As I walk across the immaculately polished hardwood floor of the courtroom, feet shackled and hands cuffed, I am escorted to the jury box where a dozen men are sitting. I know all of them: I’m married to one of them. It’s suddenly clear why the DEA picked me up from the state prison this morning.
I sit down in the plush velvet chair alongside my co-defendants. Most of them are wearing translation headsets and I think about how much more stressful the language barrier makes this situation for them. A few of them are looking down at the ground. A few are staring straight ahead with dread covering their faces. One of them looks at me with a half pity-filled smile, knowing I had just began doing time for the same crimes we are all about to be federally indicted for.
Tears unintentionally roll down my cheeks when I make eye contact with my husband. Instructed not to talk to one another, I mouth, “I love you. I’m sorry.” We both know he’s here because of me. “I love you, too,” he affirms back silently.
Besides us and our two baby-sitters decked out in “U.S. Marshall” hats and jackets, the courtroom is empty. No one is in the gallery, not even my family, as they’ve always been before. No one could have known I’d be here today…well, no one but the feds.
“Ma’am,” a marshall is standing in front of me handing me a thick stack of papers. I begin assessing the damage. The 12 felonies I’m being charged with doesn’t phase me. The two life sentences plus 188 years for drug trafficking doesn’t phase me. Seeing “The United States of America vs. Heather Griffin” paralyzes me. The whole country is against me now.
Painting by Gwynne Duncan