9/26/2004

A post mortem

As I said, the show Cracker on the ABC on Saturday evening is my latest favourite Brit detective drama prior to that it was Red Cap again not strictly detective it was British soldiers stationed in Germany who were solving crime prior to that Sam in Prime Suspect and prior to that the Scottish one - the name escapes me - all of them dark and gritty and tense. Just. Love. Them.

It was the post mortem on Cracker that got me thinking about the things I have been exposed to over the course of my legal career. On the show during the post mortem various squelchy sounds were made and some assorted intestinal organs were shown. It didn't phase me to watch the gore - because I know its probably just some offal they got in and arranged for the scene.

I have seen a real post mortem on video. When I started back in law in 1996 I had to assist a crusty old prosecutor on a Coronial Inquiry. He was a real character - lots of experience but a bad marriage and a love for a drink meant he was now at the end of year public service career. He was as my friend F and I put it DW (dead wood) and posted in a place where he could supposedly do no harm except annoy the bejesus out of me that is.

I recall sitting next to him in court and I was eating a Mentos - he asked me for one and I said straight out "No!" I don't think I have ever refused anyone a breath freshener in my life - but he was really annoying the crap out of me. Its funny how I can remember being exasperated working with him but I can't recall any particular incident.

Back to the post mortem - he gave me a video of one to see as I had no experience with dead bodies and you usually have to see a few photos of the deceased during a coronial plus its worthwhile knowing what happens in the post mortem as it sheds light on the cause of death.

I took the video home and P and I watched it one evening. I thought it was a fairly good one - considering I could have got a person who might have been submerged or decayed. I got a nice clean gunshot wound in the back to a male who was in good physical shape. I knew but decided not to watch up to where they peel back the face. I watched the weighing of the various organs and I thought that was about all I needed to know. I recall the Dr performing the post mortem reminded me of Mr Bean - he even dropped the bullet on the floor.

A year later I ran my own Coronial Inquiry - it was very sad of course it was a death in custody by suicide. I recall reading all the prisoners' letters and he had a young son. The prisoner had hung himself and he had placed all the photographs of his son in front of him like a shrine. I imagine his son was his last thought and vision. It always makes me feel so sad for his son - I hope he realised that his father loved him so much. I believe the reason he killed himself was depression caused by the fact that he could see no end to his imprisonment. I still feel the heavy heart and blackness that he must have felt when he thought he would probably be in jail for most of his adult life.

I remember a friend of the prisoner's coming to court he came in handcuffs with shackles on his hands and ankles - a physically strong young man. He is probably going to be in the system a long time too he will probably leave a middle aged man by the time he gets out.

Sometimes there are things that I have found out in the course of my career which will haunt me for my days and wonder if they will ever leave me, terrible crimes perpetrated by people against each other and I fear for the safety of my loved ones.

A couple of weeks ago I was absolutely terrified by the thought of random crime and all that might stand between complete tragedy and my family is an unlocked door or window and some terrible thing might befall us from which we may never recover.

Other days I can't believe that people really want "truth in sentencing" or the death penalty or that prisoners complain too much because they have too much time on their hands. I am against the death penalty but when I read of a crime so horrendous committed against a child my daughters age and I think what if... would I believe that this criminal could be rehabilitated.

I believe there are people who are truly irredeemable and should never be released but there are also those who have not had the chances in life or been able to take opportunities or recognise them and are truly victims of circumstances beyond their control and they deserve a chance or two to get it right. I hope there are people making good decisions about the lives of these prisoners and I hope that I have helped them with the right ones.


7 Comments:

At 11:12 am, Blogger OLS said...

I remember the first time I saw post-mortem photos - they didn't seem real until I saw some shots of the scene after the body had been removed. And then I felt a bit ill.

Now I think I'm fairly imune, but I still don't think I'd like to watch a real post mortem on video - that bit on Cracker even got me a bit.

 
At 5:59 pm, Blogger Lushlife said...

Hi OLS I was very surprised (and pleased)to see that you left a comment on my web log today. I have to admit to reading your site quite regularly (despite my not linking to you -I am just very technically inept). It took me ages to do what I have done and am extremely envious of your technical skills on your site - oh to be able to change the colour on my site!

I thought given that I also work in Govt in Brisbane we might actually even know a mutual someone or other. I also thought you may think it was a little too close for comfort and maybe it is for me too as no one I know of is aware of my blog life. I hope its okay for me to comment on your site - I was always concious of the whole six degrees in Brisbane and you may feel awkward knowing that someone in a very related area of the law is reading.

 
At 9:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lushlife
What a fascinating post. Your background in law is so different from mine. You must have great emotional strength to have done that work; so harrowing and depressing. I understand that your work is very different now.

Lucinda
http://rainbowcake.typepad.com/rainbowcake

 
At 9:46 am, Blogger OLS said...

Sure - comment on my blog anytime - I'm flattered that you are a reader! I too have been reading your blog for a while, but I don't tend to comment unless I have something to say.

I think it's a given that we would have a mutual friend or colleague. But no-one I know in Brisbane reads my blog, so I'm not overly concerned. Obviously anyone who knows me would figure out in about 2 seconds flat that it's my blog, but I'm hoping that they wouldn't read it (if for no other reason than their own protection - they may not like what I say about them!)

I look forward to reading more about your life.

-OLS

 
At 9:51 am, Blogger OLS said...

Oh - and colours are easy. Check out this site - http://www.htmlgoodies.com/tutors/text.html and those it links to. The HTML Goodies site in general is my bible! Everything I've managed to do on my site is basically from that.

- OLS

 
At 11:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:02 pm, Blogger Lushlife said...

Lucinda, I have to admit to being one of life's biggest chickens when it comes to doing the hard yards on lifes social issues. I got involved on the periphery of some child protection stuff were I acted for the Department taking children into care. I just knew I couldn't deal with that work and leave it at work like my brother-in-law can. I guess thats why doing something like this coronial resonates with me after all those years.

 

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