I went to court twice last week. It was less emotional than I was anticipating. But it still sucked.
Court seems to be a lot of hurry up and wait. On Monday, we arrived at 8:30 to go meet the Victim’s Advocate, Deanna, at her office, but we ended up running into her in the elevator so we just went straight to the court room. We waited outside there for awhile, before they unlocked the doors. Then we waited inside there for awhile before anyone else came in.
For folks like me who have never had the pleasure of sitting in a county court room, it is much smaller than I anticipated. There were three rows of chairs on each side of the aisle down the middle. A fence divided the “court area” from the “audience area.” Despite being the middle of all this bullshit, I was still an audience member. I don’t look forward to breaking that 4th wall.
Deanna is super useful and willing to answer questions. At this point, the government issued liaison is better at communicating the process to me than the lawyer I’ve hired. I think that is interesting and also speaks well of the people who are trying to make the mandated process more compassionate. I took the waiting time to ask Deanna a bunch of questions about the process, about the next steps, about the victim’s impact statement, about how she got into this work and just about everything else I could think of. It was an informative conversation. I have more questions already.
The Prosecuting Attorney came in and said hello, then “went to chambers” which as far as I can tell means he went to go chat with the judicial officer and the public defender about what was about to go down. So we waited some more.
At some point in that waiting, two kids came in with a corrections officer. The officer left them as soon as they were seated and went and stood inside the fence. The older one, the boy, was twenty at most. The younger one, the girl, was probably sixteen and wearing a school backpack. They sat as far away from us in the audience area as they could and made no noise. I assume they were there for Meekins, but honestly, that’s an assumption on my part.
Eventually, Meekins and the public defender came out as well as the judge. Meekins and the PD took the stand facing away from us and stayed that way the rest of the time.
Meekins was entering a guilt plea for two felonies – one for killing Jason, one for injuring me. The other two felonies were dropped as part of the plea deal, but also because they were sort of part of the same crime. As in, if he hadn’t killed Jason and injured me, he wouldn’t have then run away from a car accident, so since one followed on the other, he pled to the greater offense.
After entering the plea, he had to say what he was pleading guilty to. His immediate response was, “I don’t remember.” That’s basically what my teenagers say when they don’t want to admit to something. Except this time, it isn’t spilling paint, its killing someone. The judge told him either he remembered and did the thing he was pleading guilty to, or he couldn’t plead. That led to a brief conference between him and the public defender, which resulted in her asking leading questions. And by leading questions, I mean it was things like, “You were operating a motor vehicle on the morning of April 30th?” and “Before getting in the vehicle, you had a verbal altercation with someone?”
On one hand, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if he says the words or if she says the words. Jason is dead, Meekins is going to jail.
On the other hand, Jason is dead because of his actions. I would like to see some personal responsibility for those actions.
The only thing he answered in more than a grunt was the question about whether or not Haynes and he were racing. And about whether she was chasing him. Then all of a sudden he could be heard saying yes. Which again, makes me think that he is not taking responsibility for his actions.
So, it was a rather unsatisfying half an hour. Then we went to breakfast, which was far more satisfying.
On Thursday I went back to court. Chelsea Haynes had her first appearance.
Let’s back up. Meekins is in custody after being picked up for violating a court order. (One of the passengers in his car had a restraining order against him.) He’s been cooling his heels in jail. Haynes was not arrested when they placed charges. She was given a summons to court, which basically means she has to show up at a specific time place and otherwise gets to live her life as normal. I know, its bullshit. I’m well aware of the bullshit.
At this first appearance, the prosecuting attorney’s substitute tried to argue that Haynes needed to be jailed because she was a threat to public safety. The public defender argued that the situation hadn’t changed and since she wasn’t already in custody, she should remain that way. The public defender won that one, though they added more conditions to her release. Honestly, I feel like the conditions they added were mostly more bullshit. It was things like, “Don’t drive without a license” and “Don’t drive drunk” which, from my understanding, were already conditions of being a citizen.
The only really new condition that happened is that she now has a no contact order about me. That means that if I am in a public place, or if I enter a public place, she has to leave. I presume that doesn’t apply in the courts.
All told, she’s still out wandering around Minneapolis until her next hearing. She hasn’t entered a plea one way or another yet. The public defender asked for time to review the case. It is unlikely she will be taken into custody at that point either.
Yes, I’m still aware of the bullshit. You don’t need to tell me.
Then she left to go get a skin implant breathalyzer and I left to think about how broken our legal system is. Then I biked home. Biking and crying is far more complicated than driving and crying.
I am not required to go to these hearings. I skipped the first two for Meekins. They didn’t seem important. But I went to listen to him plead guilty.
I went back on Thursday because I felt like I needed to. I can’t say what I expected to get. I wanted to see the person who killed Jason. I want to see who would show up with her. It didn’t change much, and honestly she was facing away from me most of the time. I’d be more likely to remember her ponytail than her face.
I will continue to go to the hearings that feel relevant. I will probably skip some. I will continue to try to put my life back together. I’d rather focus on that than on the bullshit.