Serving Life

I covered a two-day capital murder trial at the Appomattox Circuit Court last week. Probably the closest I had ever been to a real courtroom was when I was called for jury duty a few years ago, during which I was never assigned to a case. I covered the trial with reporter Chris Dumond and we had reason to believe that the judge would allow cameras in for the trial. At the last minute, the defense attorney objected, leaving myself and a TV cameraman with only a couple minutes to shoot. I got about 20 photos, including this one of the defendant, Alphonso Destin. Ultimately convicted of first degree murder, Destin and a buddy killed an elderly man in his home in 2008 and stole about $30 to buy gas and beer.

Having seen so many trials on TV shows and in movies, I couldn’t help but imagine the whole event was scripted – lawyers yelling “objection!” and witnesses crying. However, one look at the defendant smashed that illusion, and the seriousness and finality of the proceedings hit me. I was also allowed to shoot for several minutes the next day when the jury returned with their sentence recommendation. I watched Destin’s face through a telephoto lens as he heard the jury recommend a sentence of three life terms, with no possibility of parole. After he was led away in shackles and an orange jumpsuit, I walked out of the courthouse and headed back to the newsroom, thankful for my countless liberties.

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