I’m not sure what the lesson here is for me, what insight about myself there is to take away, but I’m sure there is one. I was called for jury selection on Wednesday, and I was in the hot seat.
We’d spent the best part of the morning in the jury room while preliminaries were taken care of in the first case. Then came word that the first case had “fallen through”, so we waited for word on the next one. I’d taken along some light reading by one of my favorite scientists, and had a bit of conversation with one of the other jurors about how boring the view on the street was. The most exciting thing we saw out the window from the fourth floor of the courthouse that morning was watching somebody get a parking ticket. I read quite a bit of my book, an old favorite I hadn’t picked up in awhile.
Eventually we got called to the courtroom. The judge introduced himself, the bailiffs, the clerk, the court reporter, the Assistant District Attorney who would be prosecuting the case, the sheriff’s deputy who sat beside her, the defendant, and her attorney. He gave out a fairly detailed description of how selection from the pool would go, and a clear description of what would be required of us. He was amicable, the speech as painless as could be expected, and the clerk called out the first twelve names to be seated for selection. I was not among them, but I was actually interested and looking forward to performing my civic service. I hoped I’d get a chance to see the process through.
The first round took forever. The ADA asked each potential juror about their background, then specific inquiries into particular aspects of their answers, and finally questions regarding driving while impaired and whether each juror thought they could give an impartial verdict on the subject. Just before we broke for lunch, she consulted with the deputy, and stood. “Your honor, the state would like to thank but excuse juror number nine.”
When we came back, the clerk called a name for a replacement. The judge excused the potential juror for cause. As an attorney, he’d represented the juror’s son in the past. Another juror was called, and was excused by the ADA after questions. Another, and maybe another. Even the judge was joking about “the hot seat” that couldn’t seem to get filled. Eventually the ADA was satisfied with her jury, and the defense attorney was given his turn to ask questions. He excused three potential jurors after his first round, including, of course, juror number nine. By this point, each time juror nine was excused there were giggles from just about everyone in the courtroom.
But what became clear during his questions was this was not a simple case of someone who’d gone out partying and gotten behind the wheel of her car. “Are you familiar with X medication?” “Do you or anyone you know suffer from depression or anxiety?” “Have you or has anyone in your family been involved in domestic violence?”
For reasons which are quite public, but are not my story to tell, my anticipation turned to cold, hard dread. There was a 15 minute afternoon break. I spent it warring within myself. What if? What if I were called? Could I really sit and pass impartial judgment on a DV survivor who sat accused of having gone out driving after taking newly prescribed medication for her depression and anxiety?
The universe really does hate me. *OF COURSE* my name was called to fill the seat marked 9. Of course it was.
The ADA asked her questions of the first new juror, and then came to me. At this point, she just started with, “You’ve heard all the questions, you know how this goes, what do we need to know?” I gave a brief bio, assured her that I understood the burden of proof and the presumption of innocence, then said, “But there is something you need to know.” I didn’t want to discuss it. The end of my relationship was such a fresh wound that had just barely started to scab over, and it was being very publicly ripped back open. And it felt wrong to talk about someone else’s life in court, without their consent, even obliquely, and even if I was only admitting how their past experience had affected me in turn, and might affect my judgment. Domestic violence is such a personal experience, I didn’t feel like I had the right to talk about it since it hadn’t happened to me directly. But my experience of the fallout *did* affect me directly. And that part was relevant to the case, that part I had to disclose, and I didn’t have a choice. I kept it to the bare minimum necessary, discussing only my own experience, which was after the fact. I ended with, “You need to know that I can forgive a lot of sins for someone in the defendant’s position. I’ve seen what that *does* to a person.” The look on her face throughout was one of pained empathy. She didn’t want to ask further. She also had no choice. Did I understand that this case was not about domestic violence? Did I understand that there was no wiggle room for mitigating factors in my vote? Yes, I did. And yes, I did. I was trying to not let the tears fall. The courtroom was dead silent.
Finally she asked The Question. Could I, having seen what I have of the aftermath of all that, and having been so recently and so deeply hurt by it, deliver a fair and impartial verdict on the case at hand according to the law and the judge’s instructions? She was really asking if I could deliver a guilty verdict if she met her burden of proof. I looked at the ceiling. It took me a few moments to collect myself. I looked back down, directly into her troubled eyes. “Yes. If you meet your burden of proof, I can do that.” I dropped my gaze to my lap and a tear escaped each eye and hit my jeans. “Please don’t make me.”
Looking back, I don’t know if she actually heard me. I’m not even sure now if I said it out loud. I’m suspicious of my memory. I don’t know.
She might have asked a few brief questions of the new juror beside me, number ten. She might have consulted with the deputy. It’s all sort of fuzzy here. But she stood.
“Your honor, at this time the state would like to thank but excuse juror number nine.” There were no giggles.
To repeat the disclaimer, this is a project about re-discovery. It’s about remembering who I am, what I’m about, what I love and what I do not. Fair warning, this project will be posted here rather than at my SFW site because there will be nudity from time to time. Some of it will be of me, some not, some artistic and pretty to look at, some just raw.
I don’t intend to think of something every day and then shoot it, though I may do that sometimes, too. But sometimes I will just shoot, and then find something about myself in the frames and post about that thing, whatever it is.