cameras in homes, just on the highways.)
- The criminal justice system gets good marks for trials. Everyone involved tries so hard to do it right and to avoid mistakes. I will include the witnesses in that. Every witness so far seems interested in telling the truth accurately. That applies to the Latinos and to the law enforcement. In other respects, I have lots of doubts about the American justice system, including the scarcity of jury trials. But the trials themselves, are as good as anyone could expect.
- It is fun to watch the ancient traditions and courtesies acted out in a court room. It took an amusing turn today. The judge (a middle age woman) was complaining about being too warm. She kept signalling the bailiff to turn down the thermostat. Everyone else in the court room, lawyers, witnesses, spectators and the jury were freezing cold. The smart ones had sweaters and blankets. Even so, as the day went on, that thermostat got set lower and lower.