The climatic break up of my five year relationship with Hyde had landed us in court.
I have always had an impeccable record. Spotless.
But this was the sad reality of "our" relationship investment; Not marriage. Not children. Not building a family...court.
My attorney Jaypeth Baker, from The Legal Aide Society was doing his best to console me about accepting or declining a plea bargain;
"I know that your innocent. I could tell you all day that your innocent and you got screwed. Unfortunately this is our flawed legal system. And at the end of the day, no one here is going to apologize to you for what happened to you."
We listened intently as the Honorable judge Amaker asked the District Attorney, "Is there a history of domestic violence?"
The District Attorney responded, " No."
I leaned into my attorney Mr. Baker and whispered, " That's not a true statement."
Mr. Baker replied, "What they mean is a history of arrests."
It was difficult to decipher the true context of such a question weaving between all the legal jargon and hidden agendas. I could not help but feel as though, the four people standing before me had held a meeting that I had not been invited to and pre-determined my fate. Kind of like when you are in school and you know your parents already spoke with your teachers before you even showed up for class.
In that moment I focused on the only thing that brought me comfort, the three letters I had to validate my case, now in the possession of both the New York District Attorney and Mr. Baker's legal files;
Letter #1: Rebecca Maller, a case manager for Safe Horizon, Brooklyn Family Justice Center had written an advocacy letter on my behalf regarding seeking services as a victim of domestic abuse in early December, 2010. She had helped me create a safety net plan to keep myself safe and create a strategy to move out of my home.
Letter #2: Diana Thomas, MA, LPD, a Psychotherapist I went to see on December 24, 2010 and spoke to her about the sadness I was experiencing over my partners violent tendencies, specifically about being hit while on a family vacation with the in-laws and the visible marks left on my body. I spoke to her about making preperations to leave my relationship.
Letter #3: Dr. DaRocha from Settlement Health had also written a letter on my behalf about an appointment for a physical I had with her on January 29, 2011 during which I had to answer a question as to whether or not there was domestic violence in my home. I cried when I told her that my partner had begun being physically abusive four months prior, and that I believed the anger was escalating due to my partners infidelity. I shared with her that I had been diagnosed with PTSD and was having a hard time sleeping due to nightmares, she in turn gave me a prescription to help me sleep.
Although these letters mattered to me, I was going to be forced to make a very difficult choice regardless.
Plea bargaining is like choosing between swimming through a tank of live alligators or sharks.
Plea bargaining is like choosing between being bitten by a cobra or a black widow
Plea bargaining is like choosing between eating a box of sharp needles or razor blades.
Plea bargaining is like choosing between holding a lit stick of dynamite or a live grenade.
You only have a few minutes to make up your mind.
The stick of dynamite would have you wrapped up in the judicial process for another six to twelve months of your life. Although your relationship with Jekyll is officially over, you will continue to be entangled in another type of relationship with Hyde based on unresolved anger, hurt and resentment. Whether you like it or not, it is still a relationship with the ex, it is just a different dynamic of relationship and not what you want. The judicial outcome of the trial would be uncertain and even though you have the proper documentation from the domestic violence center, and doctors to prove your innocence it would be a long, drawn out process.
There are other pieces of the puzzle to seriously consider as well; the District Attorneys office is aware that you have been laid off from your full time job and had recently moved out of your Manhattan apartment. Your life was currently in limbo, biding your time to re-locate to another state for work because you were waiting on your court date to make future plans. Economically, fighting it out in court without full time employment could leave you financially bankrupt. You would also have to make arrangements to fly back and forth between New York and another state to be present at future court dates. The financial time clock was ticking and was a serious burden unto itself. The spiritual piece to consider is you would also be trapped in re-living the re-cycled past, still dealing with the drama seven months from now, instead of moving forward into a new season in your life. The past would be coloring your present moment.
The live grenade would be to plea to a violation, even though in your heart you know to do so is not the truth and is to go against your better judgement. Pleaing guilty will immediately detonate your ego and allow your ex, Hyde to gloat in a false victory but it would dismiss any charge against you. None of which will remain on your record. The grenade will allow you to die to your past and move on with your life quickly. No more court. No more toxic relationship with your ex being drug out to waste another year of your life. It would be a clean break and you would be officially divorced from the drama. You will be free, free to create a fresh start.
The catch is it would come at the cost of betraying lady justice. Justice would not be served if you did. What also bubbled to the surface of your mind was whether or not it would validate your ex Hyde abusing and cheating on you? No, it did not.
"Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." ~ Proverbs 27:6
According to Plea Bargaining: An Unconstitutional Delegation of Judicial Power in the section the Evils of Plea Bargaining;
"Criminal justice needs an impartial moderator (or judge) positioned between the prosecutor and the defendant, but the plea bargaining system results in an agreement to plead guilty before any judge has gotten involved in the case."
Plea bargaining is like choosing between being raped by a stranger or someone you know.
Plea bargaining is criticized, particularly outside the United States, on the grounds that its close relationship with rewards, threats and coercion potentially endangers the correct legal outcome. Coercive plea bargaining has been criticized on the grounds that it infringes on an individual's rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated in the UK's Human Right Act 1998.
Plea bargaining is like choosing between being stoned to death by small rocks or being crushed by a boulder.
In the 1991 book Presumed Guilty: When Innocent People Are Wrongly Convicted, author Martin Yant discusses the use of coercion in plea bargaining. (p. 172)
"Even when the charges are more serious, prosecutors often can still bluff defense attorneys and their clients into pleading guilty to a lesser offense. As a result, people who might have been acquitted because of lack of evidence, but also who are in fact truly innocent, will often plead guilty to the charge. Why? In a word, fear. And the more numerous and serious the charges, studies have shown, the greater the fear. That explains why prosecutors sometimes seem to file every charge imaginable against defendants."
Between the rock and the hard place is the truth without a trial.
Plea bargaining is like being forced to choose in dire circumstance between your life or the life of a friend.
My mind began drifting to thoughts of Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison and the lines of his favorite poem Invictus, by William Earnest Henley.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul...
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
The poem reminded me of something my best friend said to me a long time ago before she passed away;
" Recognize the season of your life. Once you recognize the season, flow with it instead of fighting it. There is no suffering in surrender. Surrender brings with it a new season for positive changes. "
Like a flash of light, I thought about my season of " loss and letting go." The memories of the last year suddenly rushed over me; how I tried to heal my relationship with six months of couples counseling, how my commitment was to give a 110% for an entire year to make it work. Instead of the safety and comfort of love, I found myself suffering in tremendous loss and sorrow. In the struggle to 'hold on' and 'make it work' everything was changing; my career was changing, my relationship was changing, my residence and my entire life along with it. I had been left with the responsibility to clean out our two bedroom apartment by myself when we were both on the lease. I had to let go of everything I had worked for materially speaking; in the process of letting go I packed 25 boxes of clothes and houseware and donated them along with our queen size bed and armoir to the Vietnam Veterans Association. I gave our new air conditioner and a bag of food to the 80 year old woman who lived on the first floor of my building whose only companion, a Pomeranian named CoCo had recently passed away. I let go of a desk, a glass dining room table and chairs, along with five bags of food and a shopping cart and gave them to a woman with children that had recently moved out of a homeless shelter and had no furniture. I even helped her move her new belongings into storage. I gave another bag of food to a young college graduate who had been out of work and was hungry. I also let go of my extra bed and gave it to a neighbor who needed it. Then I packed another 23 boxes by myself and shipped them to my new home with the help of a few close friends. Thank God for family and close friends, the handful of twenty year friendships that still surrounded and supported me had seen me through it all. The season had definately changed and a residence once filled with love, laughter and now tears... was empty.
The time had come to accept 100% responsibility for my part in the success or failure of our relationship. I knew in my heart letting go of our relationship, our friendship, our dreams and our home was a painful but cathartic blessing in disguise.
Plea bargaining is like choosing between bruising your ego or murdering your soul.
In that moment standing in the court room, the chains of loves illusions and judicial slavery broke off of me like the last leaf clinging to the tree before winter, with faith and trust I gracefully fell into a new season...
Spring, a new beginning...a journey of healing.
* I * CHOOSE