BY JUSTIN WEINRICH
This episode brought us out of the jail and into the courtroom. Through the stories of Rosemary Vandecar, Ivan Rios, and Rickie Slaughter, we got three very unique perspectives on the courtroom through the eyes of the defendants.
We started working with Rosemary first. Our crew had been following her for a while already for the ‘Jail Mom’ episode, so she was comfortable having us around. Having that relationship already established was crucial, because once her trial started things got very intense, very quickly. Rosemary was always smiling, always happy to see us when we arrived at her module, but as the week of her trial wore on, she became much more serious. And her fear began to show through her usually cheerful demeanor. Watching the footage, you can almost see her face aging over those five days, as the stress of the trial and the weight of personal demons take their toll on her.
Everything changed once we got in the courtroom. Ivan Rios and Rickie Slaughter were both pretty candid and open about the crimes they were being accused of, but Rosemary refused to speak about the crime that she was on trial for. We knew it was murder, but had no details. On the first day of trial when the prosecutor gave opening statements, we got all the facts. The victim was a man with whom Rosemary and her son had been living. He was strangled to death on the bathroom floor. She had “confessed” after hours of interrogation by detectives. One shocking piece of information, that for legal reasons we were not allowed to film, was the fact that her own son was going to be testifying against her.
After the first day of trial when we saw Rosemary in the holding cell waiting to go back to her module, her only concern was that we would have lost respect for her or would not want to film with her any more after learning the details of her alleged crime. This was typical for Rosemary; although she was the one on trial, she was always concerned about how she was being perceived and what we thought of her. Three of her friends had flown in from Michigan to support her during the trial, and on the eve of her verdict Rosemary’s main concern was which Vegas shows and tourist sights they were going to see while in town. It was a much-needed distraction for her, and in a way I suppose that’s what we provided her with as well: people to talk to, and a distraction from the pressure of the trial.
We made a routine of meeting up with Rosemary when court got out each night and interviewing her in her cell. It was during these chats that she began to really express the fear and doubt that she usually tried so hard to hide. She maintained that she was innocent of her charges, but began to express more and more doubt in her legal team and in the jury. By the last day of the trial, Rosemary was a nervous wreck.
Once the jury deliberated after closing arguments, we followed Rosemary to a holding cell and prepared to camp out, not knowing how long it would take the jury to reach a verdict. It’s not uncommon for juries to take days to come to an agreement, like they did with Ivan Rios’ trial. Everyone was therefore shocked when the court called us just a couple hours later, and we followed Rosemary and her officer escorts back to court. She seemed strangely calm. She said she was just worn out and ready for this to be over. We returned to the courtroom and watched as she received the verdict.
Tune in to Hard Time: Judgement Day tonight at 9P.