My friends, it is done. The sentencing of Chelsea Haynes on Wednesday closed the last of the legal cases around Jason’s death.
I’m pretty sure I have feelings. I’m not sure where they are. I think I had so many feelings I’ve walked out the other side of feelings into cheerful non-feeling-ness. I’m going to hang out here for awhile, so if I’m having inappropriate emotional reactions to things, it’s cool. Unless I’m being an asshole, you can leave me here in my not-feelings. (If I’m being an asshole, please inform me so I can stop. I don’t want to be an asshole.)
A press release went out today. There may be news articles this week. We’ll see what comes of that, but failing that, here’s how Wednesday went:
Court was set for 11 am. At 10:30, my parents and my mother-in-law and I went to meet with the Victim’s Advocate and the Prosecutor. At 10:55 we went downstairs to the courtroom. My friends in the courtroom had to save us seats, because there were that many people.
I knew that people were going to show up, so I requested a larger court room. It seated 50. Of those, 6 seats were taken up by Haynes’ family. The other 44 were taken up by people who showed up for Jason and for me. And there were people standing in the aisle. The sheriffs were not on board with the idea of people sitting in the juror’s box, or standing in the aisle, so we ended up opening the doors and having people sit in the hallway. They said stern words about being quiet and following the rules. No one made a peep and they relaxed. Once we got all arranged to the satisfaction of the sheriff’s officers, one person counted 28 people in the hallway. Another counted a total of 72. People showed up. Thank you for that.
The sentencing itself was what I expected. They went through the legal blahblahblah to confirm what we’ve already agreed to. Then the prosecutor made a statement introducing the Victim’s Impact Statements. The Victim’s Advocate read Karis’s (Jason’s sister) statement. My father read Jason’s father’s statement. My mother-in-law read hers. I read mine.
The first three statements were about a page each. Mine was almost 5. Brevity isn’t my strong suit.
In thinking about writing and reading the VIS, for me, this was also my chance to have a voice in court. After a year of sitting silent, this was my chance to be heard. And this was my chance to give Jason a voice in that court. I had a year’s worth of words built up behind my lips and that was my moment to say them.
After the statements, Haynes was given an opportunity to speak. She declined. Her attorney was surprised an pressed the issue a bit and she declined again. Then the hammered out more legal stuff. The judge got to the part where she gets to go off-script and actually talk to the defendant. She was a little less blunt than the last time we saw her, but she was still pretty clear in saying that Haynes had made a choice which resulted in someone’s death but that this was a chance to take a different path.
The judge then said she wished that Haynes had taken the chance to address the court. And after considering it, Haynes did decide to address the court.
She had a prepared statement about how she was protecting her sister and was in fear of her life from Meekins. I believe both of those things are true. They don’t make her a victim or a martyr. Which is what her statement made her out to be. I was unimpressed, and also unsurprised.
I do wonder why she originally didn’t want to speak. Did her point of view shift after listening to the VIS? Did she want to change what she had prepared but couldn’t figure out how? Was the pressure of nearly 80 people who were not there for her give her stage fright? Was the concerned about how it would be received and chose not to? I don’t know and can’t know. I can only hope that she was affected by what she heard and wanted to adjust her statement.
After that, court wrapped up quick and adjourned with Haynes walking out in her orange jumpsuit. I hope she takes the time to stop and consider her actions as her own actions.
As Haynes’ family was leaving, the last two women out said, “I’m sorry for your loss,” to the group as a whole and to me. That was unexpected. Even more unexpected was when one of the women, an aunt I think, came and found me once we’d left the floor and the watchful eye of the sheriffs. She kept saying that she was sorry for my loss and gave me a hug. She seemed really, genuinely upset and sad.
I’m not sure what to do with that. It gives me hope that Haynes has a support network of family. Maybe she has family who can help her see what her actions wrought and help her grow into a different person. I hope she has family who can love her and also hold her accountable.
All in all, the whole thing was a lot of emotions but otherwise pretty anticlimactic. We knew what was coming and it came. It happened. It is done. I’ll get around to having feelings about it sometime later.