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As I walked in the courtroom, the benches in the gallery were full of people. One could feel the tension between the lawyer and the witness, Nicole’s landlord. The lawyer was annoyed that the witness was so inconsistent with his testimony: the latter had read and approved a certain police transcript four times in the past, but now claimed it was not accurate. From the tone of the questioning, it was clear that this was the prosecutor’s cross-examination. I thought the prosecutor did an excellent job because he was passionate and conveyed his dislike for the witness to the observers. The defense was too indifferent, so his point did not come across. During the second witness’s direct examination, the prosecutor persuaded me that Nicole made an “it wasn’t me” hand gesture in the night of the arson.

It was interesting to observe the interaction between the different players in court. The judge granted the lawyers permission to approach the witness stand. The court reporter sat almost invisible throughout the trial. The deputy hastily swore in Michael without any of the solemnity that movies portray. I though the trial was much less formal than what I had expected. The lawyers spoke in a simple way. There was nothing too eloquent or clairvoyant about their questions.

The defendant, Nicole Chuminski, to my surprise, was in the room! She was sitting behind the defense’s table, but she seemed so reserved and civil that at first I thought she was a second lawyer. I would have never assumed that she was the woman who, in April 2008, had set her girlfriend’s, Anna Reisopoulos’, house on fire and burned her two children to death. I was surprised she did not wear handcuffs or that she did not explicitly react to anything.

Finally, now that I have observed a trial, the court seems way less like an omnipotent and unattainable institution to me. Now I know that the court is quite reachable and straightforward, so that it may be of service to all people, not only high-profile attorneys.


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