Turn Slowly

A picture I took one year ago

It has taken me an entire year to write about this. I feel it is still impossible to get the words right… I will never in my life forget the rollercoaster ride two days in court during Sean’s Evidentiary Hearing in January 2017. Nothing could have prepared me for seeing my loved one literally chained up all day long, struggling to turn the pages of that massive 800 page case binder, remaining in handcuffs for the entire proceedings.

Sean sat in between his attorneys in that glaring orange jumpsuit. We sat merely feet apart yet we were not permitted to communicate. He had shaved off his beard for court before transport but without a razor to shave in New Folsom it had grown into rough stubble. He looked pale and exhausted, I knew he wasn’t sleeping in the ASU at New Folsom Prison. He had wanted to look his best for court, hoped for deodorant and clothes. All of that was denied.

It was clear on that day that things were headed in the right direction, however it hit us both like a ton of bricks when the magistrate judge ended the final day with the fastest words she could possibly mutter, spouting off faraway dates like it was some random appointment instead of an innocent man’s life hanging in the balance; March… May… June. Sean shook his head: NO NO NO. We shared the crushing disappointment and shock. What a cruel joke.

“The wheels of justice turn slowly.” That’s what we have been told way too many times. It’s inhumane to force a man to wait months just for filing briefs. Utterly ridiculous. Before the Evidentiary Hearing his attorney had said it would probably take 30 days to get a ruling. Yet we find ourselves still waiting, a year later. Unbelievable.

At the very end of the last day the magistrate allowed Sean 3 minutes to turn around and address me and those who also came that day. The chain from his handcuffs was released from the cement block and re-secured to his waist, but the officers failed to remove the chain from his ankles. His movements were slow and deliberate as he attempted to stand up and step away from the desk, but suddenly the chain yanked him back. His face crumbled. Once able to physically turn around he lifted his hands up together, still handcuffed, to push his glasses up; they are always sliding down his nose because he has had them so long. Tears streamed down his face. He put his hand over his heart and looked at me.

“It’s OK” I said. I couldn’t cry, I was too stunned to react. It was torture not to be able to simply hug him or touch his hand, comfort him in some way. It’s like I couldn’t believe it was even happening.

“I love you”  The tears stuck in my throat. My heart was torn into pieces that I haven’t quite been able to put back together.

About Sean & Emelia

In 2003 Sean O'Brien was wrongfully convicted in El Dorado County, CA and sentenced to Life Without Parole at the age of 16. We have been friends since grade school and are now married. Sean and I move forward together with the knowledge of his innocence, our faith in God, and hope that he will rightfully regain his freedom. Until then we embrace our journey wherever it may take us, cherishing each moment we have together and staying true to ourselves. This blog is about the past we share, our fight for freedom, life as it exists for us, and our path toward the future, whatever that may hold. Thank you for allowing us to be heard. God bless.
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