My criminal case had a ridiculous amount of information available to present at trial. A tidal wave of potential documents.
I had organized about 22 banker’s boxes of information as the administrator of the Fund and that was just me. There were approximately 140 investors’ information, each of the committee members’ information and whatever the government had found.
Seeing what the Government had as evidence against me gave me a mixed feeling. To me, they couldn’t prove their case for a long list of reasons. To them, they could prove their case because people lost money in a sophisticated investment that salespeople verbally explained that may have contradicted the written offering document. The Government assumed I was a part of that explanation and I was not. I was the administrator of the Fund. Ultimately, investors lost their investment. I lost my investment in the Fund. Losing money can make people emotionally charged.
As my attorney, Dan, and I started to sort through all my Fund information, I had no idea what he was looking for and neither did he. Generally, I knew he wanted evidence that I was innocent, but that could be with one piece of information or a series/pattern of facts that showed the continuity of intent and regard for the investors. When Dan would find something that he thought was exceptional, he named it a “ding and a woo”. That phrase originated from a restaurant he frequented and a bell that was rung on special occasions. The list of “ding and woo’s” began. There was a very high standard for what made the list. It was a good day when a “ding and a woo” was added to the list.
I had to change the way I thought of presenting information at trial. I thought the more information I had to prove my innocence, the better. What I learned was that the Judge was known for being a bit impatient and that the jurors were likely to quickly get bored. Too much information in such a short amount of time leads to overwhelm and confusion. Jurors check out. It’s just how most of us are wired. It’s a constant juggle of what is true and what is not true, what is important and what isn’t important, what proves or disproves elements of the alleged crime and all of this information is seen through the view of each juror’s life experiences.
Our mind has filters to deal with information overload, breaking things down and making them simpler for us to consume. These filters aren’t necessarily the paragons of rationality. They don’t filter between what is objectively right or objectively wrong, but rather, they filter how well the information resonates with our existing state of mind, our existing sense of self, to maintain its sanity in a world far more complex than it could wish to comprehend in a limited amount of time. We had to make a complex case simple at potentially the price of my freedom.
The prosecutors had substantial experience. They were clear that they won 98% of their cases. They knew how to persuade a jury. Sometimes if you say something over and over again, it takes on meaning even if it shouldn’t. Repetition has a way of convincing us. It’s like the advertisers that email repeatedly or the commercials… eventually you buy their product. Again, leveraging investors’ loss of their funds with repetitious allegations could be a cocktail for disaster for me.
I wanted the most educated, open minded juror to be on my case, but that was not likely. Most educated people find a way not to be on a jury. I took some comfort that “beyond a reasonable doubt” is a very tall order. Like climbing a mountain. I was hoping that the jurors would take their duty seriously and listen to the evidence. It was out of my control, so no sense thinking about it too much.
Plain White “Exhibit” – 900 Stickers
I was still in an overwhelm mode at this time. With as much grit as I possibly could, I was learning painful lessons that I should have implemented years ago in my life. One of the most important lessons was finding the most important questions to ask. It sounds so simple but it’s not.
The most important questions are the ones that are consistent with your values and need to be answered before any others should be. If you answer other questions, you may be fooling yourself into thinking that you are making progress when you are actually distracting yourself from the real work. Worse than that, sometimes you never uncover the most important questions.
The starting point is knowing what is important and deciding to be unwavering with that decision.
I chose to be alone when I could be. I was working full time and I was with my legal team hours each weekday. My kids were so important to me. I spent as much time with them as I could and tried as hard as I could to be normal and the Mom they deserved. Keeping others informed about what was going on with the case was an obligation that I couldn’t do well and so I often chose not to do it for stretches of time. For those few people that showed me grace and unconditional love, no explanation was needed. I could reach out to them in my time, not theirs.
My faith was growing. When I was alone, I often prayed. I knew that God felt so strongly about truth and justice and at times, I felt like I was being tested. I made a decision to tell the truth as best I could about everything and that I would end up wherever I needed to be. That made sense to me because I could live with that. My faith and the truth were the very few things that were solid in my life.
What are you learning that will serve others?