Over the past few days, I've been doing my level best to stay on top of the Vann Hansell trial in the Court of Queen's Bench.
This is no small case.
It's ugly and, yes, heart-wrenching at times to take it in. But it's an important matter worthy of attention.
Mr. Hansell is 22 years old today. I won't drag out the allegations: He's accused of being behind the wheel of his truck and texting while impaired, leading to a crash on Duglad Road that killed Mark Derry, 53. He's presumed innocent.
I write this today simply to say that if there's a bright spot in the pall of this tragic case, it's been the number of high-school-aged youth coming into the courtroom and taking in at least part of the trial.
I couldn't imagine a better demographic for the public gallery in this specific instance.
Setting aside the issues of 'distracted driving' (and impaired driving) at the heart of the case, I hope these younger people got a good look at Mr. Hansell as he sits in the prisoner's dock in his suit, taking in the evidence.
If there was a sadder, more ashen-looking person in the room I've yet to see them come by.
Mr. Derry's wife has been dutifully sitting in the case each and every day now, and my heart goes out to her. It must be hell to sit through the hearings.
But, I confess, I have a large chunk of compassion for the accused, as well.
Not necessarily because he's charged with a crime that could — could — result in major consequences for his future, but because looking at him is a reminder to me of what it was like to be 20 and feeling invincible.
Because that could have been me sitting in that box. It's really only just sheer luck that it's not.
And I write this short post just to recognize that. I hope the younger people attending the trial might see that too.
In a perfect world, this trial would have been broadcast to all Manitoba high schools.
Not just because of the subject matter, but also because it's an opportunity to get younger citizens engaged in the Canadian court process — to show what it is, how it works, and why it's so important in our society.