Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Technically, I was still on jury duty today. But I didn't need to head downtown. I was told that I was "on-call" and needed to be able to report to the courthouse within an hour. Now, it takes a good forty-five minutes to get to 100 Centre Street by cab and get through security and up to that bench outside of the courtroom. The subway proved quite a bit faster (yes, the Hubby has been right about that all along).
Anyway, I felt rather tethered today. I wanted to go to the gym, but worried that I would miss the all-important call on the cell and wouldn't be able to get downtown to pinch hit in time. For similar reasons, I postponed my weekly trip to Fairway and did not put the headphones in to knock off some chapters of my manuscript. I did, however, brave the Dora & Diego Exhibit at the Children's Museum of Manhattan. With the bad weather, it was more of a zoo (and germfest) than ever. In any case, I clutched my BlackBerry extra-tight in case the Judge might need me. Suddenly, I had a thought: is this really any different than any other day? Aren't we moms and lawyers and bankers and doctors -- and all adults for that matter -- always to some degree "on-call"? Isn't this what it means to grow up, namely that we are never quite free? Someone always might call us and need us. The nanny. The boss. The client. The patient. The parent. The child.
Well, I didn't hear from the court all day and around 4pm, I called to check in. "There is a verdict," the soft-spoken court clerk told me. "Your service is complete." Now this lady wasn't going to even tell me what said verdict was, but of course I inquired.
Guilty as charged. I felt my blood begin to boil.
The prosecution had not proven the elements of both crimes (obstruction of justice and resisting arrest) beyond a reasonable doubt as the law requires. The case, albeit fascinating, was in many ways a sideshow. Four police officers testified (one of whom I may have gone to school with -- ooh, now I can look him up on Facebook and will report back) and each contradicted the next. The defendant, an endearing fifty-year-old Central Park horticulture worker, and his menopausal wife (her "diagnosis of menopause" was a huge part of her testimony) had gotten into a domestic scuffle in their apartment in the projects and the defendant had called the cops. When the cops came, something shady went down, but no one told a narrative that made any sense. The defendant and his wife both testified and contradicted each other's story. Anyway, there was no clear criminal picture here and it was the prosecution's job to paint one. So, I left for Starbucks 99% sure this fellow would be found not guilty.
But, not so. And tonight I realize why they might not put too many of us lawyers in the Major Leagues. Because, if anything, I would have kept those other jurors in that tiny room until someone convinced me that my doubts -- and there were plenty -- were somehow unreasonable. And that would have taken a long time.
And tonight I feel sad for a man whom I don't know and will never see again who is locked up somewhere in this city awaiting his sentence. And tonight I feel sad for that man's wife whom he clearly both loves and hates. And tonight I feel sad for the granddaughters these two have raised together who sit in that small apartment 4C somewhere in East Harlem and wonder what happened to their grandpa.
A few days ago, this lawyer of latter day was thrilled to be participating in our nation's judicial system. Tonight, I'm happy to be home.