This introductory paragraph grabbed my attention, and I've been mulling it over for the past day:
"The stories and other materials summoning the bogeyman in one guise or anotherMarina Warner
not only give existing fears a face and a form, but can also excite them and
shape them in the first place. And fantasies not only shape individual
consciousness but constitute society's character as well. The tidal shore
where fantasy laps at actuality changes the contours of them both: they move in
a permanent, restless, symbiotic relation and vary as the weather changes, and
we are living in a time of a cultural El Niño."
"the tidal shore where fantasy laps at actuality"...... amazing metaphor.
"I thought that it was strange to assume that it was abnormal for anyone to be forever asking questions about the nature of the universe, about what the human condition really was, my condition, what I was doing here, if there was really something to do. It seemed to me on the contrary that it was abnormal for people not to think about it, for them to allow themselves to live, as it were, unconsciously. Perhaps it's because everyone, all the others, are convinced in some unformulated, irrational way that one day everything will be made clear. Perhaps there will be a morning of grace for humanity. Perhaps there will be a morning of grace for me. "
I recently re-entered my paralegal program after withdrawing for 5+ months for health reasons. As a result, the familiar classroom faces were gone, graduated, and most of them already working in law offices. I have now become the 11th class member of the next class, and the odd-girl-out in a group of 11 students, 10 of them already paired up to argue opposing sides on 5 murder cases, and they were into 3 months into mock trial preparations before I got there.
I was assigned to the role of judge, and I was at first content, imagining that I would be allowed to coast until the trials began. I assumed my role would be limited to sitting on my ass, being called upon to sustain or overrule objections, look solemn and throw in the infrequent "Noted Council, you may continue."
Did I ever have it wrong.
My instructor assigned me to research the prepared charting, evidence and witness lists for both sides on all five cases. In three weeks, no less. I was to be able to recall facts from memory or notes so that I could make note of factual errors, creative arguments, etc. I murdered a minimum of 3 trees for this project.
Most of the murder trials we choose are high-profile US cases, of which there is an abundance of information available on the internet or in libraries. Canadian cases that are chosen are generally those involving wrongful convictions. (These are my favorite.) We argue them as if they occured in Canada, applying our laws in place of the US laws. Happily, this means Crown council need never argue for the death penalty.
The students are always quite creative in their arguments, bringing in evidence props that have taken months of work to mock-up. One lady made a full-scale cardboard vehicle with life-size dolls wearing the exact clothing that the children of Diane Downs were wearing when she shot them.
The trials I was allowed to judge this round, along with the charges and jury verdicts included:
Regina v. James Driskell
Charge: 1st Degree Murder
Regina v. Lawrencia Bembenek
Charge: 1st Degree Murder
Verdict: Not Guilty
Regina v. Stephen Grant
Charges: 1st Degree Murder; Dismemberment of a Corpse
Verdict: Guilty of 2nd Degree Murder and Dismemberment of a Corpse
Regina v. Robert Baltovich
Charges: 1st Degree Murder
Verdict: Hung jury
Regina v. Andrea Yates
Charges: 3 counts of 1st Degree Murder
Verdict: Not guilty by reason of insanty
Note that the verdicts reflect how the cases were argued by each side, and don't reflect upon the actual trials of those accused. The most difficult cases for me to research and hear testimony and arguments on were Yates and Grant. I have a great empathy for Andrea Yates, and her mock-trial defense had such a powerful closing that I lost the ability to maintain impassive and had to call for a recess because I started bawling. Very unprofessional of me.
Grant was difficult to research, after reading his full confession (.pdf), and then watching the news clips of his interviews when he was still pretending his wife, Tara Grant, was missing. They are truly disturbing to view. In this video, which I watched 3 times, I never was able to catch him blinking or successfully swallowing. Quite eerie. I've been having nightmares ever since. Contemplating a cubicle job in real estate law at this point. I'm not sure Criminal Law is for me, though I find it fascinating.
The most exciting was Bembenek's mock trial. I argued for her as defense earlier in the year and it's the only one of my trials that I saved all the documentation from, and the one I'm proudest of. The defense council for Bembenek in this mock trial emailed Ira Robins, the private detective who has worked on the case for decades. She wrote to inquire about obtaining some information, and he replied back, offering to attend the trial as a witness and to bring documentation. He was an amazing man, and I am pleased to have been allowed to hear him speak about Bembenek's case.
He's got HUGE cajones. The following day, he spoke with our department, along with the criminal justice students about his various ongoing projects in exposing corruption at the highest levels of state government in Wisconsin.
All in all, an interesting first few weeks back in school. We were assigned to choose and research new cases, which we will be working on until September. My partner and I chose the Robert Latimer case, the Saskatchewan farmer who confessed to killing his severely disabled 12 y.o. daughter, because she was living in constant pain. We couldn't decide which sides we preferred to argue, as both are fairly evenly weighted. The instructor tossed a coin, and I was assigned to represent the Crown. I'm looking forward to the challenge, and mentally preparing for some serious emotional upheaval.
As difficult as these cases are, I love the work involved and am very happy to be back in school again.