Last week, I was sitting in court, waiting for my case to be called, when I happened to watch another case that the judge was handling. From what I could hear from my seat in the audience, the defendant had been arrested for vehicular homicide. It was unclear to me whether he had been intoxicated or otherwise driving recklessly, but he had apparently hit a young woman, and she had died. The man had already pleaded guilty and was before the court for sentencing.
At a sentencing, the victim or their family may appear in court to make a statement to the judge. The judge can take the victim's feelings or opinions or requests into consideration when deciding the sentence.
In this case, the victim had died. For a reason I couldn't hear, her family did not come to court. Sometimes in that situation, the family members might write letters that the prosecutor could read aloud to the judge at the sentencing. Or, if they didn't, the prosecutor may just make her own speech about the loss the family had suffered, about the potential the victim had, about a life cut short, even without the judge hearing directly from the victim or her family.
In this case, the prosecutor did none of those things, but instead stated that she "would like to read something the victim had written prior to her death." She then proceeded to read something that went something like this:
I like milkshakes, chocolate milkshakes are my favorite.
I took piano lessons in fourth grade, but I never got very good.
I want to paint my bedroom red.
If I ever get a tattoo, it will be a butterfly on my ankle.
This went on for a few minutes as I tried to figure out where the prosecutor was getting this from. What had caused the victim to write this list of completely random things before her death? Then it occurred to me, this was a "Random Things About Me" list from her facebook page, myspace, or blog. And this was no list of ten or twenty things, it must have been a list of one hundred.
As she continued...
I'll do anything for a chocolate chip cookie.
I have been to Disney Land twice.
I looked up and saw a look of confusion on the judge's face. I have a feeling that this judge, who is probably in his sixties, has never heard of a 100 Things About Me list, and had no idea how the prosecutor came up with these random things that weren't particularly sympathetic or convincing, in terms of a sentence. The prosecutor continued...
I prefer men with shaved or waxed chests.
My favorite class at the gym is stripper aerobics.
Finally, the judge's expression went from confused to angry and he stopped the prosecutor, "Ok, I've heard enough. Let's proceed."
The lesson here? Ten things about any one person are probably plenty. The other lesson? Know your audience.
Now, feel free to go back and read the list of things about yourself that you've published and imagine the prosecutor reading it to a judge after your death. Because that's a pleasant thought.