Starting JB’s trial

When I was in the hospital, working kept me going.  Most of my clients had no clue that I was in the hospital.  I didn’t want them to worry as I still had everything under control.  It kept me from losing focus on life.  It was like, be bummed about my situation or focus on the fact that I still have responsibilities and people who need me.

After 6 weeks in the hospital, I got back to court as soon as I could.  I think I was back in a courtroom 2 weeks after I got home.  I was right back at it, and it kept me alive.  (Not literally, just figuratively.)  There was only one client whose case I got off of because I didn’t think I could do enough for him.

JB was the one client I kept from my former employer.  My mentor.  The greatest defense attorney I have ever known.  He had passed away a year and 2 months prior to my becoming paralyzed.  And out of all the clients who asked to stay with me, I kept 1.  JB.  I had always felt a very maternal instinct to protect JB.  When I first met him, not many people were there for him.  He was practically estranged from any good influence in his life.  So I wanted to stay with him.  To protect him.  To save him.  It was a weird mix of wanting to help him and my one last remaining tie to my mentor.

After I ended up in the wheelchair, I suffered anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to do enough for him.  How could I be an effective voice in trial when I could barely even hold my body upright (I was pretty weak in the beginning).  I am not a confident person by nature.  If I seem it, then it’s a pretty good front.  I second guess everything, which is why I thrive on constant validation.  The difference between his case and my other cases is that I knew the other cases wouldn’t be going to trial right away.  And I was confident that I would get stronger and even start walking again soon.  But JB’s case was almost 2 years old and would be pushed to trial quickly.  I felt like I was abandoning him, but I had to hand him over to the public defender’s office.  I felt it was in his best interest.

Cut to almost a year ago when I get a call from a mom who wants a lawyer for her stepson who she loves as dearly as if he were her own.  “He’s not a bad kid.  He just needs help and I hear you can help him.”  I respond “Sure, what’s his name?  I’ll go see him in custody tomorrow.”  She tells me his first name, which is a very unique name.  “Don’t tell me it’s JB [insert last name here].”  She’s shocked that I know her son.  Apparently she had no idea that I had previously represented him.  They end up retaining me and I make them promise to not tell him so I can surprise him.  The look on his face when I rolled into jail was priceless.

In the 2 years since I had given his case over to the PD’s office, he had not only not gone to trial but picked up several new cases while he was out on bail.  Now I was back on his case and in his life.  I was stronger for what I had gone through and he was more willing to really open up to me because of his path.  We were a much stronger, better team now.  He actually told me recently that no matter what happens on his case, he has never felt more comfortable with anyone because he knows I truly care.  And I do.

So, tomorrow I start trial on the first of his many cases.  I am scared to lose his trial.  Not because I think he’s innocent like with some of my other cases with defendants that I’m close to.  But, I’m scared because it’s my one last tie to my mentor and if I lose, I feel like I’m letting him down.  And I feel like the universe brought me back to JB for a reason.  Maybe my mentor had something to do with that, I don’t know.  What I am confident about is that my wheelchair does not prohibit his defense.  It won’t stop me from being the best advocate for him that I can be.  It won’t stop me from arguing until I can’t argue any further.  I wasn’t confident 3 years ago.  And maybe I’m not the most confident now.  But I am dang sure that I am a fighter.  And that’s what he will get tomorrow.

But, winning would be nice validation.

First wheeled trial

Last week was big for me: I did my first jury trial in a wheelchair.  It’s crazy that I’ve been in a wheelchair for 2.5 years and it was my first one.  I say it’s because I am really good at pleading out cases (which is true).  But, I’ve also been hesitant.  The ones that I knew for sure were going to trial I was kind of pushing off.  And then the ones that I wanted to go to trial sooner ended up getting pushed for reasons beyond my control.  Such is the chaos that is the legal profession.

But last week, a case was ready, and away we went.  I was nervous.  Not for the case.  I felt as prepared as possible for that.  I had a whole other set of worries.  Would the jury be preoccupied with my wheelchair to listen to my arguments?  How was I going to take notes and address them at the same time?  I can’t use the podium because they’re wooden and set to a standing person’s height.  Not very wheelchair user friendly.  And things like standing as a way to show respect to the judge or jury.  Those were out the window.  Would they understand that I was still trying to be respectful?  Before my so called wheeled life, I would stand every time I addressed the judge.  And I would stand when asking questions.  It was professional.

But, I pushed all that aside so I wouldn’t be distracted from the main goal: winning.  The jury didn’t seem to react outwardly to my wheelchair.  They seemed to be focusing on the facts, which is exactly right.  Though, in my closing arguments, my investigator said a few of them were watching intrigued as I put my pointer and whatnot in my cup holder (I call it my “holster”).  Apparently they thought that was clever.  I hope they’re as amused by my arguments as they were by my cup holder.

Overall, it wasn’t that different from when I was walking.

Negatives:

-Couldn’t stand for the jury or judge

-Couldn’t use the podium

-Couldn’t bring in my normal wheelie bag to carry all my stuff, so I was limited on what I could bring in.  I have some big cases coming up with way more files.  I’m going to have to figure something else out.

Positives:

I love my job and I’m doing it.  Nothing can stop me.

Ladies and gentlemen, the positives win.  Now I go back to waiting for my jury to return a verdict.

P.S. Shout out to the hubs who taught me the difference between an ax and a hatchet.  There was one involved in this case and that was actually a pretty big difference.  I was able to educate the judge and DA.  So, thanks hubs!