Today at United States District Court in downtown Manhattan, around the corner from where I work, I witnessed the sentencing hearing of attorney Lynn Stewart. I only had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Stewart five years ago, along with Ralph, her jovial and loving husband. I never had the honor of her defending me, but during the course of the last 5 years, I met many people who did. The courtroom today was packed, leaving 2 overflow rooms, which were also filled to capacity.
Walking into the marble and mahogany building, which I am no stranger to since I work next door, gave me a never before eerie feeling. A bronze "Lady Justice" 2 story high statue sat in the main entrance way, greeting everyone who entered. But it did not give me comfort, it only once again reminded me of the many icons of worship this country erects to deflect the true nature of the beast underneath. I thought to myself "I'd love to hang a huge banner right in the middle of her 2 story chest with a big $ sign!"
Sitting in the elaborate overflow room, with all of Lynn's supporters, then gave me comfort. Watching Lynn on the 2 screens in front of the room was very sad. She looked weak, pale and broken. She pleaded for the court's mercy by presenting her statement to the judge. In it, she declared that she no longer had a relationship with her grandson, who could not visit her any longer in the horrible prison. She said she felt alone, and withdrawn. Only when her friends and family came to visit for one hour a week did she rejuvenate for a short period, but then would retreat back into somberness and sadness. At one point she choked up when saying that if the court decided to sentence her to anytime longer than the original 28 months, it would be a like imposing the "death sentence". She reiterated that many times, in so many different ways. She threw herself at the "mercy" of the judge.
I thought to myself this is not the Lynn Stewart that I knew, if only for a short time. She was always vibrant and unafraid. She stood for true justice for the people who went unrepresented in a system that would make every attempt to smash them. Why was she begging for mercy? It broke my heart.