People comment to me quite often that it must be interesting to sit in on a big trial and see everything that happens.
Well, think about it this way – the interesting parts are the ones that make the paper. If you condense eight hours of a day in court down to a 25 inch article, think about how much of that day, proportionally, was just not that interesting.
There is the 15 minutes at the beginning of each expert’s testimony that establishes they really know what they are talking about. Where they went to school, what credentials they have earned, how many times they have testified…yawn.
Then you have the ‘hurry up and wait’ aspect of things. I hustle to get to court in time, just to sit there for 45 minutes while the judge and attorneys chat in another room. Granted, this gives me a chance to chat with any other reporters who might be around, or to see if anyone else in the galley fishes and where they’re biting.
There are the 12 witnesses who were all called in to say they didn’t really see anything. After the third one, a person could really start to drift off.
The there is the joy of sifting through a billion pages of notes in order to actually write the story after sitting in a court room all day. Something that sounded really important at 10:30 a.m. has become just another fact by 3:45 p.m. And I just can’t make them all fit. Stories can only be so long.
When a big trial is coming up, I anticipate it, plan my life around it because of the long hours, and look forward to it in a way, mostly because I want some answers. After following a case from crime to sentence, I get a bit involved in the outcome, almost like a bit of ownership in the case.
The thing that bugs me the most is I don’t always get the answers I want. We expect all the details to come out during a trial, and that simply isn’t the case. I still don’t know how Lisa Shane’s baby died. I never found out why Randy Swaney decided to kill Carrie Nelson instead of just rob the park office. Even with crimes other than murder, I don’t always get the answers to the questions everyone is asking. Why did the Devines burn down their house, what possessed Lonnie Haken to molest a child, and did Lee Towlerton think no one would notice they didn’t have extended warranties?
Next month I will be looking for answers from the guy that allegedly stole a bunch of equipment from the Avoca fire hall, and also from the man who allegedly raped his niece to death. Not the same level of crime, but I am still interested in the outcome of each one.
For those who think it still might be interesting, the courtrooms are open to the public for the most part. Go see for yourself how the system works.