Going to court isn’t like being on Law and Order

Just a bit over a year after the shooting I was called to testify in court. The hearing took place between my grade twelve year and first and only year of University. I was quite nervous about having to go to court. Knowing the shooter would be in the same room as me was a big concern. I knew that he would be in restraints but that didn’t seem to ease my anxiety. The idea of being in a room with someone who had caused me and so many other people so much pain was not something I enjoyed. I didn’t want to be in the same room but I had to. I was also worried about the questions they would ask me and if I would answer them properly. It was stressful to have to relive the events of that day and then to be questioned about it just added to the stress.

I remember pulling up to the court taking a deep breath and then walking in. It was a hard walk to take. My mom and dad accompanied me. We waited out side of the room where the hearing was taking place. A councilor from the high school was there and she helped me and some other students prepare by telling us a little of what to expect when we went in. We weren’t aloud in the court room with the exception of when we were called to testify.  I waited for them to call me to go in. I cried a little, and then went and wiped my face in the bathroom. Finally it was my turn. I walked down a short isle towards the witness box. There were people in the seats but I didn’t want to look at them. I didn’t want to look at the shooter or walk by him but I had to. I took my place at the witness stand, was sworn in and the questions commenced.

I told the court how I had ran into the Jr. High school after witnessing the shooting. This brought up confusion and questions about how I had gotten into the Jr. High. I explained how they were attached but it still seemed somewhat confusing to the lawyer that was questioning me. I found this frustrating. I was thinking, shouldn’t you know this? shouldn’t you have a diagram or something that I could point to to show you where I was and where I went. It also seemed fairly trivial. That was just with the Prosecutor. My frustration was only going to get worse as I was questioned by the Defense. “How far away were you from the shooter when the shooting occurred”, “Could you give an example of the distance using yourself and a point of reference in the court room”, “Did you know the shooter before the shooting had occurred”, “How did you know him”,”Did you know if he wore glasses”, “Did you notice if he had worn his glasses the day of the shooting”, “Can you describe the look in the shooters eyes at the time of the shooting”, “How would you describe angry and hurt”? My response to the last question was,”I don’t know, I’ve never seen anyone murdered before so I don’t really have anything to compare it to”. My voice cracked with emotion as I held back tears. In reality I just wanted to scream,” What’s your angle? Cause whatever it is I don’t think I like it.” At that point I think they knew that I was done and they allowed me to leave the stand and go out of the court room.

I felt embarrassed. I felt I had been too emotional. I was frustrated. I was uncomfortable with the way the shooter had looked at me, smiling at me from his chair. I had false expectations going in and didn’t know what to expect in the future. I had some expectation that I would somehow be informed when a verdict was decided. I don’t know who I thought would tell me, I just expected to be told. I had also been told to expect to have to go back to court to testify again. Imagine my surprise as I happened to hear a news report on TV stating the shooter had been sentenced to three years in prison. At first I was elated to know that it was all over. I wouldn’t have to go back to court again. After the relief faded I was shocked to realize that he had only been sentenced to three years in prison for first-degree murder, and two counts of attempted murder. Going to court was definitely not like being on Law and Order. Not that I’ve been on Law and Order but I know, if I were, I would have a script to follow, diagrams to point at, someone there to let me know what was going on and I would have most definitely yelled at the Defense Lawyer ” What’s your angle? Cause whatever it is I don’t think I like it.”

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