New - 22 September 2008
We the Jury, a novel:
Katrina turned her head to look at Edward. The two were sitting at a table in the jury’s common room in the hotel. Katrina laughed.
“The price we pay for being single.”
Edward followed her eyes to watch Jack and Terri leave the common room, followed by Lin Sue and John Robinson. While Jack and Terri had great expectations in their gait and expression, Robinson and Sue Line looked notably less eager.
Edward turned to Katrina. “Surely there must be some friend who...”
Katrina smiled but shook her head. “Could provide for me… No, I don’t think so. What about you?”
Edward smiled, shrugging his shoulders. “Not at the moment.”
“Funny part is I would never have figured Lin Sue to be with… whoever that guy was. Talk about two peas from alien pods.”
“Love does make strange bedfellows,” Edward reflected.
Katrina laughed, rocking back slightly and… inadvertently… leaning toward Edward.
Lying in the bed next to Terri, Jack found himself staring at the darkened ceiling. Terri stirred, ready to sit up.
“What’s wrong? Are you distracted?”
Jack shrugged. “Something like that.”
“Want to tell me about it?”
Jack hesitated as he looked in Terri’s direction. Not that he could see her that well, but her posture was enough to suggest she really was amenable to offering some assistance. As he watched her, his attitude did a subtle shift.
“Maybe it’s the whole idea of a ‘conjugal visit’! Like I’m a prisoner and you’re a fringe benefit of an enlightened society.”
Terri had to laugh. “I kind of like the fact that I always know where I can find you.”
“Actually… it’s a bit of a turn on. At least for me.”
Jack laughed. “With you, what isn’t?”
“Careful! You’re pretty vulnerable right now.”
“Oh, I don’t know. You’d never risk losing your favorite toy.”
“Maybe not, even if it’s not exactly growing on me right now. But don’t you get too distracted. You’ve really got to keep your wits about you right now.”
“Now what are you talking about?”
“I don’t want you getting kicked off the jury for talking too much.”
“Like Henry Michel?”
“No. Like those other two former jurors. As for the Michel guy, he’d been involved in one of those Patriot groups and didn’t mention it on his juror form. Of course, he’s claiming it’s a mistaken identity; supposedly he was never arrested for anything!”
“Well, maybe he’s innocent.”
“Like what difference does that make? He’s already off the jury. They’re not going to put him back on now!”
“You’re right about that.”
“Of course! I’m always right, especially of late.” When Jack chose not to dispute such an authoritative source, Terri added, mischievously, “Now…. about my favorite toy… are you feeling any better?”
Jack was still thinking, until Terri got his attention otherwise. He reacted accordingly.
The following morning, Robinson had already left while Terri was only now taking her leave of Jack in the common room. As Terri bestowed a sly kiss on Jack’s face, Lola who was already on her way to the bus, took a long, serious look at Terri, and then muttered, “Bitch!”
Lola turned and walked away while Terri looked at her retreating figure with total amazement. Jack had to wonder about it himself.
Some things we never really forget.
A smiling Thena Pales got on the bus, sharing a laugh with Olivia Rud. The unlikely duo had begun a fledgling bonding exercise, despite the fact that once returned to the real world, they might find themselves leading very separate lives. The limitations and challenges imposed upon the jurors by both the authorities and the public demonstrators were sufficient to forge a bond between the two women, but at this point, it was not quite enough to provide a long lasting friendship.
Lin Sue followed the two women onto the bus. She looked exceptionally tired and unhappy, a fact suddenly noticed by Olivia when she turned to say something trivial to her other partner in criminal justice. Stopped in her bliss-sharing mode, Olivia’s sympathetic nature caused her to touch Lin Sue’s arm.
“You okay, honey?”
Lin Sue only managed to say, “I’ll live.”
But Olivia couldn’t help but pry. If one was to be a true angel of mercy, sometimes one had to force the issue, take matters into one’s own hands, and not let any reluctant beneficiary off without a fight. Olivia asked, “Rough night?”
Lin Sue shrugged, “Let’s just say it prompted a lot of soul searching.”
This was really insufficient response for Olivia’s purposes. Lin Sue was resisting the bonding ritual, and this resistance to such bonding was not going to be allowed to dissuade Olivia. It is said that pain stems from resistance, but such implies that the pain occurs in the person doing the resisting. In Olivia’s case, however, she would be bound and determined to share in some of the pain. It was who she was.
Olivia was accordingly about to launch her next missiles-to-acquire-a-bond, when Thena touched Olivia’s arm and silently signaled to Olivia to back off. Such are the Marquise of Queensbury Rules (those applied to the feminine contingent), which included among other things:
Well versed in such time-honored and enforced rules, Olivia backed off and the three women took their accustomed seats… just as Edward the Foolhardy boarded the bus. He was followed by Jack, the latter who took the time to look rather intently at Lin Sue… apparently in violation of some Queensbury rule or another. Fortunately, the local referees failed to notice. Typical.
Edward looked around and noted the consistent fact that there was always a degree of privacy before all of the jurors boarded – rare glimpses of free speech. To Jack he said quietly, “The testimony last week… makes one wonder about the traditional right to privacy.”
Jack took little note as he replied, “I never thought of the Inner Net as being particularly private.”
“But isn’t it curious how once you’re charged with a crime, everything you might have ever said, written, or otherwise expressed, can and is used against you? Even the most circumstantial evidence, from your opinions about law and order, justice in this country, or the price of tea in China – it all comes back to haunt you.”
Jack said nothing, thinking that Edward perhaps needed some education about the Stalinist example of communist interrogation techniques. There was, as a premier example, the tale of Nikolay Grigorevich Krymov in Vasily Grossman’s masterpiece, Life and Fate. In totalitarianism, every utterance, every casual remark, every penned note or letter, every idle speculation can and is invariably used against the accused. The fact that such techniques were being routinely brought back to life in allegedly non-totalitarian states… that was another matter entirely… especially when much of the detail work in recording every such miscreant comment was now greatly facilitated by modern computers.
Edward, not really making these connections and with a wry smile on his fact, took his seat, as Jack sat across from Lin Sue. Jack watched her just long enough, until she looked up and turned to return his stare. She promptly attempted a smile, but failed. Katrina, meanwhile, had entered with a light step and quickly took her seat across the aisle from Edward. She looked at Jack and Lin Sue, and then turned to Edward to exchange knowing glances.
Edward quietly said, “I was talking to Jack about the Inner Net.”
Katrina brightened. “It really is something, isn’t it? There’s just nothing anymore that you can’t find there. I mean you could look up anything from the battle of Stalingrad during World War II to a single line from a song… and find it! There would also likely be a full analysis of all the subtle meanings.”
“It is the perfect research tool,” Edward replied, “Which of course is how it was originally conceived.”
Brightman, in the seat in front of Jack, turned around to interrupt. “The Inner Net has a lot of porno and blasphemy, if you ask me.”
“Don’t know what to tell you,” Jack replied. “I haven’t been able to find any of the really hard porno. And I’ve tried!”
Katrina laughed, “Yeah right. You look like a true voyeur.”
Brightman had failed to pick up on Jack’s sarcasm… was in fact singularly inept at such plays on words and meanings. Not knowing what else to say, George said, “It’s just that I heard Michel talking about how uncontrolled it was.”
Charlie Milson, sitting in front of Lin Sue, turned around as well. “Actually it’s the ‘Great Equalizer.’ Just like the Colt 45 in the old west. Of course, both can get you into a lot of trouble.”
With that, Charlie turned back to face frontward, a wry smile on his face. The others looked thoughtful, but said nothing as Lola arrived late and headed for her seat. Lola’s consistent late arrivals were one of the sources for the private conversations that might have really mattered. The other source was the demonstrators. While they railed on, one could say a lot to someone sitting next to them. But Lola was still their favorite excuse and was very much appreciated.
Just about to sit down, Lola asked, “Did I miss anything?”
The others looked at each other, a few shaking their heads. Lin Sue managed a nervous laugh. Everyone settled back, ready to leave. It was time for the bus driver and escorts to board the bus. No more banter… the two second warning had already been sounded.
And yet, there was still no bus driver. A tardiness on his part was unusual, to say the least. Something had happened.
Jack was one of the first to take note of the lack of obedience to by now well established procedures. Leaning forward, he looked around, doing a quick count of the bodies on the bus. “Eleven,” he announced. There followed several exchanges of questioning looks, but no real communication of anything substantial… until Veer boarded the bus and stood for a moment in the front.
“Juror number nine, Gregory Walklet,” Veer announced, “had an appendicitis attack last night.”
“Ouch,” Charlie whispered. “I’ll bet that didn’t do much for his wife’s conjugal visit.”
Veer merely took the moment to glare at Charlie. Then he said, “He’s been relieved of jury duty. This means that our last alternate is now a full-fledged member of the jury.”
Olivia suddenly brightened, “Wow! Citizenship at last!”
Veer quickly admonished any sense of positive feelings that might somehow have slipped through the cracks. “Just don’t anybody else get sick or do something stupid like talk too much.”
Lola had to ask, “Why not?”
“No more alternates. Lose one more and the whole thing comes to naught. They get to start over and everything we’ve been through is nullified.”
Lola looked at Veer, and then turned to Thena, who was sitting near her. “Goodness,” Lola said, “I guess I can’t leave now.”
Thena looked closely at her. “Were you planning on doing so?”
“I thought I might,” Lola admitted. “But I guess I can’t now.”
Everyone on the bus stared in amazement at Lola, as she turned around, and with a wry smile on her face, prepared to head back to the courthouse.
Sophing had been facing the courtroom’s spectators, when he turned and approached the witness box where an elderly man was sitting. With a knowing smile on his face, Sophing asked, addressing himself as much to the jury as to the witness, “One last question Mr. Thomas Matson: Have you ever known your nephew Bill Matson to advocate the overthrow of the United States Government by violent means?”
Matson’s doddering uncle shrugged and said, “No, Sir. Not that I recall.”
As Sophing smiled and started to turn away, the witness added, “Course I ain’t seen him in nearly two years. I reckon he’s been away a lot.”
Sophing stopped in his tracks and glanced at Howell. The prosecutor suddenly had a big grin on his face. Joined in their own, very weird form of bonding, neither of them noticed the number of frowns on the faces of the jury.
It had been another long day… simultaneously grueling and boring. How one could take the serious contemplation over matters of life and death and at the same time impose all manner of boredom on the process was truly one of the great mysteries. It was, however, a mystery that had apparently been solved by both the legal profession and the military. For the legal profession, it was machinations of charge, countercharge, accusation, response, defense, and unfathomable depths of jargon and inexplicable procedures. Meanwhile the military had learned to excel at the goal of putting weapons of individual and mass destruction in the hands of near amateurs -- making them trained killers and often final authorities on matters of life and death -- and then these same trained killers had been challenged to simply stay awake in the midst of any given war zone. It was an accomplishment worthy of the death penalty… pardon the pun.
Clearly, the jurors were still in the throes of basic training.
Back on the bus, as Charlie took his seat across from Duke Hammond, he looked around and asked, “Where’s Lola?” Several others reacted, as if their lifeline had just been retracted. It was near-panic time.
“Not to worry,” Thena replied. “She had to use the bathroom.”
“She does that a lot,” Duke noted.
“At least, it keeps the guards and driver off the bus for longer periods of time,” Charlie commented. Then when the others silently agreed, he then added, “You know, I think I know how we could have saved a lot to time in this trial.”
Duke shook his head. “Yeah. Kiss off the days of so-called defense testimony. Talk about a crock of pointless banter…”
“I’ll bet the prosecution is happy,” Charlie added. “It’s not like they’re being required to actually respond to anything of merit.”
Veer, who had been sitting nearby and partially overhearing the private, subdued conversation, turned around, and with a wry smile, made his own comment. “You have to admit, even Jesus had a defense! But Jesus also spoke up on his own behalf. He didn’t hide behind some clever lawyer.”
Charlie and Duke made no reply, and merely looked at Veer with blank expressions. The fact that in modern times any client gives up the bulk of his rights when he is subjected to being represented by an attorney had not apparently entered into Veer’s thinking process. But then again, a lot of things had never, apparently, entered into Veer’s thinking process. It was a little appreciated convenience on Veer’s part that paradigm shifts had never required being consciously acknowledged.
Charlie and Duke’s silent indictment of Veer was then mercifully interrupted as two guards stepped onto the bus… while the driver remained outside. Lola was only now exiting the courthouse. Thena, who had overheard Veer, Charlie, and Duke’s exchange, suddenly turned to the others.
“I’m told a fundamental tenet of the Jewish Great Sanhedrin -- that’s the judicial body partially and indirectly responsible for the conviction of Jesus Christ -- was that at least one member had to believe in the innocence of the accused. Otherwise, it was thought that a unanimous decision might be unjust and hastily arrived at -- certainly, not a fair verdict. The result of this thinking was that if there were no one to defend an accused, the accused was set free.”
“So who championed Jesus’ cause? Nicodemus?”
One of the guards, his ears pricked, had now already made his way back to where Olivia and Thena were sitting. The jurors suddenly noticed him and looked up. For a moment no one said anything. The guard then turned and moved back to the front of the bus, where he joined his mate, who asked, “What were they talking about?”
“Oh. Yeah, well I guess they can talk about religion.”
“What’s a ‘Sand Heathen'?”
The other guard just shrugged his shoulders and said nothing.
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