After a long day of jury selection Monday, I was released with a headache, a backache, wacky blood sugar, and a mind full.
The long questionnaire and the directed questions from the judge and lawyers dug out some long-buried shit in my mind. And my life has not been so hard. Even so, I carry a good load of experience, which I began to remember. The whole first day of jury selection (with questions about the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and legal principles), and the second day, and the following night after being released/excused, I churned out potential answers, attempting clear explanations of this and that.
First day of jury selection: There were a lot of people with family and friends in gangs. Most of us have that cousin we worry about, maybe a brother who’s doing well now. And more than one or two people with family victims of violence. A lot of people with DUIs. First day felt like a class – the judge gave long explanations/instruction of legal ideas.
Second day of jury selection: This was the day of family and work contacts with police. “Police answer to a higher calling” was frequently said, in response to the idea that all witnesses must be given equal weight if believed, and that all people are equally likely to lie, or be mistaken. Also, there were more victims of violence and a few with family who perpetrated violence.
A woman with a family member who served time for murder described the crime. “It was armed robbery. She maced him. The gun went off.” Ah, the implications of passive and active verbs! (Not a judgement – who am I to judge? Just noticing the glimpse of our frail psyches’ defenses.)
There was a man who had, years ago in Texas, a history of arrests for basically drunken mayhem and burglary. They were “worked out.” He knew the right people, and a lot of them. He was in the right family. The general tone of the responses: “Well, what do you expect in Texas? We do things differently here. We are in the process of doing it differently in this case.” To me, his history pointed out one of the problems of our criminal justice system – who actually ends up in court. And it ain’t just a problem in good-ole-boy Texas.
No need to wonder where all those violent people come from. They are our loved ones.
All around a disturbing experience. And I have images of the courtroom and some of the people fogging my mind. They will sink down with the rest of the shit, but until then, I’m living with them right here on top. And I’m sharing!
So I stopped at Laurel Bookstore for a good book. As I later became aware, I was not thinking as clearly as I could have wished. I decided a murder mystery was a good idea – straightforward fiction to clear the mind of reality for a while. I took home Donna Leon Death in a Strange Country. Ha! This wonderful book demonstrates the futility of criminal justice. I don’t care if it takes place in Vienna, not Oakland. Same idea. Certainly reinforced my thoughts.
I should have read a Georgette Heyer, one of the happy ones.