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Additional Entries - March/April Contest

With so many wonderful entries to the March/April Contest Question I think the presentation of personal journals as evidence in a court trial is ..., it seemed unfair that I should be the only one to enjoy what journalers had to say. That's why this special section of appreciation has been created.

Thank You to Jonee Platt for the following entry:

I think the presentation of personal journals as evidence in a court trial is an abuse of the laws of privacy. If it was a log kept on board a ship or a ledger of accounting, it would be evidence. But admitting the jottings of personal feelings, emotions and experiences is not an accurate accounting of real facts. We may write a passage while in the throes of a strong emotion not intending to act on it. And if we do reveal something that would be potentially damaging in a court of law there would need to be more than our version of an experience to substantiate it. We are all fiction writers in a way because we add interest to our journals with our own view of events. They should not be relied on as fact but kept private and available for our own interpretations of life.

Thank You to Breena for the following entry:

I think the presentation of personal journals as evidence in a court trial is ... …A two-edged sword. To admit journals as evidence in a court trial is to assume that they record the facts of the events. While this might be beneficial to some victims of crimes, in general, I think that it would hurt more people than it would help. One of the benefits of a journal is that it is a place where there are no limits. A writer doesn’t have to list just facts. The journal is a place to explore feelings and even the negative side of a person’s personality. Writing like this could be used against a person as easily as it could help them. Journals are a place to work through negative emotions so that actions don't hurt others but those very words could be used against the individual. By using journals in this way the idea that they are a private, safe place is destroyed. The writer would always have the possibility of their own words being used against them overshadowing the work of trying to find out who they are. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to sort through a journal to find the absolute facts from the feelings and self-expression. If it could be done, journals could be used to help the victim and condemn the criminal. As it is, I fear that victims would be condemned by their own words and criminals would be excused of their crimes.

Thank You to Myra for the following entry:

I think the presentation of personal journals as evidence in a court trial is ...

one way of showing the emotional and mental attitude of a person at a specific time period. If there is no other way to help arrive at the truth it would be okay... provided they only use the time span with which the events causing the trial are used. Such as 1 or 2 months prior to and after. It would not be necessary to divulge the entire journal. The majority of people date and even sometimes put a time on their recordings...this would be helpful.

I would say this would be a last resort. But, as I said above, if it would help getting at the truth--yes it should be done within specific guidelines.

Thank You to Alaine Benard for the following entry:

CIRCUMSTANTIAL JOURNALING

I think the presentation of personal journals as evidence in a court trial is ludicrous--definitely not right!

...Another example of 'big brother' digging in my business and causing my continued first amendment fight.

Judgment should be founded on proof and fact alone-
using my private ramblings is not to be condoned!

Fantasy, fiction, true life entries are the contents of my journal,
penned for writerly experience, not stating truths--not even a kernel.

So, if convicted from words contained within, then you should know:
my time will be spent sending editorials from death row!

Sitting in the yard beneath the azure sky, the azalea breezes ruffle the pages of my journal. I read the poem written above and try to recall the emotions surrounding its birth. I snicker aloud at the paranoid sarcasm that drips from the words.

With Spring life showing so prevalent in the day, what literary exercise shall I choose? Something light? Something joyous? Perhaps a butterfly Haiku. Cocoonish word-rhymes chase around inside my head. Five syllables make their way to the surface and pop out from the point of my favorite pen.

A frolicsome pair of cardinals distracts me from my work. Smiling, I turn my attention to formulating the middle line. Ahhhh, seven syllables push the ugly larvae into the world with unfurling wings. Now, the colorful description of the last line! A shiver of excitement travels up my spine as imaginary Monarchs, Swallowtails and blue Morpho’s flutter on the screen of my closed eyes.

Hand afire with red-hot pain from the Trustee’s billy club, vaporizes my perfect Haiku ending.

I return to my cell as I am told to do - my left hand desperately clutching my sacred journal.

Thank You to Rialena for the following entry:

I think the presentation of personal journals as evidence in a court trial is a highly controversial thing.

I say this because it seems that nowhere else would you be more likely to find the truth, but there is no other way to make the owner of the journal feel as violated. Just by the very nature of a personal journal, the owner would feel confident in putting the truth as it really occurs into written words, knowing that these very private thoughts an emotions would be safe there. So to use it in court would be such a violation of that privacy that I would not every want it to happen to me. And it has.

My journal wasn't used in a court trial, but it was used against by my husband and to this day I have a very difficult time putting my thoughts and feelings in words. That feeling of security, of knowing that no one else would know my private thoughts was shattered. And it has been several years since then, and I still haven't been able to rebuild that trust.

But, on the other hand, around the same time, my husband disappeared one night and I knew that emotionally he was in a very dark place. He was in a deep depression and, I suspected, suicidal. So I went to his journal to see if I could gain some insight into what he was thinking. It was filled with thought of suicide and even the details of how and where. So I called 911. When the officer arrived, the first thing he wanted was the journal. And he wanted to keep it as evidence. Well, my husband eventually came home. He hadn't planned to carry out his intentions that night. When he found out what I had done, he had a meltdown and the next morning I had to check him into the psyche unit at the hospital. I know it wasn't just the journal that caused it, but it was the final straw. So you see, it may have saved his life, but at a very high cost. So to use it in a trial would be a double edged sword.

He does not keep a journal anymore either.

Thank You to Dawn Richardson for the following entry:

(Assuming the admission of the personal journal is done without the express permission of the journal's legal owner, here are my thoughts on the matter.)

The presentation of personal journals as evidence in a court trial is in most cases inexcusable, deplorable, invasive, ostentatious, a transgression of magnanimous proportion, invasive, and often contrived. Now you might have noticed that those words form an acrostic representative of my first thought on the matter (idiotic). In deference to the revision process, here's my argument revisited with a bit more tact.

At the very heart of what it means to be a citizen in a free democracy lies a sacred trust by the people in the people elected to serve. That trust presupposes that those in places of honor will carefully balance the needs of justice with the rights of the individual citizen. Chief among individual rights: the right to express outwardly one's opinion and, conversely, the right to express privately one's thoughts, feelings, intentions and opinions without threat of unwelcome disclosure.

Freedom of the press is of grave importance in any democracy. As such, its defenders have often and vigorously argued for the right to voice opinion without fear of government retribution. Freedom of privacy has been taken somewhat for granted. Those who argue for its sacrosanct place in our democracy and demand its full respect in the courts of the land are beginning to be heard.

Too often, the contents of personal journals are taken as fact. This is a grave error. Why? Many writers, myself included, often experiment with fantasy, free writing, alternative points-of-view or assume the mindset of a chosen character (real or imaginary). Such journalling techniques that can hardly be called representative of who I am and how I live or descriptive of why I do what I do. Beyond the faulty assumptions often associated with admitting journal entries as evidence, the acceptance of personal journals into admission almost always does more harm than good.

While cases that warrant the seizure of personal letters and journals do exist, they are few and far between. For example, if shooters in a mass murder left detailed notes about co-conspirators and future attacks, then certainly the need to protect the public would outweigh the murderers' right to privacy. However, for prosecutors and the judicial system to pursue the seizure of personal journals of a criminal suspect in the mere hope that it might provide more circumstantial evidence or an indication of a propensity to act in a certain way is, simply put, wrong.

Additional Entries - February Contest

With so many wonderful entries to the February Contest Question How has journaling changed your life?, it seemed unfair that I should be the only one to enjoy what journalers had to say. That's why this special section of appreciation has been created.

Thank You to Chantal Burton for the following entry:

When I started journaling at the age of 14 I never thought that it would lead me to the things I've seen over the last 21 years.

As a young girl I wanted to try out several ideas I got from things I saw around. I watched animal shows on TV and wanted to go on a Safari. I read books and I wanted to become a writer. When I discovered Anne Frank, I began to journal. I never went on a Safari or started a writing career but I never stopped writing my diary!

My teenage years didn't bring out the usual insights into the problems of this phase in life such as school and boyfriends. But writing became a habit and my love for journaling brought me to look around for other journalers who had published their work. With Anaïs Nin I discovered the realization that there is great possibility in what a person is able to bring out from within by writing down EVERYTHING.

There my real journaling began. I knew that I would probably never write anything else other than the words in my diary but I dived into every possibility I could try out. My journal has become my companion and it is the most important thing I do at this time. It gives me the power to face life in all its variety and I feel more confident that I can go on day to day.

Thank You to Dawn Richerson for the following entry:

Talking Out Loud on Paper (That Starts to Talk Back)

Pen and paper, heart and soul: bring them together and, over time, some mysterious, magical transformation occurs. Life changes. Your life changes in incremental shifts that make a profound difference. It's happened to me. It doesn't take a complicated course of study or an investment of just $199.95. Basically, you show up, be real and talk out loud on paper.

For me, it started in those awful early days when I used to ride the purple banana-seat bike to the honeysuckle tree. Afraid, alone, I sat unable to find myself in a tumultuous whirlwind of troubled thoughts. Writing it down led me to an alternative perspective I might not have found any other way. I remember:

A stringy-haired six-year-old who didn't know how to tell secrets she thought might seal her fate as a bad little girl found paper and a pencil someone had left behind. She began to write. Her mind whispered that she didn't belong in the happy family living underneath the Florida sunshine. She wrote it down. Her body screamed, "Save me. Save me. Save me." She wrote it down. Her heart beat some faint rhythm of hope. She noted its effort. And, at last, her very soul found some way to speak the truth. The little girl wrote it down, beginning with what was and what had been. In the impression of words on paper-her words-she regained the creative power endowed upon each of us at birth.

Through journaling, I have reclaimed that all-important soul power that gets lost when we listen to the lies our minds would tell us. I have honored the hope my heart refuses to relinquish in the darkest times. I have listened to my earthly body and learned to appreciate the warnings it sounds. I have caught a glimpse of my own ability to define a future based on an honest perspective of the past. Recording events, feelings, hopes, dreams, ideas, possibilities has magnified the experience of living for me. Through journaling I can relive, review, reassess, remember.

I think now of that turning point seven years past, when I woke up an ordinary woman in an ordinary life and closed the day with the realization that nothing would be ordinary anymore. That evening, I gathered pen and paper, heart and soul, to capture on paper the feeling that had rushed through me upon awakening and stayed with me, somehow, all day. As I began to write, I accepted the momentous impact of a dream the night before. This acceptance, which came through journaling, would revolutionize my thinking about who I was and who I was meant to be. This dream, I remember:

(Journal Entry. October 23, 1994)--There is no way I could not write about this day. Something has happened. I feel such a peace, such a lasting kind of peace that escapes description. It has just flooded my soul with such an overwhelming and definitely spiritual experience. Last night as I sat staring into space, all the pieces of knowledge just began to fit together in this most remarkable way. In particular, I saw the whole picture of my life and my failed marriage. Then I had a vivid and amazing dream.

I was on a pilgrimage, as were others. Some traveled in groups. I traveled alone. I took only a small bag and wore a pendant around my neck that had great meaning to me. Along the way, I met many interesting, captivating people, some who followed a different way and tried to persuade me to come with them, insisting that theirs was the right path to follow. I would often stop to question myself, but traveled on independently.

I was sad to travel on without my companions, but trusted my instincts to move forward. I came to a beautiful mountain. Later, the travelers who had made it that far stood together at the foot of the mountain. Most chose to walk around the mountain, but something inside me urged me to make the climb-no matter how hard or impossible it seemed, no matter how long it took.

When I finally reached the top, feeling exhausted from the journey and not sure I could go further, I looked below and saw in every direction the most beautiful seashore with dozens upon dozens of spirit beings. And I felt a belonging and a sense of understanding I've never before experienced. It was as if I knew I was finally "home." At once, I understood that all along God had guided me to this place, step by step, to this wonderful moment I was meant to experience forevermore.

My last glimpse in the dream was of seeing those who had walked around the base of the mountain winding around on another path toward the horizon, missing the seashore which could only be seen from the mountain heights. They didn't even know it was there! I woke from my dream just after the sun began to rise over the peaceful seas and all became still, listening and knowing the presence of God.

And so, by writing a dream I decorated my life with meaning that comforts, guides, keeps me on course. Journaling has deepened my thinking, heightened my sensitivity, broadened my horizons. It has enriched my inner life, thereby improving the life I live every day in a world filled with surprises-the kind that make you bubble over with joyful laughter and, too, the kind that leave you doubled over with what seems unbearable pain. When you talk out loud on paper, the paper starts to talk back. I have learned to listen, and because I have my life has been changed.

Thank You to Pat Lotz for the following entry:

Journaling has made extraordinary changes in my life. It helped me cope with and conquer most of the problems of mental illness. I spent a lot of time pouring over journaling books and wrote a journaling book myself. Writing the book has really increased my self-esteem. I want to teach journaling as a career. I have a lot of knowledge about it and know that I could help a lot of people.

Thank You to Linda S. VandenBerg for the following entry:

What is this I am doing? Is it journaling? Is it E mail correspondence? Is it therapy? Hmmm, let me tell you the story and you make the call.

Mary, my best friend of 30 years, and I have always written letters of great depth to one another, but somehow with the onset of E mail, we moved to an entirely new plane. Though we have each journaled off and on over the years, somehow our correspondence evolved into a kind of journaling for us....we each wrote about our lives and let whatever flowed out simply come, uncensored for the most part. This turned into a daily event for each of us.

I was often surprised at the material that would fly magically onto the screen from my fingers. That was the first level of insight. But then Mary, a person who loves me unconditionally, would have the opportunity to read it and respond to my comments if she so chose; what an incredible blessing and what an acceleration of my personal growth!

Many, many days we each walk the path of our own destinies, a kind of parallel play. Some days synchronicity intervenes and we find ourselves side-by-side, thinking about the same issues, unbeknownst to one another. And some days we respond to one another's concerns directly. We dance together, we dance apart, but we have maintained this thread across the miles and across the years of our lives in our shared journaling and we are forever changed.

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