in the matter of mr. d

March 14th, 2011

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.

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  1. Brava.

    Comment by Meg — March 14, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

  2. Sometimes it is so hard to let go of our own sense of importance to see what is truly at stake. You’re such an inspiration!

    Comment by Imene — March 14, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

  3. Ummm… In the summer of 2006 my husband was called, along with a few thousand other British Columbia residents to attend a juror “screening” for the William Pickton trial. Well, I wrote a very smart note on my sweetheart’s behalf explaining at great length why he simply could not do this. A new job, a long awaited baby on the way,…a wife who could surely not stand her husband “going through this”. I kinda carried around an anger that MY life could be so rudely disregarded. I’ve been wondering when they will come for me…

    Ummmm…I have never until this moment considered that my love could have helped find a way to justice for the victims and peace for long suffering family members. It is a welcome change of view.

    Thank you for that.

    Comment by Kelly — March 14, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

  4. It doesn’t seem possible that your words can simultaneously pull me up short, knock me down flat, seed my hope and build my spirit…but yet, they do. Thank you.

    Comment by Nancy — March 14, 2011 @ 9:54 pm

  5. I’ve been on a jury twice. I felt committed to it both times just because I wanted to be assured that the defendant was getting the consideration that our justice system seems to promise. We all need to see that our part in this system is essential and not leave it up to those who don’t have the right excuses to get out of it.

    Even with that though, it often comes down to what evidence the jurors are allowed to see or hear. They make up their minds based on what the justice system says they can know and in many cases, it isn’t really enough to make a true judgement.

    Comment by Angel C. — March 15, 2011 @ 6:42 am

  6. Well-said. Wise words well-earned.

    Comment by Stephanie Rayburn — March 15, 2011 @ 6:46 am

  7. Beautifully written and thoughtfully conceived. Thanks.

    Comment by Onedia Sylvest — March 15, 2011 @ 7:01 am

  8. Absolutely beautiful writing, Maezen!

    Comment by The Virgin Wife Chronicles | Online Serial — March 15, 2011 @ 8:45 am

  9. Two months ago I packed up my kids and animals and drove 1000 miles to be available for two weeks of jury service (I work in two states). It made me sad how many people gave me strategies to try to get out of it, I felt that if someone needed a jury they were asking for help, so I responded.

    It sounds like Mr D’s life has not gone well, I hope someone helps him get what he really needs.

    Comment by bhán — March 15, 2011 @ 11:15 am

  10. I love this post! I sat on a jury over ten years ago in Boston. I couldn’t believe how many people tried to get out of their civic responsibility. I missed work for a week, but I learned immensely from the experience. I believe the opportunity to be part of a jury- while almost always a HUGE inconvenience- is actually a privilege. Thank goodness we live in a country that has such a justice system! It’s certainly far from perfect, but it’s critical that we view it as a “responsibility” as opposed to a “burden”.

    Comment by Gail — March 15, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

  11. I well recalled your post from 2 years ago, and how it saddened me, because you seemed to have judged our justice system as so unworthy, despite the good principles upon which it is based. I was disappointed then that we would not know your take on the experience. I am heartened, now to read your thoughts after your latest experience though I cannot figure out what quirk of fate has set this task to you so many times). You have now articulated what I believed then but could not say well to you- we may bemoan “the system” but the system is us, and only so good as we are willing to be in it. That’s what I appreciated about teaching citizenship to immigrants; it helped me remember afresh our good principles. And why it helps to have a small child; it reminds me to try to be the good principles, not just say them. There is much broken, and much to be fixed, but nothing gets fixed if we don’t step up to it ourselves first, and at least not let ourselves be part of the problem.

    Comment by Anonymous — March 15, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

  12. @Anon-
    If only there were a way for us mothers to make sure our kids get to school and back while the judge and jurors process their systems. That is the principle source of my personal distress. I just gave my daughter a housekey and wished her the best. For me, sadness is the indelible atmosphere of the criminal courts building. Sadness, never pride.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — March 15, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

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