I have written before about the peculiar scourge of jury service but that is nothing compared to the small matter of one Mr. D.
And I have wailed over yet another cruelly unjust summons, for which I cleared my calendar to no avail until the fourth of five days’ duty, when I was the last of 40 called in the final hour of an interminably inconvenient week.
And so I howled at the capriciousness of the judge who then made me and my fellows report downtown for a next day, and then a next day, all before seating the twelve who would take up the minuscule matter of one Mr. D.
And on this third day in proverbial chains to the justice system, reassured on each previous one that this was but a minor case, a slight disruption, a quick thing, a short suit, we commence to consider the foregone insignificance of one Mr. D. I was not, at last count, among the dozen who will determine his fate, but he has already determined mine.
Because on this day, I finally realize what has lain before me all this time, unseen in the impatient storm of my own self-pity.
I see Mr. D., a young black man in a jail jumpsuit, a garment itself so indicting that the judge has taken three days to reassure us that his apparel choice alone is meaningless and inconsequential. No one is dissuaded, because we know what befits the guilty.
I survey the court and see the absence of either friend or family, no one to piously pray or hopelessly hope for his redemption.
I have heard the jurors, on interview, bemoan their own victimhood, brag of their biases, defend their beliefs, all offered as but a clever strategy to be removed from the tenure of this test, and I am sadly aware that Mr. D has no peers among us.
It took these three self-righteous days, these tortuous 14 hours, these 120 angry miles, these six indignant hikes up and down seven city blocks, for me to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt:
The minor matter of Mr. D deserves more than it is going to get, and better than I’ve granted. The proper defense of Mr. D requires that I escape the shackles of my own self-importance. And in the glare of that revelation, I see my way clear, chastened and in debt to the matter of Mr. D.