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Waiting for a Verdict in the Nathaniel Fujita Trial

Today marks the 17th day in the trial of Nathaniel Fujita, the Wayland man accused of killing 18-year-old Lauren Astley in 2011.

Three weeks ago I listened and typed feverishly as Prosecutor Lisa McGovern and defense attorney William Sullivan laid out for jurors their unique perspectives on the murder of Lauren Astley.

I watched as McGovern described a brutal, purposeful murder and Sullivan told of a tragic mental breakdown. I saw the defendant, Nathaniel Fujita, sit quietly on the right side of the courtroom as 18 months of hearings and motions and planning culminated in his first-degree murder trial.

For three weeks, a string of 33 witnesses walked up the center aisle of Courtroom 530 at Middlesex Superior Court; through an opening in a short, mahogany paneled partition; past the eyes of 16 jurors; and took a seat in the witness stand.

Constant motion; constantly flowing information; constant opportunities to hear and see and take in.

And now, I wait.

With yesterday's closing statements, a jury of eight men and four women took over ... but their work is out of my eye and ear shot.

Judge Peter Lauriat told them Tuesday as he handed over the case that their job is one of critical importance.

"Your role, ladies and gentlemen, is the most important role in this trial," Lauriat said. "All that matters is what you find the facts to be."

And so, I wait.

Jurors began their deliberations for the day at about 9:15 a.m., and until they have a question to ask or a verdict to deliver, I'm relegated to the courthouse hallway with the other reporters, camera operators and the dedicated few folks who are determined to wait until the verdict is reached.

No one calls reporters when a verdict is about to be read. Attorneys, prosecutors, the families, of course, receive a phone call that they need to head to the courtroom.

Reporters, well, we just wait. And watch for the people that matter in this case to come down the hall and into the courtroom.

For now, I'm working, returning phone calls, responding to email (sorry, if I haven't gotten back to you these past few days). At some point, I might give up and play Words with Friends.

But the key part of today, at least so far, is waiting.

And there are no guarantees that the jury will reach a verdict today ... if not, then I'll be here tomorrow.

Waiting ... and knowing that so many other people are just waiting, too.

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Alan Reiss March 06, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Explaining this to a very young person is certainly a challenge. I would only be as forthcoming about the details as I thought the child was mature enough to handle it. The most important thing one should relate is that this is an extremely rare occurrence and that relationships come and go and especially when you're young they come and go often. The vast majority of these do that without incident.
Jonathan Lowery March 06, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Kristina. Dha, first let me say: I am not a parent, so I would not presume to puff myself up as an expert in an area for which I cannot possibly understand exactly what you are going through. You, and all parents, have a difficult responsibility in protecting your children from harm, while also helping them to realize that the world is not always fair, and that sometimes bad things happen to really good people. There are, no doubt, a multitude of appropriate ways to discuss the situation with your child. Since you know your child better than anyone else in the world does, I would encourage you to take any advice given and weigh it against what you know about your 10 yr old. What works for one parent/child relationship might not be the best for you and your child. That said, I think there is one universal constant at play here: children emulate adults. How we as adults cope with tragedy is imprinted on the hearts of children, and most use this as a blueprint for how to respond to tragedy themselves. Continued below…
Jonathan Lowery March 06, 2013 at 10:41 PM
But I would encourage you to not let that keep you from being appropriately angry at Lauren's murder, or from feeling deeply hurt by how the death of someone so young goes against all that we think the world should keep sacred. Rather, let your 10 yr old know that it’s ok to feel this way. These are completely reasonable emotions in the process of grief – which, though not all of us even knew Lauren, we are all grieving in a way: loss of innocence, loss of feeling safe, loss of how we feel the world should operate, etc. Many people turn to religion or spirituality to make sense of the world. I do not know if you hold to any particular religious belief, but I am a Christian. I’m not trying to push my religion on you, but just letting you know where I’m coming from in hopes that you find it helpful. Unfortunately, we Christians have historically given really bad advice regarding tragedy – be it a murder or a natural disaster. You’ve probably heard Christians say things like, “God is in control,” or “Though we don’t know why, this was God’s will.” I used to say these things and think they were ultimately helpful; but as an adult I’ve realized they’re not just unhelpful as platitudes, they’re bad theology, too. Continued below…
Jonathan Lowery March 06, 2013 at 10:41 PM
I believe the truth is this: Yes, God is in control, but sin has shattered the world and is the reason we experience suffering. We suffer from our own actions, from the actions of others, and from the world itself. But, God is neither powerless nor does He delight when bad things to happen to seemingly good people; rather, He hurts when we hurt, suffers when we suffer, and grieves when we grieve. As a Christian, I rest in the belief that there is a place where sin does not destroy or corrupt, and that I will experience that through the love of Jesus Christ. Again, I don’t tell you all this to push Christianity in your face. But, if you’d like, I would encourage you to read Tim Keller’s words about the Newtown, CT shooting: http://www.willmancini.com/2012/12/tim-keller-on-the-connecticut-school-shooting-final-thoughts-before-preaching-today.html Sincerely, Jonathan
David Stallard March 06, 2013 at 11:01 PM
I remember the Albert Thompson/Mark Dupuis murder happened when I was in grade school. It was shocking event, just out of the blue. 12 year old killing 6 year old in a panic murder over an accident playing with a knife. As I recall, the adults played it low-key: that Thompson was a kid with problems who was going to go have to go away for awhile.

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