Friday, October 10, 2008

More Jury Duty

And then there’s my hero, Pat. My wife. Who has jury duty on the same day I do. Tells the judge during questioning that. Well. Having no people of color called for jury duty is just plain unfair and wrong. It’s just not right. She tells the judge that the jury duty process should include making sure that there are people of color called when a defendant is a person of color.

“People are going to be biased,” she says. “They may not want to think of themselves that way, but they are.”

The prosecutor wants to know more. He wants to know what she means. So she tells him. She tells him that many white people are biased. They can’t help it. And because of this, she’d be biased in the other direction. She’d be an advocate for the defendant in the jury room. She will stick up for him on principle. Because there is no one of color to stick up for him. To argue for his side in the jury room.

“Do you mean you won’t look at the evidence impartially?” the prosecutor wants to know.

“Of course, not,” she says. “I just told you that because of what you have done here. Because you have an all-white jury. I’ll be forced to look at the evidence differently. I’ll be forced to be his advocate in the jury room.”

And so the prosecutor moves to eliminate her for cause. And so the judge agrees and sends her packing. Sends her into outer darkness for being partial to the defendant.

So I’m left along with the others. The other defectives trying to demonstrate that we can be impartial. That we can detect the truth and nothing but the truth. That we can be fair. That we will weigh all the evidence equally. With equanimity and prudence. With high-mindedness and pristine attitudes that have been unaffected by history or by conviction. So to say.

But I think what has happened is that I’ve become contaminated. Contaminated with my wife. With my wife’s partiality cooties. I think in the mind of the prosecutor I’m already in the defendant’s corner.

But also, come to think of it, I’m contaminated in his mind because I’ve asked him questions about some inane line of questioning he was on. Because I didn’t know what he meant by “hesitancy.” Because I simply didn’t go along with the inanity.

“Hesitancy,” he kept saying, “doesn’t mean that you can’t be persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Just because the evidence that is presented makes you hesitate, you shouldn’t believe that this should keep you from finding a verdict of guilty.”

And so as I question him about what “hesitancy” means, he seems to become even more inarticulate. A number of people look up, with a look on their faces that seems to say, “I don’t understand that either.” A woman at the break thanks me for speaking up, because she doesn’t understand what his “hesitancy” is all about. And why the others were pretending to understand. Why the others were answering his questions about this as though they understood.

“Do you mean the evidence may not be valid or persuasive?” I asked the prosecutor. “If this is what you mean, this would be normal. This is why they have juries, to weigh and test the evidence. Evidence that may be flawed. This is why the jury process is called the deliberative process.”

Bottom line, I’m not chosen either. I’m not cast into outer darkness, but in the end, the outcome’s just the same. I’m not admitted to the heaven of jurisprudence. To the privilege of judging my fellow man.

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