Tameka Black was tried twice in the Golden Hill Street courtrooms. The first jury of her peers was hung, and the second found her innocent. She was charged for the murder of Jose Santana, her alcoholic boyfriend from Bridgeport’s PT Barnum housing projects. The next step took place in civil court. Santana’s family wanted some type of closure for their loss.
Tameka Black claimed she was beaten every night and that he threatened to kill her if she left or told anyone about what was happening under their roof. She told the first group of jurors an incredible and almost comical tale. She said that Santana drugged her and brought her down to Wentfield Park near the Railroad Avenue side and shot her three times aiming for the chest. The jurors at the first trial bought it. However, during the second trial, the prosecutor said that according to medical reports she suffered superficial wounds, and a gun had nothing to do with it.
Black disappointed no one at the trial. She said he was drunk and he missed completely so he tried to strangle her with a Victoria Secrets bra she got free when she purchased twenty-five dollars worth of underwear. Then she felt a change taking place within her. The jurors from the second trial bought her sadness. They bought the grief and knew she suffered perpetual torment. A woman who lived in fear had the right to defend herself.
During the civil trial, the change was still in her. She was experiencing the perpetual torment all over again. Her swagger had shrunk and weakened. She paced by herself along the back of the court room, casting dark looks at Jose Santana’s family. She appeared to be succumbing to anxiety and regret. She simply looked exhausted.
Her lawyer approached her with the intent of counseling to bolster her sagging spirit. He needed to help her get her swagger back. That swagger was the source of her effectiveness; without it she could lose in civil court.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Do you want to tell me about it?”
She turned toward Santana’s family and just stared.
She strained to fight back the perpetual torment that kept eating away at her. The thought of what happened to Jose Santana was so clear and complete it was nearly a visual image. Then she had a pleasant memory filling her head. She had a young girl sitting on her shoulders, shouting and laughing with joy.
Black bent over as if she was picking up a toddler from the floor. She scooped the invisible child and hugged it tight. The lawyer was baffled for a moment, then remembered that she use to talk about her little girl. He wondered why she stopped mentioning her during the first two trials. He never brought it up because he wanted her solely to concentrate on what happened with Jose Santana.
He looked up at the judge and the judge gave him the “ready” signal.
“We’re ready to start again,” he whispered to Tameka Black.
“I killed Jose because he saw me drowning my baby in the bathtub and he tried to stop me!” she shouted.
There was a moment of stillness, a sort of inner breath taken collectively by everyone in that courtroom. It was a gathering of emotional disbelief. The lawyer could feel the air becoming crowded as it merged into one sustained gasp.
“I was high and I couldn’t get her to stop crying,” she continued as she fell to her knees. “I tried; I tried to make her stop crying. I really tried.”
Her words were bounding and crashing downward, gathering momentum like a rolling stone. It hit the hearts of everyone in that courtroom with tremendous force, shaking everyone as if they were experiencing an after shock of an earthquake.
A great cloud of anger rose in the air like smoke. Santana’s family was shocked into immobility. They stood and stared, but had trouble maintaining footing.
“I buried her in the Fairfield woods,” she continued. “I wanted to tell someone, but I couldn’t. What mother kills her own child?”
Her confession seemed to go on forever. She could feel the warmth of her lawyer’s body as he leaned over her. She was a living being, and she annihilated another living being. Her lawyer picked her up and held her close to him wondering what the hell was she thinking. He looked into her eyes which were only partly visible behind the flickering tears. Her eyes seemed sad, full of regret. At first she avoided his stare, but then she paused for a moment and looked right at him. She thought she saw pity there, but it was no pity. It was hatred, disgust, but not for her. It was self-hatred, for allowing him to defend her when he should have known something wasn’t right…
© 2013 Frank Atanacio