(This is part two of my juror chronicles. Read part one here.)
It’s early and I don’t have to be at the courthouse for hours. So I sit at the edge of my bed and recite prayers for the victim, the accused, and the jurors whose lives will all intersect on this fateful day.
Today is judgment day, and I will be serving as a juror in a criminal case. I’m nervous. This feels sacred, karmic even, and I wonder why I am being pulled into this situation on this day, with these people—the victim, the accused, the jurors, the attorneys and the judge—and what is to be learned.
I dress, selecting an asymmetrical black skirt and a feminine black top, and my black combat boots—the perfect expression of my yin and yang, feminine and masculine qualities. It’s solemn attire, but I feel serious, solemn, purposeful.
I arrive at the courthouse and am ushered into a room with other jurors. The woman with the polka dotted toenails from yesterday sits next to me. There are only two men in the room, and on the jury, which surprises me.
I ask if anyone else is nervous and most confess to the same anxiety. We introduce ourselves and I repeat each name as we go around the table so I can memorize them all.
It’s not long before we’re escorted into the courtroom. I sit attentive, grasping a lapis stone I’ve hidden in my hand, as the trial begins. I don’t want my fellow jurors to think I’m weird so I hold it tight so no one can see it. It gives me something to hold on to and grounds me into this exact moment where I am surrounded by unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar place, in an unfamiliar situation. Lapis is a stone that is associated with truth, and truth, discernment, is what I need right now.
The victim is the first to take the stand. She’s a beautiful young woman, strong, confident, specific, determined, and her eyes are blazing. The prosecutor and the defense attorney take us through her story with each objecting, challenging, prodding, poking, to unearth their version of truth.
Suddenly, an argument between the prosecutor and the defense attorney ensues and they are called to the judge’s bench. After some heated discussion, the judge tells us we need to retire to the chambers while they sort out things we’re not allowed to hear. He thinks it will only be a few minutes.
The twelve of us sit for nearly two hours while we wait for the trial to continue. We’re not allowed to discuss the case or our impressions. I am reflective, quiet. Not my fellow jurors. There’s a healthcare worker here, a sweet middle-aged woman, who has not stopped talking since we got here this morning. I’m thinking we need to keep the juice and the donuts away from her, especially when she confesses she swallowed a caffeine pill before she left her house.
There’s also a strong, friendly, professionally-dressed woman sitting at the head of the table. She likes to entertain us and share her opinion on everything, including her thoughts about people who leave open cokes in the fridge.
People are chit chatting around me and I make small talk with the red-headed lady with the polka dotted nails. She is dressed in boots today. We exchange a few pleasantries but I’m not in the mood to extend myself, the way I normally do in social situations.
I know I need to hold space for the trial, for the witnesses, for the attorneys and the judge, and I mentally seal myself off from everyone so I can contain my own energy. Something tells me I need to save it for the long day ahead.
I already feel my energy being siphoned away, bit by bit, it’s escaping from me the way air shrinks itself out of a balloon over time. There are people here with big personalities who like attention, people who don’t even know they are taking up more than their fair share of oxygen in the room. They frustrate me. No matter how likeable they appear.
Around this time the bailiff opens the door and asks us if we need to call home to let anyone know we might be back late. It’s past lunch time and we haven’t even finished with the first witness. He infers the trial and deliberation will likely go on into the night.
We’re not allowed to bring our cell phones into the building so he directs us to a landline phone. I stand at the phone distracted, and a little frazzled by the endless conversation, laughter and vampiric energy of some in the room. I can’t remember my boyfriend’s new telephone number so I dial a friend. She doesn’t answer. And then I realize as I sit back down, that I had dialed my own cell number.
That’s when I knew it was going to be a long day, and an even longer night.
(This is the second installment in a three-part series.)