Our matron/steward is waiting for me at the designated spot. She’s already taken a few of the other jurors up and offers to bring me. We have a moment alone. She mentions that she once had a juror who couldn’t take the elevator, so she had to use the stairs even when she wasn’t supposed to. “I couldn’t make them take the elevator when they were claustrophobic!” She also mentions that she was told that she was too nice, and not to smile so much. I said we appreciated everything she was doing for us.
“You’re a nice guy,” she says. I thank her. “I’ve never had a bad juror,” she continues. One floor can be an awfully long elevator ride depending on the company, but she has been kind, and there is something to be said for pure, unadulterated kindness.
The jury room is brighter in the morning, with the sun slanting in from the East. As we fill up, there are perfunctory morning greetings, talk of the frigid air-conditioning of the courtroom (my tie today doubles as a mini-scarf and dinner-attire afterwards), but then we settle into a semi-comfortable silence, broken only by the flushing of a toilet, the turning of a magazine page, the last ring of a cel phone.
Taking out my book, I open up to where I left off in John Irving’s latest, In One Person. If you must be made to wait, (as is becoming infuriating custom) there are no finer companions than the words of Mr. Irving.
Up until now, the victim has remained a vague abstraction. As the person killed, he exists only in the past and in how the lawyers will present him. Because he is absent, my attention has been occupied with the defendant. Yet the victim is just as much, if not more, a part of these proceedings.
Today, there is graphic testimony by doctors as to what exactly killed him. I offer a bit of science from the least scientific guy you’ll probably ever meet. The human heart is surrounded by a protective sac called the pericardium. There is very little space between the heart and this outer sac, which fits like an envelope or a sock around the heart. In this particular stab wound, which went right through the heart, it was the blood that collected in the pericardium that in essence prevented the victim’s heart from pumping. Without a place for the blood to go, the pressure was such that the heart simply could not beat. Even with the stab wounds, too much blood was entering and not enough was being let out.
My mother, the nursing professor, would be fascinated by all of this, especially the medical testimony. Andy would be fascinated by this, especially the criminal and legal aspects of it. And yes, it is all very interesting to watch from an analytical standpoint – yet it is the responsibility at hand that weighs down upon me, and though I have no doubt I will, when the time comes, be capable of rendering a confident decision, I have no way of knowing how that may affect me, and others, in the future.
I fear everything I don’t know, all that hasn’t been presented – so much of the truth seems too often to be found in what isn’t said, in what cannot be seen or shown. The trials I have heard of and paid attention to ~ O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony ~ seem so easy to judge, but I have a new respect for juries and the position they’re in – and how no one but the few of us here can ever know what it’s like. No one else sees the case in the way that we do, and by that I mean our very limited view.
I pray, I actually pray, that we have the wisdom to divine the truth and to render the most just decision. But that is still ahead. For now, the lawyers approach the bench, leaving the defendant alone for a moment. A church bell tolls outside as I study him again. Today he wears all black, his shirt is baggy as always, and his shoes are brown. It is noon. We break for lunch.
It is at times like this – during the simple act of going out to lunch, of feeding a parking meter, of going to the restroom – that both the victim and the defendant come to mind. Neither of them can do these everyday tasks. This is when I start to think of them – as I choose a dinner option, as I press the snooze button one more time, as I walk into the outside air.
This will be the insidious undoing of so much of what was once important to me. I will try my best to pretend otherwise, to go back to the joking insouciance of the past, but I don’t know if it will work. For better or worse, there is no greater pretender than me.Back to Blog