My name is Benita Adriana Villanueva.
I go by Benni—Birdy or la Jefa on the streets. I’m twenty-eight, an illegal Cuban immigrant, served two separate sentences in County, and now, well—have a seat, court is in session.
As I sit here beside my attorney, elbows to the table, my head hanging low between my shoulders…I won’t lie to you.
I fucked up.
For real this time.
This isn’t me getting caught selling a few baggies down in Calle Ocho or riding around with an ounce with the intent to distribute. Na, I fucked up royally, and now, they’re about to rip me a new one, drown me in this hell of a reality.
“All rise for the jury.” The bailiff's booming voice snaps my head up.
Sounds of shuffling fill the room as the entire courtroom rises onto their feet. One by one the jury begins filtering back to their seats, my shaky hands smoothing out the olive green blouse mami insisted I wear.
She’s here behind me with my brother and my sister, the despaired echo of her hushed sobs meeting my ears every few moments or so. I can’t stand to hear them. They’re nothing more than a painful reminder of just how glaringly I’ve let her down.
I’m practically choking on my sins.
“Please be seated,” the judge orders, dropping everyone into their seats once more. “The record should cite that all jurors are present, all attorneys and represented parties are present. Will the defendant and council please rise?”
On my feet yet again, directly in the spotlight as the courtroom bounces their stares between myself, the judge, and the jury.
My heart thunders in my chest.
“Will the jury’s foreperson please rise?”
An older white female in a tweed pantsuit stands with papers in hand.
The judge acknowledges her with a subtle tip of his bald head. “Madam foreperson, has the jury reached a verdict?”
“Yes, Your Honor.” She smiles curtly.
The judge nods a second time, his sharp green eyes bouncing to my form for the briefest moment before returning to the woman. “As to the charge of trafficking a large commercial quantity of Schedule II drugs, what is your verdict?”
This is it, the singular moment that will change everything moving forward.
The woman clears her throat, shoulders squaring confidently as she drops her gaze to the papers in her hands. “We the jury find the defendant, Benita Adriana Villanueva, guilty.”