For the frigid tundra of the courtroom, and in spite of my newly lackadaisical attitude toward what I wear, I’ve donned a sports jacket for the day. I’m also here on what should have been a pass day for me – a glorious, sunny pass day that should rightfully be spent by the pool. Unless you’re the defendant, or the victim.
Today the Defense calls their witnesses, and first up is the defendant’s little brother. He is only twelve years old. Soft-spoken and barely audible, he gives his answers in a feathery almost-adolescent voice, and I can’t imagine having to get up in front of this courtroom and doing this at his age. At any age, actually, but especially for someone so young.
I glance at the defendant as his brother speaks, and notice something that I think falls out of his mouth. Only then do I see the tears falling down his face in tiny rivulets. He wipes them with a tissue and I look away. On the stand, the eyes of his little brother well up.
The next witness to be called is the defendant’s mother. I expect further waterworks, but there are none, just a mother fighting valiantly for her son to be free, perhaps saying whatever needs to be said.
Later in the day, the defendant’s father takes the stand, as does his fifteen-year-old cousin – a little girl who cries repeatedly while giving her somewhat mixed testimony.
The judge’s odd oral fixation, which is more than the passing nibble on the end of a pen, veers dangerously into deep-throating territory, as he devours pens and markers like a champion. It’s an odd juxtaposition – a murder trial, tears, and the occasional desire to burst into inappropriate laughter.
When I pass the family members outside at lunch, I keep my head down. When they’re at the pizza place where I stop, I take my pie outside. Downtown Albany is a small place, with limited lunch options and scant places to hide.
During the lengthy breaks in the jury room, we are louder and more boisterous today – each of us seemingly comfortable with everyone else – and I realize I could easily, and genuinely, get along with every one of the other jurors. I wonder how the deliberation will play out. I wonder if we will still get along then. As the judge put it, we are the only fourteen people in the world having this particular experience. There is something both comforting and distressing about that.
At the end of the day, the judge will repeat his admonitions, and mention that we are not to even say Hello or Good Morning to any of the lawyers or witnesses. It has been a long, albeit interesting, week of jury duty, more subtly life-changing than I expected, but the weekend is more than welcome, and I am hopeful to return to a life where the most stressful thing is figuring out how many people are coming over for Father’s Day.Back to Blog