In any event, John talks slowly and asks many, many small, precise questions. The standard laugh line around the Special Prosecutor’s Office is that Richard Sheeran’s trial should take three weeks but since John is prosecuting it, it will take three months. Indeed, it does take three months. The prosecutor puts on witness after witness—to which I am not privy. A potential witness cannot sit in the courtroom and listen to other witnesses testify lest it taint the potential witness’s testimony. I was supposed to have been the first witness; because of the hearing, I was the last witness.
The day comes when I get another call from Willie: the judge wants to see me. Ye gods. I put on my testifying clothes—cream-colored shirt, khaki skirt and vest, and Bob’s wings—and go to the judge’s office in the courthouse.
When the governor appointed a special prosecutor, he also appointed a special judge. State Supreme Court Justice Lyman Smith is also from outside Onondaga County, the aforementioned Penn Yan on Keuka Lake, and is semi-retired. He is a great walrus of a man, having white hair and a big white mustache, and his considerable bulk being covered with a large black robe. The prosecutors have concluded that he is smart and fair; they accept him as a good jurist. Among other things, Judge Smith does not hang with the local crowd at all. He eats his lunch in his office every day and then goes for a walk with his law clerk. And now he wants to see me.
I am, as ever, petrified. John and Willie have been preparing me for my trial testimony; they have not prepared me for a one-on-one with Judge Smith. I am ushered into his office—high ceiling and dark paneling—and directed to a seat by the judge’s desk, which is also is big, dark and impressive. Someone—a clerk or court recorder—is sitting somewhere behind me. I face the judge in a state of panic. He talks to me. Justice Smith is nice, and kind. I start to tear up at one point and he assures me that they are not there to ruin my life. Really? You could have fooled me.
At some point he asks me to tell him what happened that day in Richard Sheeran’s office. I knew I wasn’t supposed to tell the doctor but I haven’t gotten any guidelines about this. Thinking fast (I am really good at this) I conclude that if the Supreme Court justice sitting on the case asks for my testimony then I probably should give it, even if it’s not in a courtroom in front of the accused and his attorney. So I tell my little story, ending with the infamous “Now you can say you’ve had your first shakedown.”
The judge looks at his clerk and gives a slight nod. This is what it’s all about. This is what the prosecution wants to put before the jury. This is why we’ve had this long hearing that went on all summer.
Then the judge goes on the record and issues his order on the hearing: he will permit the defense to bring in the fact of my hospitalizations but not the substance.
I am dismissed from the judge’s presence and make a beeline for the prosecutor’s office where John and Willie await me. I tell them the judge’s decision. John looks at me long and thoughtfully and then slowly and carefully says that it’s the first time he’s ever had a witness deliver a judge’s order. And then we go for one final round of trial preparation. This is it; this is final: I will testify the next day. Back at work, they ask me how many days my testimony will last. Days? Minutes!
I arrive at the courthouse and am directed to a waiting room behind the courtroom. I wait, and then am called into the courtroom. It is a terrible shock to see that the courtroom is packed; there isn’t even any standing room available. Reporters and a sketch artist are in front on the left. And the first two rows in the center are occupied by the entire staff of the District Attorney’s Office. They have done this to rattle me—put all the people I used to work with in the front rows. Attorney David Howe is slid forward on the bench, aggressively leaning toward me.
When I worked in the Grand Jury Unit, David was one of my superiors and used to tell me what to do. During that time, my roommate got married and I advertised for a new roommate. One of the people who came to interview was David’s wife. She was leaving him but he didn’t know it yet. I went to work the next day knowing what he didn’t know. In the courtroom, seated near David, was mousy Judy, my self-righteous co-secretary in the Grand Jury Unit. I used to tell one of my friends stories about Judy then one day my friend asked, “How old is she?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “twenty-four maybe?”
My friend gasped and said, “All this time, the things you’ve told me about her attitudes and opinions, I thought she was middle-aged!”
So there were David and Judy and the entire staff of the District Attorney’s Office. I wanted to yell at them to go back to work. They were being paid to serve the people, not sit on their butts and watch a trial. They were there to shake me up, but it didn’t work. All I had to do was not look at them. Seated further back in the courtroom were Dr. Grace Healy and Bob. Grace was director of the Civic Literacy Project; Bob was a participant in the project, and husband of Evelyn, who worked for the project and was part of the Citizen Power group. Grace was projecting her 1000-kilowatt smile of support. I couldn’t look at her, either, or I’d break up.
Richard Sheeran was seated behind the defense table. So, finally. After all this—the shakedown, the grand jury testimony, the indictment and arrest and hearing—we come face to face again. The accused has the right to confront the witnesses against him. He is the accused; I am the witness. We face each other. Big whoop. We are a couple of plastic chess pieces to be moved around the board in an enormous game of The People versus the conspiracy to steal democracy.
All people share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions that affect their lives together.