Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pickton Trial Part 4 :The Long Wait

After 10 days of closing arguments, judge's charges to the jury and countless live hits about the proceedings, a milestone was reached. The case went to the jury, meaning the deliberations would begin. For all of us covering the trial it meant that we were finally in the "home stretch" of this marathon trial.

This happened late in the afternoon of Friday November 30th. Naturally there was an air of excitement as we reported live into each of our respective shows. I recall after our live hits, giving a celebratory hug to Janet. She had been on this case a very, very long time and now finally it seemed an end was within sight.

The night the Jury went into Deliberations, CTV Camera Steve Murray, Reporter Janet Dirks and Yours Truly pose for a celebratory photo

The jury was sequestered and now the long wait would begin. Naturally predictions of how long and when the jury would return a verdict ran throughout Begbie Square. Poolies started to flock to their bookies and place their bets. Most of us thought a Tuesday or a Wednesday verdict would be ideal. Of course any one's guess was as good as any. But what this new phase meant, was now we would be required to be at a constant state of readiness as long as the jury was deliberating. Hence, the long wait.

During this "long wait" we were still required to file. How many times could one report that "deliberations continue" or how many different ways could it be stated that "no one really knows for sure" how long this could take, our on air talents would indeed be tested.

The jury came up with a workable deliberation schedule- 9:30 am break for lunch at 1:30 till 3 pm and then go until 8pm finishing for the day. It made for a long day of being at a "constant state of TV readiness".

As the days began to pass, the weather went from fall to winter in about 6 hours. The snow began to coat the courtyard during that first weekend of deliberations. The heater became everybody's best friend and since yours truly had the kick ass flame thrower, guess who was "Mr. Popular"

The snow flies as CTV NewsNet/ Court TV's Sue Sgambati prepares to tell the viewers "The Jury is still deliberating". That's CTV News Net chase producer Tamar Vartanian on the phone.

The families of the victims, who by now were very familiar to us all began this "long wait" with good spirits, but as the days wore on, so to did the emotions of the group. There were times that one or more of them would come on over and get what ever they were feeling off their chest. It was almost as if I had a sign just outside the tent that said: Psychology- 5 cents. It was harmless, but over time it wore a person down. I did my best to be friendly after all they were going through some of the worst times in their lives, I suppose listening wasn't going to kill me. But their chain smoking might,,,,

One of the families, the Frey's, who daughter was among the murder counts that the jury was working on, really touched us all at the CTV broadcast tent. Each morning as Lynn would arrive, she would walk past the phalanx of cameras to our tent. In her hand she had a bag filled with pastries and muffins.
"I brought you some goodies" she would say " You guys have to be here too, and I appreciate it"
"That was very kind of you Mrs Frey, but you don't have too,," I would say
"I want too" she replied.
"Thank-you" was all I could manage to answer.

Janet speaks to Lynn Frey (in the red coat)

But as the long wait continued, the spirits of each of us began to tire. Stories, not related to the trial, lead the nightly news. Our instincts were calling us away from the Square. We all needed a change in scenery. We all wanted our lives back. Visiting journalists missed home and the comfort of their own beds. Local journalists although sleeping in their own blankets, lived and breathed this story. It's toll on household conversations, family activities and mental health cannot be overlooked.

Yet with this endless wait, there were the high points. The laughs and war stories of our colleagues. But you know it's been a long wait when those war stories begin to repeat.
We just all prayed for a verdict, the sooner the better.

One of the most remarkable days began with rain, heavy rain. So much so that one of the media tents collapsed overnight. As the day continued the dark clouds continued to gather. The mood in the square was tense at best. But that afternoon just before a break, the sun began to shine from the west. It was low in the sky and with the heavy showers of just moments ago, a rainbow appeared over the courthouse. Then a second rainbow. Brilliant and uplifting to all. Families saw this as a sign of good news to come. The rainbow didn't elaborate on the time line of this "good news to come". So the long wait would continue.

A symbol of hope appears over the New West Court House

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