This excerpt is from \"Crook County\" by Nicole Gonzoles Van Cleve. It is very emotional and shows a serious side to Gina.
North American (General)
Note: Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and may contain errors.
an elderly black defendant in her seventies shuffled into open court. In jail issued slippers rather than a cane or walker. She clung to the metal pole of an oxygen tank for balance, gripping it with two hands and bowing her head as she walked. She cringed as though she was either intensely praying or feared being beaten, charged with murder. She appeared in court for sentencing in a court docket of mostly young men of color and a stream of nonviolent offenses. It was a rarity to see an older woman, Especially one who is charged with a violent crime. The defendant was frail as if she had stepped out of a nursing home rather than a jail. Her coarse hair was nodded and combed and stretching upward, a tale tale sign of neglect from a lengthy stay in the Cook County jail, her eyes were swollen and red when she entered the court, a hush fell upon the professionals and for a moment they were as quiet as the obedient public gallery. I leaned over to my supervising prosecutor and whispered, What could she possibly have done? She crassly responded. She shot her husband in the asce and the ***** died on her. She shoved the file at me to read for myself. The judge asked the defendant if she wanted to address the court before he imposed sentence. The defendant began sobbing while she spoke so that she was ultimately gasping for air between words. There was a tonal dissonance of hearing black english spoken in what was a white professional domain. The defendant said that she had been abused her whole life and she could not take the abuse any longer. She meant to hurt her husband, not to kill him. She was sorry and she pleaded not to die in prison. This was the first time that I heard a person plead for his or her life. It was not my last, with a voyeuristic circle of stoic white onlookers and the dark shadows of the public gallery behind bulletproof glass. The ornate courtrooms, dark oak detailing and the crest of the state seemed neither honorific nor dignified. It assumed an aura of medieval ceremony. As the woman spoke, she clung to that oxygen tank as though the metal pole could provide her human comfort. The white judge paused and asked, are you done with the terseness and inflection that implied, are you done wasting the court's time? The defendant replied, affirmatively. I expected the judge to merely give the sentence in a somber tone. Surely the hush in the court invited such a response. I privately hope for leniency. I tried not to tear up and lose my street cred because when I saw this defendant, I saw a woman who walked with the same cadence as my grandmother. The judge stood rested his palms on the desk, leaned over the bench and looked down upon the defendant. He tilted his head by letting his chin lead like he was ready for a fight. He said slowly, You're a bad, bad woman. And then he began to yell in a rant that degraded her character and denied her identity as a victim. He emphasized her complicity in her own abuse and stopped just short of swearing his comments focused on her as a person, not on her actions as criminal. The judge berated her in a manner so harsh it appeared to re enact the domestic abuse that I read in the case file. This time the judge was the public abuser and incidentally the judicial arbiter. A few prosecutors turned their backs and laughed. Some were wide eyed and disbelief, shooting glances at one another but unable to speak. The obedient gallery sat in silence as they watched through the bulletproof glass, the public skewering of a black elderly woman by a white man. Throughout the tirade, the defendant clutched that oxygen pole. I noted all of this in my field notes and then vigorously underlined one short summarizing sentence. The defendant wept