Monday, October 16, 2006

Mistakes

In life, generally when you make a mistake, you're stuck with it. Oh, you can apologize to the wronged party; you can try to make amends; you can retrace your steps, and try to do things differently. But, a mistake is a mistake, and it's out there, and depending on how major the mistake was, it may continue to shape and mold your life for years to come.

In the law, we generally don't hold your past mistakes against you when you're on trial - in other words, if you're on trial for assault, if you hit someone before, we don't assume that because you hit someone in the past, you've hit someone in the case you stand trial on today. That's called propensity - and the law, for a change, acknowledges that propensity evidence has no place in a trial, and that frankly, it's the most damning, yet irrelevant evidence that could be put to the factfinder.

In the case I just tried, the Commonwealth was allowed to present evidence of all of our client's prior bad acts - not to show because he had engaged in aggressive behavior before, that he was aggressive on the date of the incident - oh, no, they know that would be illegal - instead, they used it to show that he had the legally guilty mental state before (i.e., he knew what he was doing was wrong 10 years ago), so he knew what he was doing was wrong in 2004.

Did I mention that my client was extremely mentally ill - and that this was conceded by both sides - the only issue in the case being was he legally insane at the time of this incident, i.e., did he know, or have some idea, what he was doing was wrong at the time he did it?

Is it a surprise to anyone that when the jury heard of his prior acts of violence, combined with the one in front of them, that they convicted?

But, that got me to thinking - what if you don't even have the capacity to understand you made a mistake? You can't apologize, you can't rectify, you can't change - the mistake is still going to shape your life, whether you know its there or not.

So, when I showed Maude to people, I held it up and said - see, the mistake is there - a few people at Rosie's peered at it - and said, "what mistake?" But, I could see it, and unlike life, I had the power to completely fix it, so that it would never gnaw at me again - so that everytime I lifted the thing up and saw the glaring missed yarn over, I would cringe.

Knitting is a beautiful thing - you can erase a mistake, and start all over again, fresh, clean, and spanking brand new.

So, I ripped all of Maude out, even at 80 increased stitches - and I'm pretty much back to where I left off. No more missed yarn over, no more section that looked like a pull in a sweater - where everything just moved a bit to the left. Just pretty Maude, mistake free - if only we could be so lucky!

10 comments:

Sherry W said...

Maude is lovely. I had a feeling you would rip it out when you brought it up in knitting circle! It was nagging on your mind!

Urgh, I'm sorry you lost the case. I know it was a hard one for you.

Wendy said...

Absolutely gorgeous! That's too bad about the case ...

Think you might make it down to Stitches East at the beginning of November?

Rebekkah said...

It's totally worth the effort in the long run to fix those buggy mistakes. Good job.

My boyfriend is a public defender. That story could have come right out of his mouth, too. You guys have a tough job, not just defending people who often get stuck in bad situations for reasons beyond their control, but because you're defending the integrity of our whole legal system. So good job on that, too. :-)

Yarngirl said...

So sorry about the case. I'm glad you were able to erase your mistake in the shawl. I think we all know what it's like to try to move past our mistakes - and how difficult it can be when the rest of the world just won't let you.

Liz K. said...

My brother is also a public defender, and he has cases like this that get to him all the time. Sorry you missed this one.

One of the appeals of knitting to me is a fixability of mistakes, and the ability to choose to live with a mistake vs. fixing one. At least in knitting, I have to chance to decide.

Kathy said...

If only life was like knitting...

Marlisa said...

'Tis amazing how often knitting can be seen as a metaphor of life-- the interconnectedness of all things, things that are both delicate and strong, etc.

Keep fighting the good fight!

Lizzy, England said...

Thanks for sharing the case with us - v interesting. Surely the most suitable environment for the mentally ill is in some psychiatric facility to enable treatment, not jail?? (Or am I being too liberal?)

Anyway, good job with Maude and I love the podcast.

s t a c i said...

I enjoyed reading how you connected a big mistake worthy of a trial with a mistake in knitting. Yes, knitting lets us learn from mistakes AND correct them immediately. Sort of wonderful, that way.

AmyDe said...

Maude is gorgeous! Thanks for doing the job you do, esp on days when it feels the most unrewarding!