Today was the beginning of the trial for the second suspect in Mark's murder back in Sept 2007. Jury selection was last week, and today was the beginning of the proper trial, with opening arguments and the defendant in the courtroom. Of course I took off work and joined Pamela to be supportive on this first day... Samantha was due to testify later in the afternoon, so we wanted to make sure she saw a sea of friendly faces.
The opening arguments were interesting in that the prosecution acknowledged that the evidence is based on statements by the defendant and informers and no physical evidence... and the defense telegraphing that everyone who passed on that information are liars and cheats. The defense was all over the map, kind of trying to paint the defendant as pulling his life together, a family man, a musician, and a patsy victim of others who would see him fall.
Forgetting for a moment that the defendant has a prior assault convictions where he beat someone in the head with a metal bar just as Mark had done to him. Otherwise, I'm sure a nice fellow.
We heard testimony from both the veteran cop and the rookie who were first on the scene, and from a member of the forensics team (brief aside: The forensics guy had a distinguished east-indian look with a shock of white hair, and when he opened his mouth, the nasal and slightly effeminate northern Minnesota accent was shockingly mismatched with his look... It was bracingly distracting).
During testimony, we were shown pictures of Mark lying in the yard next to his bike which were both shocking and strangely comforting - to finally see him in his final resting place - it made it feel strangely real. Of course, this affected us all pretty deeply, and the judge paused the proceedings to let us know that overt emotion in the gallery could be seen as an attempt to influence the jury, and could lead to a mistrial, so we need to keep that in check. RIGHT.
Sam's testimony came later in the day, and it was hard to watch: She was just delivering a chronology of the evening... and the hardest thing to watch was her explaining that at 1:30 when she awoke and didn't find Mark in bed (but Eve was), how she assumed he was on the couch downstairs... And how she figured out he was gone in the AM, but needed to get the kids off to school without alarming them.
I must say that in the past year, Isaac has been the kind of kid who wants to be in bed with you, and once there is NOT a good neighbor. I have fled to the couch more than once, as has Pamela. I can completely understand waking up with a kid in bed but not your spouse and not really wondering what the problem is.
Sam made it through with just a few breaks to collect herself, and the cross-examination was mercifully short - I think that no matter what your defensive strategy is, it scores no points with a jury to belittle or harass a grieving widow.
On our way out, there were TV cameras set up, but we weren't approached for comment. All the same, I was apparently on several news channels this evening.
As the trial goes this week, Pamela and I will be there as we can to support Sam and the family... It'll be good to have this closure.