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The case goes to the jury tomorrow
Final thoughts before closing argument
I am preparing my closing argument, which will be delivered tomorrow. After that statement is delivered, a jury of 12 residents of Transylvania County, North Carolina will determine my fate. It’s a moment that I’ve been waiting for, for most of my adult life — though I never thought, 20 or so years ago, that I would be the defendant in the case.
The closing argument has been hard to construct. The judge has effectively gagged us from presenting information as to why we were at the farm, on the night of February 10, 2018. It’s not clear to me the basis for the judge’s rulings. (And we will almost certainly appeal.) But our best guess is that he believes that negative information about the farm is not relevant to the case, since it relates to evidence before the night of the “crime.” Because it is “prejudicial,” i.e., it may inflame the jury against a key witness in the case, and it provides no “probative” value as to whether I took or did not take the goat from the farm, all evidence in that regard has been excluded.
Constructing a closing argument, with this handicap, feels like trying to run a marathon on my hands. But we knew these obstacles were likely. And with so many other trials coming, some in similarly anti-animal rights counties, I’d best get used to running on my hands.
But the main thought going through my head is just a deep sense of gratitude. For the legal team that has stepped up to assist, after the judge denied me the right to a co-counsel arrangement — Erica Wilson, Susannah Smith, Jon Frohnmayer, and others. For the dozens of people who have come to show support; every time our folks have streamed into the courtroom, it’s put a smile on my face, and a sense of ease in my heart. For all the people who’ve posted or written to me about the case. Your words, even if I haven’t had the chance to reply yet, have meant so much.
And most importantly, for the animals themselves. Priya has sent me daily videos of Oliver and Joan, my beloved furry children, every day while I’ve been on trial. I wrote back to her, after one set of images, “never forget what we are fighting for.” Because what we are fighting for is the best thing in us, and in our species. What we are fighting for, quite simply, is love.
For reasons I won’t get into now, the odds of incarceration have gotten significantly lower, in the last few days. However, it’s still very hard to say what will happen. The judge has discretion to sentence me, no matter what the prosecution recommends. The hardest thing about prison, if and when it happens, will be missing the people I love. My dad, who is older and facing health difficulties. My sister, cousin, and nieces in the Bay Area, who are just growing up and whose lives I will miss, if I am in prison. And especially my own furry kids, Oliver and Joan.
Waking up next to them, giving each a hug and a kiss, has been my daily ritual for longer than I can remember. I love them more than anything in the world. They have given me so much. And I hate to think that I could go through the rest of my life, never having the chance to see them again. I want them to be with me more than anything I want in the world.
But I know that this case, and incarceration if and when that comes, is an opportunity for me to give back. There was a time in my life where I desperately needed them. Where my future was collapsing; my depression was deepening; and where the animals around me literally saved my life. That’s not where I am today. Because of what they gave me — companionship, comfort, and, above all, love — I am in a much better place.
And so I am happy to give something back. And when I think about things that way, the choice ahead of me is an easy one:
Rescue the animals, no matter what it takes.
Thank you all for reading. If I am incarcerated, which could occur as early as tomorrow, there may be some delays in future posts. But I will do whatever I can to write every day, using the tapestry of my mind, if I have no pen and paper. And Chloe and Priya will continue to post blogs when we get the chance.