A reporter reflects: Covering a murder trial for “48 Hours”
A production associate describes her experience covering her first murder trial for "48 Hours"
The brisk morning air on March 6, 2017, only intensified my anticipation as I stepped into New Jersey's Morris County Courthouse. Virginia Vertetis was on trial for the 2014 murder of her on-again, off-again boyfriend Patrick Gilhuley, an ex-NYPD officer — and this was the first trial I had ever covered as a production associate for "48 Hours."
All I could think was, "Who are the players in this story? How will the people involved handle what is about to transpire?" I picked up my press badge and headed to courtroom number 13.
Many people in the room had been invested in the case since the day of the shooting, over three years ago. Now they were looking at me like, "Who is she?" And I could feel it.
Hearing "all rise" for the first time made me anxious, as if suddenly this trial pertained to me. I was taking in everything about the atmosphere for the first time, but one particular thing stuck with me. I was sitting just a few seats away from people who were personally affected by this case. I was distracted thinking about how emotional and hard-hitting this was for them. I tried to put myself in each person's shoes — the families, the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the jury, even the accused.
I couldn't help but think, "What would I do?"
Each day I focused on the court jargon and the order in which witnesses appeared on the stand. The trial was methodical and organized, but it was the unpredictable moments when I heard "Objection!" that I had to listen even closer to understand each side's position. I was constantly going back and forth thinking, well this could be true, yet it could also be disputed by some other evidence.
At times the trial seemed like a game was being played. While one side was up, the other was down, and there are rules that must be followed each step of the way.
The trial was easy to become invested in, and the moment I heard the jury had a verdict those nerves from the first day came creeping back.
The room was packed and I was literally on the edge of my seat. "Guilty."
Although the verdict brings some closure, the element of loss hangs on. My final day in court was somber; I would no longer see these faces every day. The outcome impacts each and every person differently, and for me the unanswered questions are something I am still getting used to today.
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