2013 Commentators Brunch Sampler: Cheryl Hanna
At this year's VPR's annual Commentators Brunch event for our Broadcasters Club members, VPR commentators gave brief readings on the common theme, "Lost And Found". This prompted some to reflect on surprising discoveries and others to consider missed opportunities and times past.
It was in my first year as a prosecuting attorney in Baltimore that I was assigned to Eastside, not my usual courthouse.
There were 80 cases on the docket and the place was packed with police officers, defendants, and their attorneys, all anxious for me to have their cases called. The judge kept telling me to stop obsessing about the law and move things along faster.
She finally called me up to the bench, so she could yell at me off the record. She started to sound like the teacher in Charlie Brown – you know – wahh, wahh, wahh, wahh, wahh - and I went down.
That’s right. I fainted, and as I fell, I hit my head on the bench and was really knocked out. When I came to, I saw four incredibly handsome EMTs hovering over me, and I thought, “I have died and gone to heaven.”
But then I realized that it wasn’t just the EMTs that were there, but the police and court clerks and the judge were all staring at me as I lay in the floor.
And much of my clothing had been removed.
Now you’d think that someone would have had the decency to take me out the back door of the courthouse to the ambulance, but no, they wheeled me on a stretcher down the main hallway, where everyone from all the courtrooms now had lined the halls to see the young prosecutor who had cracked.
The only emergency room that had an open bed was the place they sent people who were overdosing on drugs. “Hey, Ms. Hanna, is that you?” people began shouting, and I realized I that had prosecuted half the ward. The doctor told me never to skip breakfast, and sent me home.
Of course, 'The incident' made the news, and the judge banned me from her courtroom forever.
I lost many things because of that incident – my dignity, my reputation, and any confidence that justice could be done in the cattle call of our urban courtrooms.
But I also found much more: a sense of my own vulnerability, my stubborn obsession with the law, and my desire for the kind of work that soon brought me to a new life – both personal and professional – in Vermont.