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  • Maureen Boyle

Delving into the dark side

Updated: Jan 21

With each police report, another fact emerges. With each court transcript, another voice rings out. With each news clip, another snippet of the time is memorialized.

The police reports document the evidence but the agony of the victims and a community comes through: a family soon to be grieving, a town frozen in horror, a desperate search for the missing and then the killer.

In each trial, facts emerge but not every nuance, not every piece of information is brought before a jury. A defendant's arrest record is often not presented, even if it mirrors the current crime. Some testimony may be deemed hearsay or unduly influenced and not allowed.

The defendant sitting in the courtroom rarely resembles in clothing or demeanor the person who had been arrested. Clothes are fresh. Hair is cut. Tattoos, especially those with expletives or words like "killer," are covered. The jury is looking at a cleaned up person, an image of the neighbor next door they may know. They don't see the handcuffs or the leg irons. They don't see the prison or jail guards waiting to bring them back to the lockup. They are presented the facts of the crime and must decide if there is reasonable doubt the person is guilty.

Too many equate the defendant with the lawyers defending them. Defendants, even those accused of the most repulsive crimes, need counsel during trial. The defense attorneys are not the killers, not the sex offenders, not the robbers. They are the counterweight to prosecutors, making sure justice is equal on the scale. They are there to make sure the innocent go free, no matter their past. It is their job to make sure the prosecutors have the evidence to convict. It is their job to keep the justice system honest.

It can be difficult in the midst of horror to understand how lines are drawn in the courtroom. But it is something we all must remember.

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