My Second Day In Court

Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her (John 8:7)”

Polly PinThey are like a demonic Penn & Teller. The perp, John Sparrow, sits silently, intently watching his lawyer, occasionally the jury, but mostly Jane Doe One, while his attorney, Steve Gallenson, brews black magic. He is able to psychologically torture and emotionally twist the young victim on the witness stand for hours under the guise of a quest for justice, and apparently there is nothing that can be done to stop it.


I wonder if these aggressive tactics serve his client. The jury has to notice the smug look on their faces as the young witness struggles to maintain her composure. What does he expect to find at the end of this brutal line of questioning? A tortured soul laid bare, with no recourse but to be harshly judged for having been victimized by sexual predator?


I question how and why the defense can lay a victim’s deepest and darkest secrets at the feet of the jury without consideration of the consequences, when that same jury is not allowed to know that the defendant has already been convicted of these crimes once before.


Finally, the torturous line of questioning ends. She spent a day on the stand justifying her own existence, having her past exposed like an onion, layer by layer. She was brave on the stand: her voice didn’t waver and her gaze didn’t drop. However, after she was excused and when she was finally out of eyesight of the jury she broke down in cascading waves of despair. She was so sad, seemingly broken.


I met Jane Doe One and Two before they testified. Independently, I gave them each a Polly Pin, like the one I wear on my lapel. I told them a little bit about her story, because neither of them were alive yet when Polly was murdered. I told them that as her worst fears were being realized: as the kidnapper was stealing her into the night, her last words were, “Please don’t hurt my mother and sister.” I told them that if Polly could find the courage to put others ahead of herself as she realized her worst fears, then they could find the strength to stand up to the defense attorney’s psychological Blitz Krieg. Jane Doe Two wore Polly’s pin on the stand, above her heart. Jane Doe One kept it clutched in her hand as she answered every question put to her with courage and strength. I like to think that over the course of the last two days Polly’s spirit helped them to navigate the murky waters of America’s criminal justice system.

My Day In Court

Seal_of_CaliforniaI spent the day at the Sonoma County Superior Court in support of two young women who were facing their molester in court for the second time. On Oct. 11, 2013, 55-year old John Sparrow was found guilty of twelve felonies involving the sexual molestation of two minor victims under the age of 14.


In 2013, both victims weathered the indignity of testifying to terrible crimes committed against them when they were young girls in front of a room full of total strangers. When they left the court room, emotionally and physically drained from sharing their personal nightmares, they had full confidence that Sparrow would spend the next several decades behind bars. However, less than a year later Sparrow was granted a new trial on grounds of ineffective assistance from his first lawyer. Lawyers may be the only profession that regularly throws its own under the bus in the quest for more business: or is it perverted justice?


The case is simple enough. Jane Doe One was Sparrow’s neighbor, having moved into his neighborhood when she was only 8-years-old. He began molesting her at 11, and continued to molest her for the next five years. She said that she told no-one because he made her feel like the molestations were her fault. She was afraid that if anyone found out that she was doing something wrong, she would get in trouble.


The molestations always started with a shoulder rub, because Sparrow is a certified massage therapist, but over time they escalated to graphic and overt sex crimes. When Jane Doe One was 16-years old she and Jane Doe Two, who is two years younger, went to Sparrow’s house to smoke pot and eat magic mushrooms. Some hours later Sparrow gave Jane Dow Two one of his infamous sex-massages, and when he slid down her bra strap and put his hand on her breast she stopped him, got her friend and went to the authorities. Thus ended (at least we hope) a pedophile’s career.


The defense doesn’t contest that Sparrow gave his legally procured medical marijuana to young girls, that he supplied them with hallucinogenic drugs, that he took the children into the woods to trip, or that he couldn’t keep his hands off of them. What they do deny is that any sexual molestation ever occurred.


In his opening statement Sparrow’s new lawyer, Steve Gallenson, said that the girls fabricated the molestations. The first witness, Jane Doe Two, was brought to tears on several occasions as she was forced by Gallenson to recount her ordeal in excruciating detail. He tried and tried to trip her up by pointing out minor inconsistencies over several testimonies, interviews, and third party reports. However, she held her ground, refusing to be bullied by a lawyer who will settle for nothing less than 100% recall about the worst trauma of her young life that occurred while she was high on pot and hallucinogenic mushrooms. I thought that she did an amazing job.


When Jane Doe One took the stand you could hear a pin drop in the courtroom. After recounting her history of being molested by Sparrow at the direction of Assistant District Attorney Tania Partida, Gallenson attacked again. He, and his client, forced her to recount the details of 5-years of sex crimes in front of total strangers. During the first two-hours of her testimony she refused to look at Sparrow, just as he couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of her. The bitter irony is that in her mind and in the courtroom Jane Doe One is being continually re-victimized at the same time that Sparrow, in his mind and in the courtroom, is continually re-victimizing her.


I wonder what kind of ambiguous and skewed morality allows a lawyer to attack children in a courtroom and bring them to tears time and time again, as he defends the indefensible.