I was recently asked to serve as a character witness for a dear old friend of mine. We fell out of touch a few years ago (nothing dramatic really, just a simple, ultimately irrelevant disagreement about Caligula), but now it appears he’s got himself into a spot of bother. While obviously I could not comment on the details of the alleged crimes, I was happy to testify to the quality of the man.
It was a very long time ago when we first met; we were introduced by a mutual friend (well, probation officer) who felt we had much in common. It took a while for me to warm to him, but once I did, we had such good times, some of which, I’m afraid, were on the other side of the law. Well, I was fifteen — what could I know? One often throws caution to the wind during one’s youth, but we also were deeply committed to the things we cared about. We used to dream, we used to vow, we tried to right the wrongs of the world; alas, we tried and we failed. But he taught me a good hairdresser could save my life, he was the one responsible for my liberal use of the v-word (vile or vulgar, depending on my mood), and he used to kiss me a lot. Naturally when I was asked to stand up on his behalf, I didn’t say no, how could I?
I spent yesterday sequestered (I know it’s usually jury members who get closed off but I fancied a little break from Christopher and his relentless ‘holiday spirit’). The hotel was not up to my usual standard (they really took the mini part of mini-bar to heart), but overall I found my judiciary experience quite rewarding.
Being asked to serve as even the smallest cog in the great machine of justice is a responsibility we should all take very seriously, and I can assure you I did. I immediately went out and purchased a new suit. I don’t mind telling you that it was devastating — a gorgeous fit, lovely velvet lapels and cuffs: it really screamed ‘trustworthy but up for it’ (which was precisely the look I was going for).
I also spent hours preparing my testimony. I can’t give away too many details presently (though you’ll no doubt be able to read the juiciest ones in the papers as soon as the verdict’s handed down), but I wanted to make sure I appeared specific, vivid, and certain. As I am a journal keeper of the highest order, I dug out my old diaries just to see, just to see all the things I’d written (and illustrated) about him. Obviously there was much that demanded to be kept private, but in the end I felt my selections reflected his actual character while also keeping the court engaged and entertained (alas, we do live in an internet-based world where people cannot stay focused long without hearing a joke or something about how cute kittens are; fortunately my statement offered sufficient levels of both).
I had been working closely with my friend’s barrister, this charming man with just enough grey at his temples and leather elbows on his tweed coat. He instructed me on how best to word my answers to his questions. We did some role-playing (no costumes sadly): he asked, “What two words do you feel best describe the defendant?”; I answered, “Morbid and pale.” He asked, “How did you first meet?”; I answered, “He spent six years on my trail.” We went over my memories, including a ridiculous twenty-four hour Claude Brasseur film marathon and his rather sweet and tender habit of singing me to sleep. By the time I checked into my hotel, I was feeling quietly confident enough to totally relax during my massage and foot sanding.
However, I was not prepared for the ruthless tactics of the prosecution counsel. Firstly, he was extremely attractive, a strategy surely designed to undermine the credibility of any eyewitness with eyes (I plead guilty as charged). Secondly, he was a little too interested in the more intimate details of my and my friend’s relationship. For example, I do believe even the judge blushed during this exchange:
Mr Crown: Can you recall any instances of violence or aggression?
Miss Whitt-Wellington: No, sir, I cannot.
MC: Are you saying you were unaware that he had killed a horse?
MW-W: Well, no, but it was only because he got confused.
MC: I see. And could you please explain the time he threatened “to smash every tooth in your head“?
MW-W: He was just being romantic — he had a rather unusual sense of pillow talk.
MC: And the same reason explains his belief that “you should be bludgeoned in your bed”?
MW-W: I find it hard to believe that a well-travelled man such as yourself is unfamiliar with that euphemism.
MC: Would you answer the question, please?
MW-W: I could draw it if you’d prefer.
I did my best to keep up with his seductively delivered verbal attack, and in the end, I was dismissed with the phrase “No further questions” (though his slipping me his business card makes me hopeful that additional cross examination may be on the table at a later date). I didn’t stick around for the end of the trial. I was greeted at the train station a few hours ago by Christopher who graciously was not wearing a novelty Christmas jumper.
Sadly, justice these days seems a little hit-or-miss (and by hit-or-miss, I mean clearly racially biased) so only time will tell if my friend will get what he deserves. However, I did the best I could to honestly represent him and am grateful I was afforded an opportunity for a quick walk down memory lane. I will say, despite the years and the possibility that he committed such horrendous crimes, he still looked rather delicious. Yes, he’s older now, and he’s a clever swine and I was happy to be the one to stand by him. As he was cuffed and led from the court, he smiled and mouthed I’m still fond of you so he knows, he knows, he knows I’d love to see him once he’s in the clear. I think I shall go to sleep tonight with a soft voice singing in my head.
On the other hand, if he is convicted, well, eighteen months’ hard labour seems fair enough.