Opening Arguments / by Charisse Domingo

The courtroom at Department 37 is filled today for opening statements of Henry's trial.  Henry is seated next to his public defender Avi Singh, a young attorney housed at the Santa Clara County Public Defender's office who is as passionate as he is sharp.  Henry is freshly wearing a white and blue checkered shirt, clothes brought to him by his mom --- different from his regular jumpsuit he's worn since March of 2015 when he was first detained to face these charges.

In the second row behind Henry is his mom Debora, hair pulled back tight with a flowy ponytail, wearing a beige and white dress suit, as regal as Sunday morning. She has her purse on one side, and her notebook and pen on her lap -- the first half of which already have worn pages of notes and notes from many courtdates she's sat in.

She is pointing out who the people are to Henry's six year old son who is already slumping down the chair. His 14 year old nephews can sense a little bit more and is excited as the courtroom pews start to fill.  I sit next to these two young boys to say hello, introduce myself and De-Bug, and in those 14 year olds, I see the crossing of time between Henry's past and future. They love their Uncle so much.  "He is the strongest man I know -- in both ways," says Tamarea with the gentle eyes. I think, wow they are only two years older than Tamir Rice. 

The Jury files in, half white, half Asian; half men, half women. They look majority in their 40's and 50's, maybe some in their 30's.  As they enter, the courtroom audience stands.  This morning the pews of the courtroom are filled with community members from De-Bug, and public defenders whose faces we've seen in the streets and in the courts.  They're part of a young crew who defend Black and Brown lives in the courts. The community members who have shown up for Henry are moms and sisters who themselves have had loved ones facing charges in the courts.  One of them is Gail Noble, whose son Lamar was arrested and beaten by Santa Clara County Sheriffs during the 2013 Martin Luther King Jr weekend.  He later faced resisting arrest charges that after a lot of community pressure, were dismissed by the District Attorney's office . 

The jury is all intent looking at the District Attorney as she starts her opening arguments. She starts out by saying "At Any Cost" -- as though Henry's 'fleeing' from the cops had that as the bottom line, and as though the multiple shootings on Henry were justified. And then she compared that to Officer Vandergraff that shot Henry -- a 14 year Santa Clara County veteran cop who stated this was the first time using his firearm at any human being.  The previous times being at injured animals.  That morning, Officer Vandergraff shot at Henry 6 times in the side and back of his car, 1 of them hitting his hand.

Avi then speaks, and what is most stark is how he opens and closes his statements.  He opens with a picture of what Henry was looking forward to that morning -- looking at the green sprawling view of San Jose from atop the East foothills.  And then closing it with a juxtaposed picture of Officer Vandergraff standing on one side, and on the other is Henry, in a hospital bed, injured from the shooting. -- Charisse Domingo