Testifying in Court

The Supreme Court of BC (Vancouver) located at 800 Smithe St. hears the more serious cases where the accused has elected for trial by judge and jury.  A quote from the Government of British Columbia’s Court Services page reads as follows:

“The right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers is a cornerstone of our democratic society and one of its oldest institutions. It exists to protect the individual’s rights and to involve the community in the administration of justice.”

If you are from the Lower Mainland, or from BC for that matter, you will probably remember the case from a few years ago where a young woman was charged with the 2004 murder of 84 year old Ragnar (Ray) Michaelson.  The young woman was found guilty after her trial in 2006, details of which can be read in coverage from The Vancouver Sun.  

In the newspaper article, one line jumps out – “Michaelson was found clutching a phone, suggesting he was trying to call for help after he was attacked in his home.”

It’s a very accurate report.  I know it’s accurate because that’s exactly how we found him.

After responding to a call of a disturbance that quickly escalated into a stabbing from inside a residence, other officers had taken the suspect into custody a short distance away from the house.  At the time, we did not know if there were other suspects outstanding, but witnesses said someone had been stabbed inside the house and needed help. The police radio was chaotic with officers running everywhere and multiple witnesses calling in to 911.  Adrenalin was running high, the updates from dispatch were rapid-fire broadcasts, and my partner, sergeant and I were the first ones at the residence.   

‘To preserve life’ is an oath we have sworn to, so the three of us focused on the task at hand and set out to fulfill that oath.

Inside the home, we located Mr. Michaelson in one of the bedrooms.  While my partner and Sgt continued clearing the house, I stayed with Mr. Michaelson, gun drawn and at my side.  With my other hand, I stroked Mr. Michaelson’s soft white hair, telling him everything was going to be okay because we were there now, all the while knowing nothing was going to be okay for him from then on.  My hand moved from his hair to his neck to check for his pulse.  Then taking his hand in mine and speaking softly, hoping he could hear me, I told him to hang on, that help was on the way. 

As the voices of my partner and sergeant grew faint from deep within the house, I talked to Mr. Michaelson, telling him over and over that everything was going to be fine.  Looking back, I think my repeated mantra was just as much for myself as it was for Mr. Michaelson. For when my fingers sought out the side of his neck again, all they found was stillness. As I knelt there beside him holding his hand, Mr. Michaelson had left us. 

Two years later, when I recounted the experience in front of a packed courtroom and a jury of twelve, I searched the galley for Mr. Michaelson’s loved ones.  Having never been able to tell them someone had been with their father and grandfather at the end of his life had been a weight on my soul, so I searched for their faces, wanting to make sure they knew we cared about what had happened. 

Equally as tough was looking at the accused as she sat with bowed head.  Her actions had been monsterous, but she didn’t look like a monster; she looked like a tired and scared twenty-something woman who had made a series of poor decisions.  My heart broke for her a little that day too. 

Crimes like these leave too many victims behind.

Tags: ,

1 Response to "Testifying in Court"

  • Slamdunk says: