Have you ever served on a jury? I think everyone should. When you live in Manhattan, you get a summons every two years on the dot. Luckily, mine was for a criminal case (civil case = snore) and I didn't yet have any kids or big job responsibilities. This was back in the days when jury duty meant a lot more "sitting around in the courthouse reading magazines waiting for your name to be called" and a lot less "call this automated voice to see if we need you."
So I got put onto a case. The perp was an alleged drug dealer. A bike cop--why that detail sticks with me, I don't know--watched him holding fort inside a pizza place (or a pizzeria, as true New Yorkers always call them) over the course of several hours. The cop described customers entering, money changing hands, and each customer being apprehended, a few blocks away, with drugs in hand. The bike cop summoned a squad car and the dealer was arrested, given a quick pat-down, handcuffed, and put into the car for a ride to the station.
Once at the station, the car was thoroughly searched and a bag of drugs was found under the seat in the back. The question was, could we the jury be certain enough that the dealer had ditched his goods there to convict him? Or was it, as his lawyer argued, possible that they belonged to some other person who'd ridden in that car that day?
What struck me most, then and now, was how seriously we all took our job. We were a real cross-section of New Yorkers (well, we lacked some corporate titans and skinny socialites but we were at least of all ages, races, and education levels). It was a really straightforward case but we took our time discussing its merits and debating the guilt of the accused. The best part was when we considered whether the man could have sneaked his stash under the seat of the squad car while handcuffed. A tiny old lady volunteered that she had tested this out at home by putting on her own handcuffs and stuffing something under the cushion of her couch!
We voted to convict and I still remember how my heart pounded as I affirmed my vote aloud in the courtroom. I knew it was the right decision (the judge, in thanking us for our service, agreed as much) but it still felt scary to be in a position to send someone to jail. It took me a week to breathe normally again.
I posted at The Full Mommy about our holiday hits and misses -- click over to find out what we liked and didn't.
What are you reading tomorrow? I have too much to choose from: Sunday's New York Times, a pile of magazines, this month's book club assignment (Jane Austen's Persuasion), or my next PBN review title. It might depend on the weather. If it snows, as is predicted, I think Persuasion is the way to go. And if I read it with a cup of tea, I'm killing two birds with one stone.