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From the Eyes of the Innocent
Andrea Mitchell’s eyes hurt under the bright interrogation light. She looked down from the officer and the light, but the bright orange suit only brought more discomfort to her sore, tired eyes.
“I told you, Sir. I love my children. I have never once even thought of hurting them,” she whispered tiredly. A week ago, her life had changed forever.
As a struggling single mother, sometimes she was uncertain about how she and her two children would get by. She was lucky to pay the bills monthly and have good, nutritious food on the table. She had needed to work late one day a week before, and she had called her neighbor to babysit for a few minutes so that she could wrap things up and rush home. She didn’t like to ask favors of others because she felt that she owed them something. She would not leave her children at home alone once it got dark, though. She had a hard enough time leaving them alone during the daytime.
It had not even been fifteen minutes before Andrea pulled into the driveway of their small one bedroom house. She heard screams and cries even before she had opened the door, a mother’s worst fear.
When she got inside both her eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son were crying on the floor, bruised and with a few cuts. She could not settle them down enough to get out of them what had happened, and she didn’t know whether the neighbor had come over or not. As she held them both, she looked over and saw that the back door had been jarred open. Anger flooded through Andrea. Someone had broken into the house, had the nerve to lay a hand on her children, and left with whatever they had felt like taking.
Why did she have to work late on that night, out of all nights? Why would they ever dare to lay a hand on innocent children? Where had the neighbor been during all of this? What had been taken, if anything?
A loud rapping came on the door, and she jerked her head up. “Who is it?” she yelled, standing up. She grabbed an umbrella from her coat closet nearby and approached the door.
“Police!” a man yelled firmly through the door.
Andrea unlocked the door and clenched the umbrella tightly. Thankfully, there stood a police officer dressed in uniform.
“We would like to ask you a few question, Miss Mitchell. We have received a call from a neighbor of children screaming and crying.”
“My house has been broken into, officer. I came home just minutes ago and found my children on the floor crying and the back door ajar,” Andrea said, relief flooding over her.
“Please come outside for a moment.”
She hesitated for a minute and looked back at her daughter and son, but she turned around and realized that they would be fine sitting alone for a few minutes now that the police were just feet away.
“We have received reports of you beating your children multiple times, Miss Mitchell,” the officer said after having her sit up against the police car.
Andrea’s jaw dropped, and her eyes grew wide. He must have been insane to even say that. “Sir, I love my children… I would never do such a thing. I just came home, and they were crying and the house was broken into… I have never beaten my children, nor have I ever even thought to,” she said, flustered.
“We have received an anonymous call from a concerned neighbor, and unless we can prove otherwise, I have no other choice than to arrest you for child abuse.”
“The door backdoor was ajar! Someone came into the house! I just got home minutes before you came, officer! You have to believe me! I would never, ever do anything to harm my children!” Andrea exclaimed desperately.
“I am sorry, Miss Mitchell. I have no choice. We will take you down to the station and child-protective services will take the children to a relative. If there is enough evidence to support your claims, you will be let free and given back your children. Now, please turn around so that I may put you in handcuffs.”
Andrea turned around, tears in her eyes. Through the tears, she saw sympathy in the officer’s eyes. The man was simply doing his job and had no choice. The decision would be left to the investigating officers, the officers at the station, and child-protective services.
She slid into the back of the police car in handcuffs, something that she never had ever thought she would go through. The ride to the police station was only a few blocks away, but it felt like miles.
She had been at the station for a week now and heard very little news. They said that there was not enough evidence aside from the possible open door, and she had shut it before the police had arrived so even then they could not prove she was telling the truth. They had not choice but to go with the anonymous neighbor’s claims.
This had led to countless questionings and interrogations. If they could get her to admit to abusing her children, then they would have a case. Without her admitting to it, it was just her word against the neighbor’s word. She would never admit to something that she had never done, though. She knew that she loved her children and had done her best as a single mother to provide for them. She had devoted her life to them, and now they were thinking about taking them away from her.
She had gotten no sleep and had been unable to stop crying the entire week. The tears kept coming, so she kept crying. Hey eyes just never seemed to dry out. During the questionings, she was honest and held to her story. She knew it was the truth regardless of whatever so-called “evidence” they claimed to have. The child-protective services could twist things if they wanted. She knew that she was the best mother she could possibly be.
The children said nothing and she was told would not be questioned until an actual court hearing. They did not want to put them through anymore than they were already going through. They always said that with a glare. Even though things had seemed questionable a week ago, she guessed that everyone had labeled her as a child-abuser. She was determined to change their minds, but so far, she had gotten nowhere.
“So you still claim that someone broke into your home and beat your children?” the officer said, looking frustrated after hearing the same story multiple times.
Andrea nodded. “I promise, officer, I would never beat my children. I’m a single mom that has done all in my power to provide for them. I dropped out of high school to take care of my daughter and divorced my ex-husband because he exposed them to things children should never be exposed to. I have gone through too much to protect them to ever even have the slightest thoughts of hurting them.” A burst of energy shot through her, realizing that she could use dropping out and the divorce, two terrible things, to her advantage.
“Why have you never brought up dropping out of school and a divorce to our attention?” the officer said, suddenly interested with more evidence and information surfacing.
“I don’t like to think about either of them, and I did not think that they were necessary to bring up. You can even ask my ex. The only reason I divorced him was how he treated the kids. I have done all in my power to provide for and protect my children.” Now that she was energized, she had to get her story through to someone. She had already been assigned a lawyer, and she knew that a court hearing was not far off. Time was running out for her and for the truth to surface.
“We will look up this information to verify it. Nothing in your original story has changed.”
Andrea shook her head. “No, sir, I love my children. No amount of accusations will change that.”
The officer stood up, and Andrea saw the same sympathy that she had seen in the officer that had cuffed her. They had to get to the bottom of the case with solely evidence. They could not go with what they thought or felt.
Andrea was taken back to her cell. She was so thankful that she was given an individual cell. She sat down on the hard cot and ran over everything that had occurred. Almost everything added up in her mind. Only a few details were missing. Where had the neighbor been during the fifteen minutes that everything had occurred? Which one of her neighbors had called and made false claims? Who had known that she wasn’t home at that particular moment to quickly break in and get out before she got out?
Andrea was informed of a court hearing later that day that was going to be held in two days. Nine days of not seeing her children was hard, and being accused of abusing and beating them was almost unbearable. The only thing on her mind was being found innocent when everyone had labeled her as guilty.
Two long days passed, and she was put in the back of another police car. In her orange suit and handcuffs, she was taken to the courthouse. Once inside, they had her sit in a chair next to her lawyer and undid the cuffs.
“Is there enough evidence to prove that I have never beaten my children?” she whispered as he looked through a stack of papers in his briefcase.
“Some, yes. It could be used just as well to find you guilty, though.”
Andrea shook her head, emotionally drained. “I can’t believe that this is happening.”
Her lawyer looked over and shook his head. “I do believe that you are sincere and innocent, Andrea. I cannot say that the jury believes so also.”
She glanced over at the other table. A man in a suit sat with a briefcase similar to her lawyer’s briefcase. Beside him sat a woman. Andrea recognized the woman, and Andrea realized the final pieces of the puzzle. The woman was her next-door neighbor that she had asked to watch her children. Andrea knew at that moment that she had been over to her house, but she had no intention of watching her children. She had most likely stolen items from her house, meanwhile harming her children to quiet them down. Anger coursed through Andrea. She had the nerve to take advantage of her and her children to simply make off with a few items.
Andrea went over any other options in her mind as they waited for the court session to begin. If her neighbor was accusing her, then she was the one that had “anonymously” called. She was the only one that had known that Andrea was not home for those few minutes. It only made sense that she was the one to blame. Then she had pinned it on Andrea to clear her own name and seem like a good citizen.
Andrea stood up as everyone else did when the judge walked in. After he said, “This court is now in session,” everyone sat down.
As her neighbor was questioned first, nothing new to Andrea was brought up. All of her answers were lies and fit into Andrea’s theory. Her neighbor’s lawyer sat down, and Andrea’s lawyer stood up.
“Ask her to open her locket,” Andrea whispered, and he looked at her questioningly. Andrea nodded her head firmly. Her neighbor not only had the nerve to take advantage of Andrea and abuse her children. She had also worn Andrea’s most valuable necklace with her favorite locket on it to the hearing. Andrea had no doubt in her mind that opening the locket would prove her claims.
Her lawyer asked her neighbor a few typical questions to start things off. Towards the end, he did ask her to open the necklace.
“Excuse me?” she asked, acting confused.
“Please take your necklace off and open your locket,” Andrea’s lawyer repeated.
Her neighbor did as he asked, and Andrea saw her lawyer’s face light up.
“In this locket there are two pictures. Miss Mitchell’s daughter on one side and her son on the other. Why, may I ask, do you have her children’s pictures in your locket?”
“Well…, they… they are like my own children.”
“Really? If this is indeed your locket, how often do you see the children?”
“Almost everyday,” her neighbor protested.
“Really? Only minutes ago you expressed that your schedule is busy with school and work that you are almost never home. How do you see them daily and balance your schedule?”
She sat there for a moment. “That is about my personal life, but if you must know it is a hard balance.”
Andrea’s lawyer nodded. “No more questions. Thank you.” H nodded to the judge and walked back over to the table.
“Andrea Mitchell is now called to the stand,” the judge said, and Andrea stood up. She took the oath and sat in the stand.
Her neighbor’s lawyer first questioned her, and he seemed to get slightly flustered with her answers. She was sticking to the truth, and her neighbor’s story was slowly unraveling with every answer. Andrea could not believe that it had to get to that for her name to be cleared, but with every answer she gave she was feeling better about the verdict.
Her neighbor’s lawyer finally seemed to give up and concluded his questioning. When Andrea’s lawyer questioned her, he touched on every important issue. He touched on how she had dropped out of high school and divorced her ex-husband to take care of her children. He focused on her neighbor being the only one that had known she would arrive home late. He even focused on how her neighbor had somehow gotten Andrea’s locket.
Andrea sat back down with her lawyer, and the jury left the room. It felt like forever, but minutes later the jury came in.
“We find the defendant not guilty,” one of the members said to the judge, and the judge nodded.
Andrea felt her eyes water, but she remained professional. In some way, somehow, the truth had surfaced and everyone believed that she was innocent. When the court case was adjourned, she was driven back to her house. She quickly got changed, and she drove to her sister’s house. It felt like forever to drive the twenty minutes. Her sister and brother-in-law had agreed to take care of her children that week while Andrea had to stay at the jail. She parked in the driveway and nearly ran up to the door. She rang the doorbell, and her sister answered the door.
“They believed me,” Andrea said, and her sister hugged her. Andrea felt tears come to her eyes, and she let a few silent tears fall.
“They’ve missed you,” her sister said, also teary-eyed.
Andrea stepped into the house and walked into the living room. There they sat, watching television quietly with their older cousins.
“Hi, guys,” Andrea said, getting their attention.
“Mommy!” they both exclaimed, and they were off of the couch and in her arms within seconds.
She hugged them, never wanting to let go. She had been mistreated and lied about terribly in the last week. She knew at that moment that no one would ever be able to separate her from her children. She loved them so much, and the past week had made that love become even more obvious. She would fight to the death if anything else came up, and the whole unfair experience had only made her a stronger woman and even better mom.