On the Third Day

We begin with the third round of jury selection – the same repetitive questions, the same weeding-out process (a process which makes less and less sense to me), but there are fewer people with questionable issues, and it feels like they might have enough for a jury at last. We adjourn to the jury room for a break while they figure this out, and when we return they have indeed selected a complete jury, with two alternates. The trial will begin after lunch.

Before walking out, I study the defendant again. Today he wears a navy shirt, slightly baggy on him, like all his shirts have been. He looks so young. His eyes, furtive and quick, dart about the room. I wonder if he looks caged because he is. So much of him – his face, his eyes, his movements – remains unreadable. I don’t know if it’s fear or fearlessness, and I shouldn’t be judging or thinking anything until the evidence is presented anyway. How much can you really tell about a person based on appearance alone? Still, I’m only human, and at this point I have nothing else to go on.

Exiting the building into the beautiful sunny day is a bit of a shock. After the cold air-conditioned sterility of the jury room, the sun feels good on my skin. It is the perfect day, and for some reason I am reminded of 9/11, when I had just started working in downtown Albany. I push those memories from my mind and walk to Subway (since I’d forgotten my sandwich in the fridge in the jury room and couldn’t be bothered to go through security again). I don’t know it then, but my lunch this day will be the last one for a while where I am the carefree person whose main concern is how much light mayo to ask for on my sub, or whether they have sprinkled enough banana peppers on it. A few co-workers pass by and I wave and smile, and it is the last bit of unbridled joy I will feel without a twinge of guilt.

We return from the glorious sun, file into the court room, and listen to the opening instructions from the judge. They are reminders of the weight of our decision, wisdom imparted to help us see the proper process to divine the truth of the case, and the various laws we will have to abide to see that the defendant, innocent until proven guilty by unanimous consent and beyond reasonable doubt, will get his fair trial. Up until that moment, I was absolutely sure I could render a decision based on the facts and the evidence. Up until then I was positive I could be cold and analytical and go strictly by what was presented. Now, as this young man – in so many ways still a boy – sits a few feet from me, I will be asked to take part in determining his fate. Now I am suddenly not so sure. When the judge wraps up, he introduces the prosecuting attorney to make his opening statement. This is when everything changes for what seems like the tenth time.

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