Have You Ever Wondered…

001

Have you ever returned to a house where you once lived, where there once was life…yes, life…happy life….sad life……life with all it’s highs and lows..once there…but no more there….empty now……and stood outside that door you knew so well and thought, “If I just open this door very slowly and walk in so quietly that no one knows I’ve come in….I wonder if I’ll find them all here. I wonder if I’ll be able to sit in a corner and watch them all, listen to them all, as I did when I was young.”

But you don’t open that familiar door.  You turn and walk away, back to your car and the home you live in now…..because you don’t want to know for sure, because you want to believe that they are still there, as they once were, still arguing and laughing, still drinking and eating, still, still there. You wish they were there, and you wish you were there with them. And you miss them.  Deep in your heart you miss them.

This thought came to me today as I drove up to the little hunting camp we once owned…up in the Pennsylvania mountains between Newmansville and Tylersburg. I didn’t drive up there to reminisce or to feel sad. I drove up because I hadn’t been there for years, and I felt alone, and I wanted to be in that familiar place once more…just to see it and remember. I know those woods better than any other, and I wanted to be in the woods.

But, as I was driving up Rt.208, listening  to Joyce DiDonato sing “Over the Rainbow”, just past Fryburg, I drove over the crest of a small hill and was suddenly, haltingly, ten again. Ten again and almost unable to breathe.  And tears came!  Tears of missing, good tears.

I’d forgotten where it was….. “Ironing Board Pass”. Yes, “Ironing Board Pass”.  As I drove I was back in that old Dodge again.

We were taking a fridge, some small stuff and an old wooden ironing board up to camp…had to be around 1961…and my father drove over that small hill and down just fast enough to throw that ironing board out of the trailer. I remembered it as if it just happened! We all felt a jerk. Jack and I looked out the back window to see if we’d lost the fridge, and there was that ironing board flying through the air.

It survived! My father pulled over, Jack and I ran back and got the ironing board, we all tied it onto the trailer again and we finished the trip to camp. Forever after that, whenever we drove over the crest of that hill, we would all yell out; “Ironing Board Pass!”

That moment changed the trip. It was no longer just a trip to the mountains to see the places where I grew up…they were suddenly all with me again…all of the ones I’ve lost.

But, not…not in a sad way. I smiled, just as I’m smiling now. And it wasn’t just memories of the camp that came back. It was of all of them at so many times……Christmases, New Year’s, celebrations, funerals…all of them came back, which brought back the thought I often have as I pass the old house on N. Oakland Avenue….would they still be there…could I catch them unawares? Could I go through that door so quietly that they wouldn’t notice me, wouldn’t fade away…that they would stay?

I lost them all when I was young.  My parents were older when I was born, and my father’s parents were older when he was born, so by the time I was in my 20’s most of my family were gone. They were all so full of life that I thought they would always be there.  I never pictured life without them.  They were loud and argumentative, and drank, and loved…and never really noticed me as I sat there with a book.  I watched them all, loved them all.

There were the Christmases when my father’s sisters, twenty years older than he was, would come to our house down on Ohio Street..Aunt June dressed in her mink, Aunt Treda jealous…both stiff and stern..like giants to me as I sat on the floor register. “Does she know how to eat properly, John Philip?”  Aunt June would ask as she looked at me across the table. I was four! I had to know all the ins and outs of which fork and spoon to use! Everything was discussed, they never treated us as children…we were expected to be able to join in, to back up what we said with fact.  There was always a stiffness to their gatherings…the women wore their girdles under their dresses, the men wore suits and ties.

But then there were oh so many holidays with my mother’s mother.  Mag.  Marguerite Basher…brusque, short tempered….arguing and drinking with her sisters. Aunt Helen trying to tell her what to do, and Mag not taking any of her guff…the both of them just looking at Aunt Ceil as she talked…shaking their heads at her and laughing with each other. My mother moving amongst them…quiet, smiling…emptying an ashtray, grabbing a bit of cake, checking on me.  There was always certain calm to my mother…an inner stillness, a peacefulness.  Rooms filled with heat from the coal furnace, with cigarette smoke and good smells from the food.  Beer bottles and highball glasses on the tables, more in the sink…clattering as the women washed them.  People moving around, sitting at the dining room table long after the dinner was finished.  Uncle Ham, Uncle Bill, Uncle Francis….Grandpa Louie…my father…all arguing, all laughing…exuding life…then playing cards and drinking till they could hardly stand. Never had to worry about table manners with the Irish bunch… But, never grow up to be a Republican!!!

Undercurrents in both families…old resentments and grudges…old secrets…and no one paid too much attention to me…I was little, I was quiet. I listened.

I would sit with Grandpa Louie and listen…he was quiet, like me.

As I drove through Ironing Board Pass and on to camp today all of them came back to me, and I missed them.  I missed not knowing them as a grown up, missed having the chance to know them as an adult, to talk…to sit with them at the table as an equal.  To be surrounded by the warmth of them.

I drove past the road where the camp was…been forty years since we sold it…it’s gone now…..I drove on down through Cook’s Forest and home on I-80…and I still wondered…if I go to Aunt Helen’s house up on Anson Way, and open the door ever so quietly…will I catch them there? Are they still there…do they fade only when someone comes in? Are the rooms warm with the smell of the coal fire?  Are the women smoking and talking in the kitchen? Is their laughter loud and free?  Are the men out on the front porch with their beer and their hunting talk? Or, are they back down at our house on Ohio Street gathered around the dining room table…picking at the carcass of the turkey long after dinner had finished……arguing, laughing, talking while they have another highball…. while we kids sit under the table and listen?

Maybe.

Maybe not…doesn’t matter….because I still see them there, I still hear them there…and I still count myself lucky that I was once with them there..

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Channel Islands, 2013

I Can Live Here

Summer, 2013

There are people who can live anywhere,

Who can feel at home in Australia,

Who can be at rest in Peru.

Who can live anywhere in peace.

There are people who can live anywhere.

I am not one of those people.

I am the person exile was invented for.

I cannot live anywhere.

I can live only here.

 

I can travel, I can become familiar with new places,

I can find my way around cities that were once strange to me.

I cannot live in in those places.

I can live only here.

My heart’s strength drains out of me when I am not here.

Little bits of it fall away each day I am not here.

Little bits, little bits, little bits…all drop away from me as I travel.

I have to come here to build my heart whole again.

 

I need to hear the peepers on the hot August nights,

I need to feel the humidity, to see hills covered with trees

I need for there to be spaces between houses.

I need to hear that flat midwestern accent, to see the blue in the sky that is only that blue here.

I am the person exile was invented for.

I can live only here

 

If I could not come back here I would slowly lose my heart.

I would always be restless,

I would always feel like a stranger.

I would not be here.

I can only feel home here..

 

But I will continue to travel, to risk my heart because I know now that there are places …wild places, windswept places,

Places unlike here, but like here.

I know them when I am there.

I feel my heart relax.

I feel my heart smile.

But I still cannot stay in those places, I cannot live there.

I can live here. Only here.

But when I am there with my friends,

When I am in the company of my friends, I am for that time here…

The bits of my heart don’t feel the need to search, to wander.

The bits of my heart sit awhile and listen.

I am here when I am with my friends.

 

There are some people who can live anywhere.

I am not one of those people.

I can live here.

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The Deliberations and the Verdict

Deliberations

Day 5

Judge is finished. We walk to the jury room. Order lunch. What kind of pizza. I suggest one of each. OK. Pop. That’s done. We all wait till the tipstaff leaves. The physical evidence is brought in. The pictures, Arthur’s testimony. Do I volunteer? Don’t have to…. Black Chick speaks. “It’s the teacher.” She points at me and smiles. I knew we’d bonded…even though we hadn’t spoken much…just knew. Jamestown Girls repeat what Black Chick said. “It’s you. None of us want it.” I smile. “I’ll take it unless someone else…” Black Chick stops me. “Let’s vote. All in favor of Caroline being the Foreperson raise your hand.” Fredonia chick raises her hand glumly. I knew she wanted it. Old Guy is confused, thinks they want him to do it. Young Black Guy whispers to him. “Oh! OK then. The teacher.” Wal-Mart Chick pokes me and smiles…OK

I know how red my face is. OK Lets get to it. I have to make sure this is done fairly and that no one is pressured to vote one way or another and that each person has a say in it without Fredonia Chick taking over. How? OK….I’ll read the charges. Elaine said when she was foreperson she just started with a vote. I don’t want to do that. We can’t. We have to discuss the evidence. Would be easier though. I read the charges. Fredonia Woman starts spouting about welfare. Upscale Jamestown Chick says “That’s right, but we have to just go on the evidence presented to us here.” Nice. I have back-up.

No one is in a hurry to rush this. Wow. “Let’s take a minute and look over our notes before we begin.” They do! OK Now what? I look over my notes. Everyone is quiet. I smile. How cool is this? Here we all are…only the Jamestown Chicks knew each other…and here we are…no one is rushing…I still don’t have an idea of how to proceed…there are only twelve of us. One jamestown Chick and Pipeline Guy are in the courtroom as alternates….but the group has some strong, good people…all of them but Fredonia Chick. They are concerned with doing the right thing..not worried about time. It won’t be a matter of me ‘leading’ them(which I don’t want to do), but of some sort of ‘herding cats’ approach. OK…here goes.

“I want to see the videos again” says Black Chick. Everyone says yes!! Only we want to see it close up. I open the door and call the tipstaff. “Yes, we want to see the videos. No, not the one of the Neon at night.” She comes into the room. Jamestown Bar Chick looks up from her notes. “We want to see them up close, so tell the judge he either moves that TV in front of us or we stand in front of it.” We all nod. Tipstaff says she will see what can be done. Wal-Mart Chick says the Young Black Guy should be able to figure how to move the tv over if the lawyers can’t. She gives him a little punch on the arm. We all smile. Love how she is getting him onto the group. Tipstaff leaves.

Things aren’t organized yet… I let them go…can’t be pushy…have to give everyone a say…but have to organize things in my head…very organic process.

Basketball Guy asks to see the jeans and the bandannas. We get all the physical evidence out while we wait for lunch. No one is in a hurry to make a decision. Everyone but Fredonia Woman seems to be in the process of organizing evidence and looking to see if guilt was proven. Upscale Jamestown Chick shyly asks Young Black Guy to stand with the jeans in front of him…then turn around so we can see if the t-shirt exposes the pockets. OK…Lunch.

Discussion continues. I slowly begin to take charge of the discussion…but not strictly. I will be a guide…and evenI still haven’t decided on which way I will vote. I want to make sure I don’t influence anyone’s decision. We look at our notes, pass the pictures around. We ask the Tipstaff for more pop.

I begin to feel that most of us have doubts, that the Prosecution proved the white guys were guilty, but didn’t really give us the goods on Shawn. Fredonia Woman will be different…and not because of evidence…because she made up her mind when she saw he was black. I can’t pressure her…what argument can I use… Old Guy is not really with it. I have to make sure he understands why people think a certain way. I won’t have a vote until we have all had our say.

Tipstaff comes in. Videos are ready.

Oh! They moved the TV right in front of us. We all have our legal pads for notes. Damn prosecutor’s intern can’t get the vids to play at the right point. Judge looked bemused when we came in…as if he was proud of us for demanding to see the vids close up. Interesting. Now he just looks exasperated at the Prosecution. He has this half grin when he looks at us.

Yes, we want to see all the videos I say. Might as well speak. “Play that part again” says Jamestown Bar Chick. We all lean forward. “Again” Four times we watch the Standard Market vid. We want to see the tears in the hems of the jeans. We will go back and check them again. I love that we are assertive, but polite. We’ve sat here in silence for three days and had to remain passive. Yes, we were told by the judge the one time we couldn’t ask questions of the witnesses…and I know it frustrated us all. Many good, strong personalities on this jury, and we want to make sure we do what is right. So now we have a little power. “Play it again. No, farther back. That’s it.” Lean forward. “Can you slow it down? OK. Well, show it again then.”

“No, we don’t want to see the video of the Neon driving along 18.” Prosecutor looks up suddenly, quizzically. We watch each vid three-four times. We have specific reasons to watch each vid. This has made up my mind. There is an overabundance of proof against the two white guys. The only evidence against Shawn is the torn jeans and Arthur’s testimony…his fourth version. Booker did his job. Damn.

We watch the video of the Veado’s robbery four times. I know what the rest are thinking. We can’t tell who the man is. It could be our Quiet Black Dude. The evidence isn’t there. I look at the judge, he nods and asks us if there is another video we want to see. We all shake our heads. I say no. Everyone but the judge stands as we file back into our jury room and take our seats.

I let everyone go to the toilet. The tipstaff has brought more pop and some ice. We all get something to drink. Small talk, but I feel that there is agreement amongst most of us. Oh yeah, I’m nervous, but I have backup. The Jamestown Chicks feel as I do. So does Wal-Mart Chick and Black Chick. When we had lunch with one of the Quiet ladies yesterday she made the comment that Booker was doing a great job. Old Guy doesn’t really have a clue. Basketball Guy is reasonable. Trucker ….I don’t know.

I have to start. I have to get this done. How? I have seconds to come up with a process, with a plan. I know…I say to myself…make sure no one is pressured. Make sure everyone has their say. Whichever way they decide to vote…and this just comes to me…they have to be able to back it up with evidence. We can’t convict if the evidence against this one man is not there. But, we all know he is guilty. I have to present that idea…I have to get all twelve disparate people to agree.

How? I don’t think the evidence is there. Too much talk back and forth. I can’t let Fredonia Chick talk anymore. She interrupts. She doesn’t listen. I will have to ask her if she votes guilty to show us the evidence. I use a teacher voice…

They all get quiet and look at me. I honestly don’t know if I am up to this challenge. I don’t know how this will turn out. I’m shaking inside…nervous as hell. But …

How to do this. When we came in we all sort of slumped in our seats. The vids didn’t show us anything to convict Shawn. Upscale Jamestown Chick made the comment that the evidence just wasn’t there. Black Chick said the same.

I take the three sheets with the charges on them and start. Fredonia Chick interrupts…I ask her(in a teacher voice…I can’t let her take over the process)to let me finish…that everyone will get a chance to speak when we go around and vote. She shuts up and sits back. Good sign.

I read the first charge. I look around and ask what evidence we have to show Shawn is guilty of this…the robbery at the Circle K. We all look at each other. Fredonia woman blurts out, “Well, he just did it!” I look at her and ask…point blank…and nicely..lets look at the evidence and find proof he was there, driving the getaway car. I go over the evidence. “Was Shawn on the Circle K video? Was there a shot of the Neon at the Circle K? Was there anything at all other than Arthur’s suspect testimony to show Shawn was there? Do you have doubts that Shawn was there?” We are all frustrated, but this has to be done, I know now, in this analytical way. This keeps the emotion out of our decision. We can’t find evidence beyond a doubt that he was at the Circle K. Shit.

Straight up…read the charge…get the evidence out and see if we have what we need to convict.

I read the charge again and I start. “Listen, I think he did it. I know he did it, and there is nothing I would like more than to vote ‘guilty’. But I don’t see any evidence to prove beyond a doubt that he did it. He is presumed innocent. We have to follow the law and the judge’s instructions. Other than Arthur’s testimony there is nothing to put him at the Circle K that night. I vote not guilty because I don’t see the evidence(I stress the word ‘evidence’)to convict him.”

I start with Basketball Guy. We are twelve now. I tell him to vote however he wants, but to show us the evidence…that we would all love to see the evidence we need. He sighs and says “Not guilty. The prosecution didn’t prove he was at the Circle K.” Jamestown Bar Chick says the same…adds how angry she is that the Prosecution didn’t do their job. The two Quiet Ladies quietly say not guilty. That’s all they say.

Fredonia Woman. “Well, I know he’s guilty. We all know…” Black Chick interrupts her. “We all know he did it! We all want to convict him, and let me tell you, he”l be back in jail before the year is out. I’ll see him on my cell block. But unless the evidence is there…” I start, “Please!” I move the pictures in front of her. “Just find the evidence and we will all vote to convict!” I want her to feel part of us. I don’t want to alienate her or belittle what she has to say because then we will never reach a verdict. I have to walk a fine line between placating her and using peer pressure to get her to see what I’m saying. Wal-Mart Chick speaks up. “She’s right! The prosecution didn’t give us the evidence we need to convict! I wish they did! We all know he did it. But he is innocent until proven guilty, like the judge said. Show us the evidence to prove that…because I don’t see it.”

That was great. Jamestown Bar Chick says the same. I know we are pressuring her, but she isn’t ever going to judge Shawn on the presented evidence. She is always going to want to do her own thing. This is the pivotal point here. I ask her again…plead with her…butter her up a bit…not too much…show us the evidence here in this room and we will all vote to convict. Black Chick says “Amen!!” The two Quiet Ladies nod their heads. Wal Mart Chick asks the Young Black Guy what he thinks. “Evidence isn’t there.”

Fredonia Woman really just cares about spouting off. I know she didn’t listen at all in the courtroom. I ask her again to find the evidence to convict. If she did, I would vote to convict! It isn’t that I think I’m all that right…I’m not happy about this. I tell her that.

She sighs and votes Not Guilty. We finish with the first charge. Seven more to go.

For each charge I read it, give my opinion, and start with a different person each time to vote. I tell them to tell us why they vote the way they do. I ask them to talk as much as they want. I want each of them to be equally important. I think…where is this coming from? Am I doing this the right way? Am I pressuring these people to vote a certain way? Should we have a secret ballot? No. We, for some reason, have bonded…all but Fredonia Woman…I think this is a good way to do this. What do I know?? I am just trying to be as fair as possible. Please! If you see evidence to convict…show us! Don’t listen to me…do what you see as right on the evidence.

We finish the Circle K charges. Not Guilty on all three. Fredonia Woman has to have her say on each charge, but we all know the rhythm to this now. She spouts her hate, then I ask her to show us the evidence…Black Chick reassures her that we all think he is guilty…she votes Not Guilty.

On to McQuaids. Two charges. There was no video from there, or witnesses…and Arthur said he did it alone anyway. So…why was Shawn charged? Oh. “Terroristic threats against Arthur”. Jamestown Chicks laugh. “Yeah, Arty boy sat outside the Lighthouse in July in a car without air conditioning. Oh, they had to be at the Lighthouse…it’s right across the street from McQuaids. They ain’t goin’ down to the bars in Farrell…they’d be laughed out of them.” Black Chick concurs. “Arty was in the Lighthouse drinkin’ with the older guys and thought he would show what a big man he is so he walked over to McQuaids with the shotgun. Didn’t he say they laughed at him? Shiiit. He’s lucky they didn’t shoot him then and there. All those Arab boys is armed. Arty is damn lucky to be alive. What drugs did he do that day? Xanax? Piss ant drug. Shiiiit.”

Not Guilty on the charge of terroristic threats.

Last one. Veado’s. Trucker is fed up with the prosecution. I let him have his say…he speaks for all of us…gets out his frustration. We have three charges to go. I don’t want to rush, and I feel that I am. I stop everything and get the Veado’s pictures out. We go over what we saw in the videos. That was the video we watched to see if the robber wore the jeans with the tears in the hems. He did not. We review what we have. We discuss the Neon. Yes, that was the robbers driving to rob Veado’s…but is there any evidence that puts the Neon at Veado’s? Pictures? Testimony? The other white guy is dead. Suicide by cop. What about the rose he bought for his wife?

The testimony of the chick from Arby’s? We get sidetracked. She said she went to the car to talk to Jeff while Shawn waited in the store. Her name tag was ‘lost’ in the backseat of the Neon? Uh huh. Black Chick snorts. “Oh, she was usin’ her mouth all right, but not for talkin’.” We all nod. What was that about? Was she jealous of Jeff’s wife? The prosecution can’t find her?

“Bullshit.’ says upscale Jamestown Chick. We nod. The men are suddenly quiet. Upscale Jamestown Chick elaborates, “She had a baby to Jeff and they can’t find her? Oh HELL no! She’s on Facebook. She has to get Welfare and food stamps. She’s from Greenville? Betcha she’s still around there. She ain’t going anywhere away from her family. Maybe Transfer or Reynolds, but…give me a day and I could find her. Someone knows where she is. Arthur knows where she is.”

“Is this enough evidence to prove Shawn is the guy in Veado’s?” I ask. I can see them all think…then Black Chick speaks. “No. It could be anyone. I know it’s Shawn, but from the video and the clerk’s testimony, we cannot say for sure it’s Shawn. We have no proof they stopped the Neon at Veado’s. We just don’t.”

I start on the last three charges. Not Guilty on all three. I get no sense that people are voting not guilty just to be done and go home. No one is restless. No one wants to hurry. I go over all eight charges one more time and ask for a general yes or no to the Not Guiltys. All twelve of us say yes. I open the door and tell the tipstaff we have decided. We have a verdict. We started at 10:00. It is 4:00 now.

I feel that we did the right thing by the law. I take my time to write ‘Not Guilty’ for each charge. I have to sign my name. Oh.

We file in. The verdict papers are given to the judge. Black Chick pokes me in the back. “You get to read them!” I know. Face is red again.

The judge gives them to the bailiff and he to me. I look at him for instructions. He nods. “Jury foreperson shall stand and read the verdicts.” OK Is that sweat down my back? I stand. I look at the judge. “Should I read everything?” He nods. I begin.

I don’t really remember reading the charges. I don’t look at anyone. Not Shawn, Booker, the Prosecutors or the Judge. I finish. The Bailiff takes the papers and gives them to the court reporter(who is awake for once…it seems).

Judge asks if the Prosecution wishes to poll the jury. He does. I look at him…he seems shocked. Why? He didn’t do his damn job! We had to vote to let a guilty man go free! He should have done his job!.

The judge asks us by our numbers. “Juror number 1, do you agree with each and every verdict?” “Yes.” They get to Juror number 7…me…”Yes”. Unanimous.

Judge dismisses Shawn. Tells him he is free to go. The deputy unlocks his handcuffs. He looks at us, I don’t think anyone looks at him. The judge clears the courtroom and comes over to talk to us. We all relax…we have so much to say to him!

“You did the right thing, all of you. The prosecution didn’t prove the defendant was guilty. The prosecution did not do their job.” He looks disgusted…this was a waste of all of our time…and a guilty man is free. All because of the incompetence of people I vote for! Not next election. We all start talking…Black Chick speaks for all of us. I have said enough today.

“What the…what was wrong with them? They had all this proof about the white boys, and nothing that showed Shawn was guilty. Come on judge, we all knew he did it, and we wanted to convict him, but we weren’t given the stuff to do it with!”

Judge smiles. He talks and talks about the Prosecutor…we ask why his assistant was so bad…he laughs and says she has a lot to learn…she sure does we say..we talk about the problems with the video, that they need to move it closer to the juries…he tells us we’re the first jury he’s ever had ask to have the screen moved closer…he had a chuckle about that…that he knew we were serious and would do a good job. We tell him to go tell the prosecutor what we’ve said, that we want criminals convicted. He tells us the other white guy, the dead one…was raped by his father when he was a boy. We get very quiet. Judge tells us he had hoped the dead guy would get it together, but that he was too wounded.

Oh

Arthur? Another lost boy. Who knows what had happened to him. And Shawn? Probably the same.

I just think…if these kids had mill jobs to go to…where they could make a living wage…but…not the time.

We talk a little longer. The judge thanks us. We get our coats and walk out…for most of us to never see each other again.

What struck me about this experience is how regular people can step up and do extraordinary things. I know it was about three petty criminals, three lost boys…and the crimes were for a few hundred dollars,but we all took it as a serious thing…our job to maintain the justice system…to give Shawn a fair trial based on law and evidence. I watched people struggle to make sure they looked at all the evidence, at people who listened to each other, who respected each other…who became a unit. But then we all left and went home to vacation plans, children who had been through surgery. It was also amazing that the two alternate jurors stayed all day. They couldn’t be in the jury room with us, but they wanted to see it through to the end…and in the end they sat with us and we were 14 again.

We were all just regular people…the people who are never asked about things…the people who make everything right. The people who serve.

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Where is the Evidence We Need to Convict?

Day 4

 Did sleep. Up before the alarm, breakfast, tea made, snacks in case we’re there late. Feed Maggie, leave extra food in case I’m late getting home. Leave early for Mercer to get a parking spot nearer the street in case I have to walk over in the dark. Like there’s going to be crime in Mercer.

We’re relaxed in the jury room today. Lots of talk of the basketball game tonight with West Middlesex. Fredonia Chick is going on about welfare. She truly is an obnoxious person, and could have a deleterious effect on any discussions we have. Can’t say anything…don’t want to antagonize her. The two nice women next to her are just nodding and wishing she would shut the hell up. Wal-Mart Chick is talking to Young Black Guy…very nice woman…she is trying to make him feel a part of us all. Trying to get him to drink some coffee, offering him some sweets. Black Chick is reading…different book today. We’re all just waiting and hoping things finish today.

It has been a fascinating few days. I think as I knit….it was all structured to first separate us from our outside lives, then to isolate us so we would form a unit. Looking around at the fourteen of us, we are all different. None of us has talked politics or religion, but I know we all have different ideas and beliefs..but we seem to have one thing in common…the desire to follow the law and the judge’s instructions. We all want to do what is right…even if we believe, as I do think we do…that Shawn is guilty.

Nerves. Nerves because I just feel I might be foreperson, but calm because I want to be that foreperson. I know how to do things like this…so I think…how will I do it…how to do it and not force my ideas on the others. Oh shit.

Tipstaff. Line up. File in. legal pads and pencils. All Rise. Court is in session. Funny how this is all normal to us now.

Booker is first.

Clean page on the tablet.

He is nervous. He is doing that thing with his lips, finding the page he wants in his notebook, talks to Shawn, stands, acknowledges the judge, comes to stand in front of us. Does he know that he has done a good job? Does he realize he has planted doubt in my head? He is nervous.

Doesn’t mention Shawn. Goes through the evidence, goes through Artie’s testimony. Reminds us that Arthur was given a deal, that Artie gave four different versions of what happened…that he only know the name ‘Shawn’ from the letter from Jeff’s wife. Mentions the tears on the jeans, mentions the lack of DNA on the bandannas…goes through it all. Reminds us he doesn’t have to prove his client is innocent, that the prosecution has to prove his guilt. No pleas, no groveling…just the facts…as he wants us to see them.

Now the Prosecutor. He comes off as smug to me…smug and cocky and overconfident. He isn’t nervous. Does he know that Booker has done a better job than he has? Does he know we doubt the evidence? Does he know that he wasted all that time on Neons and white boys and never showed us beyond a shadow of a doubt that Shawn is guilty? Does he know that his assistant was unprepared? Does he care? Does he know that we think he was unprepared and incompetent?

He goes through the evidence. Fine, Jeff’s wife could back up what Arthur said…then where is she? Oh…they can’t find her? That is lame. He’s talking down to us. Hmmmmm.

Both done. Now what?

We all shift a little, look at the judge. He clears his throat and begins… “You are not to take notes on what I am about to say to you. Please put your pads and pens on the floor. You will be able to take your notes with you for deliberation, but I want you all to just listen to me.” We all sit up a bit straighter. I want to make sure I hear everything. This is really happening…I’m going to have to help decide what happens to Shawn. Judge talks about the instructions he gave us about the law before the trial started. I want to write this down! I always forget things!

“It was the job of the prosecution to prove the defendant is guilty. The defense does not have to prove him innocent. You are to assume the Defendant is innocent as you begin your deliberations. The first thing you must do is choose a foreperson.” Black Chick and Jamestown Bar Chick both poke me in the back at the same time. “That’s you!” Judge looks at me. I know my face is bright red, can feel the heat rise. Shit. Heart sinks. I have to be a grown up. Can I do it? I stop listening for a second while it sinks in. What if Fredonia Chick wants it? No, she won’t go against Black Chick and the Jamestown Girls. It will be me. Well then, I’ve come a long way since I was quiet and shy. I can do this.

How the hell do I do it? Shit

Judge is talking about lunch, about sequestration….I am thinking about how to organize things so we proceed to a verdict. What to do first? Shit. The judge stops….coughs…he starts talking about ‘corrupted testimony’. I’m busy thinking about how to get the job done when I realize what he is saying. He is telling us that Arthur’s testimony was corrupted, that it can’t be trusted. Oh. OH! He is very subtle, this man…and good. I wonder if the Prosecutor realizes what the judge just told us. I wonder about the other jurors? Oh…

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Where is the Evidence We need to Convict?

 

Day 4

 

 

 

Did sleep. Up before the alarm, breakfast, tea made, snacks in case we’re there late. Feed Maggie, leave extra food in case I’m late getting home. Leave early for Mercer to get a parking spot nearer the street in case I have to walk over in the dark. Like there’s going to be crime in Mercer.

 

We’re relaxed in the jury room today. Lots of talk of the basketball game tonight with West Middlesex. Fredonia Chick is going on about welfare. She truly is an obnoxious person, and could have a deleterious effect on any discussions we have. Can’t say anything…don’t want to antagonize her. The two nice women next to her are just nodding and wishing she would shut the hell up. Wal-Mart Chick is talking to Young Black Guy…very nice woman…she is trying to make him feel a part of us all. Trying to get him to drink some coffee, offering him some sweets. Black Chick is reading…different book today. We’re all just waiting and hoping things finish today.

 

It has been a fascinating few days. I think as I knit….it was all structured to first separate us from our outside lives, then to isolate us so we would form a unit. Looking around at the fourteen of us, we are all different. None of us has talked politics or religion, but I know we all have different ideas and beliefs..but we seem to have one thing in common…the desire to follow the law and the judge’s instructions. We all want to do what is right…even if we believe, as I do think we do…that Shawn is guilty.

 

Nerves. Nerves because I just feel I might be foreperson, but calm because I want to be that foreperson. I know how to do things like this…so I think…how will I do it…how to do it and not force my ideas on the others. Oh shit.

 

Tipstaff. Line up. File in. legal pads and pencils. All Rise. Court is in session. Funny how this is all normal to us now.

 

Booker is first.

 

Clean page on the tablet.

 

He is nervous. He is doing that thing with his lips, finding the page he wants in his notebook, talks to Shawn, stands, acknowledges the judge, comes to stand in front of us. Does he know that he has done a good job? Does he realize he has planted doubt in my head? He is nervous.

 

Doesn’t mention Shawn. Goes through the evidence, goes through Artie’s testimony. Reminds us that Arthur was given a deal, that Artie gave four different versions of what happened…that he only know the name ‘Shawn’ from the letter from Jeff’s wife. Mentions the tears on the jeans, mentions the lack of DNA on the bandannas…goes through it all. Reminds us he doesn’t have to prove his client is innocent, that the prosecution has to prove his guilt. No pleas, no groveling…just the facts…as he wants us to see them.

 

Now the Prosecutor. He comes off as smug to me…smug and cocky and overconfident. He isn’t nervous. Does he know that Booker has done a better job than he has? Does he know we doubt the evidence? Does he know that he wasted all that time on Neons and white boys and never showed us beyond a shadow of a doubt that Shawn is guilty? Does he know that his assistant was unprepared? Does he care? Does he know that we think he was unprepared and incompetent?

 

He goes through the evidence. Fine, Jeff’s wife could back up what Arthur said…then where is she? Oh…they can’t find her? That is lame. He’s talking down to us. Hmmmmm.

 

Both done. Now what?

 

We all shift a little, look at the judge. He clears his throat and begins… “You are not to take notes on what I am about to say to you. Please put your pads and pens on the floor. You will be able to take your notes with you for deliberation, but I want you all to just listen to me.” We all sit up a bit straighter. I want to make sure I hear everything. This is really happening…I’m going to have to help decide what happens to Shawn. Judge talks about the instructions he gave us about the law before the trial started. I want to write this down! I always forget things!

 

“It was the job of the prosecution to prove the defendant is guilty. The defense does not have to prove him innocent. You are to assume the Defendant is innocent as you begin your deliberations. The first thing you must do is choose a foreperson.” Black Chick and Jamestown Bar Chick both poke me in the back at the same time. “That’s you!” Judge looks at me. I know my face is bright red, can feel the heat rise. Shit. Heart sinks. I have to be a grown up. Can I do it? I stop listening for a second while it sinks in. What if Fredonia Chick wants it? No, she won’t go against Black Chick and the Jamestown Girls. It will be me. Well then, I’ve come a long way since I was quiet and shy. I can do this.

 

How the hell do I do it? Shit

 

Judge is talking about lunch, about sequestration….I am thinking about how to organize things so we proceed to a verdict. What to do first? Shit. The judge stops….coughs…he starts talking about ‘corrupted testimony’. I’m busy thinking about how to get the job done when I realize what he is saying. He is telling us that Arthur’s testimony was corrupted, that it can’t be trusted. Oh. OH! He is very subtle, this man…and good. I wonder if the Prosecutor realizes what the judge just told us. I wonder about the other jurors? Oh…

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On the Third Day We All Get Serious!

Day 3

Damn alarm. This is too much like having a job. Egg, bacon, tea in thermos, drive the half hour to Mercer. Find a parking place behind the Sunoco station. Find my way in, stop to pee before I get to the jury room. Girls from Jamestown are there, talking about a fight outside one of the bars the night before. Bar Chick’s brother involved, better not fuck with so and so, she’ll knock them out. Laughter. I believe her.

The rest come in, hang up their coats, settle into the seats. Wal-Mart Chick and I talk about the Springers her husband breeds. Nice lady.

Black chick still reading 50 Shades. Two chicks from Jamestown ask her about it, she starts to show them a passage, but Tipstaff walks in.

“Judge is hearing another case, you will wait right here. How is everyone? If you go to deliberation today and can’t come to a decision you’ll be housed in the Howard Johnson’s down by I-80. No, it won’t take too long. This is an emergency. Should only be a half hour or so. Just relax. What are you knitting? A shawl? Bring the pattern for me? OK I’ll be back.”

We all slump a bit, deflated, but no one complains. No one grumbles. Interesting how we have coalesced as a group…we are “The Jury”. I would love to write about this. I think I will…soon…before I forget.

Quiet talk. More on the fight. No one had to go to the hospital, but it might flare up again this weekend. Too much alcohol. Black Chick talking to Jamestown ladies. None of us talks about the case.

Tipstaff. I use the toilet, we file out in our accustomed order. Lawyers, defendant, few spectators.

“All Rise” Judge comes in. Court is in session.

The assistant DA is presenting today. Looks like she’s just out of law school. Nervous as shit. We all sit quietly…we know the ropes now…not so nervous. We all have our legal tablets, ready to take notes. I can feel how intent we all are to listen, to make sure we hear what is said.

Oh god….this is awful. This woman is a lawyer? Has she not been trained how to present evidence? I could do a better job. She never looks at us. Her hands are bright red…she stammers. Booker is leafing through papers…probably to unsettle her more.

Pictures of the Neon…pass each and every one around so we can all see it…and why? It takes so long…why not use the overhead? I know we will talk about this! All they have to do is move the screen closer to us. Losing the will to pay attention…so is the judge.

Judge is looking exasperated. No, I think he’s asleep. Cop from Southwest Regional…from Farrel. He don’t play. Pictures from the Circle K robbery. Ok…loads of pictures of the two white guys. Officer identifies them both as the robbers. Great…side bar…but where is the evidence against Shawn? I want to see evidence against him! More pictures. Same shit, different day.

Cop from Greenville. Pictures from the Veados robbery. Great! Black dude did that robbery. Show the video again. Point out the blue bandanas. Cop Id’s the bandanas on his head. Physical evidence from Shawn’s apartment. Jeans…tear in the hem.

Judge is asleep. I’m falling asleep…all morning and still no obvious evidence against Shawn…try to look at notes…try to see what the Prosecution is leading to…try to see the chain of circumstantial evidence…is this what they are doing? I don’t see it. I want to see it, but I don’t.

I don’t see that they have proven his guilt beyond a “reasonable doubt”.. Shit. I know he did this…I want to convict him…but, in good conscience, I won’t be able to with what they’ve shown me. I just…oh…What is happening? Prosecutor just asked the Assistant prosecutor to ask …Brookfield cop is explaining his picture line up…that Arthur ID’d Shawn from that…chick is asking where they got the picture of Shawn…from a previous…conviction Oh Shit!!!! Judge sits up…little bit of commotion. Side bar says the judge!!! Right now!!!They all go up…talk, talk…look at us…talk…

“You are to ignore and forget what the Brookfield cop said about where he got the picture.”

Lunch…judge is pissed!

Wal-mart Chick and I walk with one of the Quiet Ladies to Sheetz for a sandwich. The Diner takes too long. Quiet Lady says she ate with Fredonia Lady the day before…wanted to be with “quieter” people. There always has to be one asshole in every group…Fredonia Lady is it for us.

We sit on benches in the bottom of the courthouse and eat. Quiet lady says that Booker is good. I don’t want to really talk about things…but agree..that is a safe way to approach it. Hmmm..maybe I’m not the only one who sees that the prosecution isn’t giving us the evidence we need. What am I going to do when we deliberate? I’m quiet. I’m scared. Will I be able to stand up and say I don’t see the evidence to convict, or will I just be quiet. Who will the foreman be? Probably me. Shit. Suddenly I’m 10 again and all my life since then hasn’t happened…

Finish lunch, walk to the second floor. Admire the decorations. This is a beautiful courthouse. No metal detectors. That is so funny. The Erie Courthouse had metal detectors, cops…nothing here. Do they think we are that safe? I don’t. After Newtown I don’t think there is any place safe. Line of prisoners walked down the hall to another courtroom. Hmmm. I would hate to be locked up.

Back to the jury room. We settle in, all we can talk about is the picture ruckus. Black chick thinks prosecutor tried to get a mistrial…we agree. Jamestown chicks say the Prosecutor knows he screwed up so he tried to get a mistrial…and that Booker knew the Prosecution screwed up and hopes we acquit. Tipstaff. We have to be quiet. I bet she’s right…because the Prosecutor hasn’t proved a thing to me.

OK…this is the last chance…lets get to it. Prosecutor again. More physical evidence from Shawn’s place. Jeans…tear in the hems. Pictures of the robbery at Standard Market with Arthur. Yep. Looks the same. Blue bandanas. Looks the same, now we’re getting somewhere. Black t-shirt/white t-shirt. eh. Can’t tell if they are the ones the robber wore either in Standard Market or Veados. Great to finally see evidence.

Booker. “You cannot say this is the same tear as the one in the picture from Standard Market! This goes out(pushes the tears out). The jeans in the picture go straight back!” Yeah, if you were walking in them…you go, Booker! Good try, but I think it is the same tear. I think those are the same jeans. Bandannas. “Did your department run a DNA test on the bandannas? Yes? Results? No DNA at all? None?” Booker relaxes a bit…looks quickly at us. It was July and he had oil on his hair…and no DNA? Hmmmm Hard to believe. Young Black dude snorts next to me.

Booker continues…knocks down all the physical evidence…gives us a reason to doubt every bit of evidence.

Prosecution? They rest. Booker…any witnesses? No. That is is for today.

Judge reminds us not to discuss this with anyone, not to watch the news, not to Google any of this. OK. Back to the jury room. Court cleared…home.

Day 3 Evening

Thursday night and I have bowling. Oh no…not going…exhausted. Just laid out. I never realized how intense this would be, how much stress I would put on myself to do the best job I can. I am tired. Cold today, bit of snow…stop and get a sandwich on the way home…too tired to cook. Spend the evening watching TV…get to bed early because the summations will be tomorrow then we will deliberate.

I think I want to be foreman. Who else would do it? All the others except for Jamestown Bar Chick and Black Chick are too quiet. Fredonia Lady would be a disaster. She doesn’t think or listen…and would convict because he is black.

Oh, he’s guilty, but..the prosecution hasn’t proved it beyond a doubt. I have doubts and I can’t vote to convict if I do.

I haven’t looked at the defendant much at all. I don’t want to make a judgment on that because Booker has him spiffed up. It will be a hard day tomorrow, and what if we all disagree? What if we are hung? What if we have to go to the motel overnight…which would be all weekend? Call Nancy and tell her where the extra keys are in case we’re sequestered so she can take care of Maggie.

Can’t sleep.

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Day Two. Things Get Serious on the Jury

Day Two

Wednesday. Alarm? I hate alarms, but there it is at 7:00 AM. The dog looks at me as I get up, rolls over and goes back to sleep. Shower, breakfast, dog fed and cuddled. No walks today. Drive the 30 minutes to Mercer. I really don’t want to be doing this!

The bailiff had shown us the jury room and the back stairs that we were to use to get to it. There was to be absolutely no contact with anyone else involved with the case, so I basically tip-toed up to the room on the third floor. Thermos of tea, chocolate. Some other jurors were already there, and this was the first chance I took to look at them, to size them up. Yellow “Juror” button on, sip of tea from my Thermos, idle chit chat. The tipstaff comes in to tell us she will come for us when everyone in the courtroom is ready, that it might be 10 minutes, might be an hour. Allrighty then. I get my knitting out. Knitting is great in a situation like this because I can look at people but still seem to be concentrating on knitting. I am uneasy, quiet, watching.

I start to take the measure of my fellow jurors, I want to see if any of them will be an asshole. The room is very small and stuffy, two windows looking out on the Mercer County countryside. The courthouse is on a hill, so we can see for miles. Chairs are comfortable, we have a coffee machine and a toilet we all have to share. Long table down the middle fills the room so our leather bottomed chairs are along the walls. Very close quarters. Courtroom is small. Damn! If I had to be on a jury, why couldn’t it be in one of the old fancy courtrooms? I sit along the inside wall so I can look out, fourth one down. Door on the right of me.

I knit, I listen, I talk quietly to the woman next to me. Black woman at the far end of the table, 30’s, prison guard, takes “Fifty Shades of Grey” from her bag. Drinks orange juice. Not loud, not ghetto, but she knows her shit. Only person to sit up to the table.

On her right; 30ish woman from Jamestown. Talks to woman next to her…they are friends, both from Jamestown…have kids in High School…both married when 18. They talk about the Lakeview basketball game the night before. Both have pleasant personalities. Been through some things in their lives…tough. They talk to “Basketball Guy”(as we came to know him)in the opposite corner of the room. Talk of the game. I join in and ask what the team’s chances are. We four talk basketball. Whoosh, that relaxes me a bit. I can fit in with one thing. I think I am the only teacher there…not sure how many have been to college, or are housewives.. I just watch, but try to speak when I can.

I keep knitting and listening. Still no word from the judge. What is taking so damn long? I go back to checking out the others. Woman next to the two from Jamestown is from Fredonia and could be trouble. Always has to have the last word, has no use for people who aren’t white, protestant and working. I sense a lot of resentment. Oh great, and the defendant is black.

The two women next to Fredonia Chick are same age as she, mid 70’s. Both talk quietly to each other, do not join in with any other conversations. They listen more than they talk. Pleasant faces. Housewives…husbands probably worked in the mills.

Man next to the two women is quiet, wonders when they will have a cigarette break. Grey hair, beard, could be a truck driver, late 40’s. Pleasant, calm face, nice smile. Probably is like me and would rather be anywhere else.

I keep knitting to fend off the claustrophobia. My mind is calm, but I feel the stress of all of it. The change in my daily ways, my shyness about meeting new people, uncertainty of what we will hear, and what will happen when we come to make a decision. I don’t want to let the stress build up…I know what can happen. That is the thing I am concerned about. Shit. I used the wrong pattern in this row. Not ripping it out, whoever gets this shawl will have to like it. Been in here a half hour. So glad I can look outside.

Woman next to Beard Guy knows the chicks from Jamestown. Her 14 year old daughter is having surgery on her feet today. She is concerned, but her mother and husband are with her daughter. She also talks about Lakeview basketball. Probably a Bar Chick…bit rough around the edges, been around…knows a few things..good, strong personality, like the Jamestown Chicks.

Black Chick talking to the Jamestown Chicks. Good sign.

Two men on my left are quiet. Basketball Guy sits next to me. In sales, father is not well, is tired of the cold.

Man next to Basketball Guy inspects pipelines. Not too upset to be here because of the snow and cold. He works outside all day. He looks forward to having a few days inside. He and Basketball Guy talk about deer hunting. Yup, I live in Pennsylvania.

So far everyone seems pleasant except for Fredonia Chick, who has an opinion on everything. I knit and wonder what will happen in the courtroom, how long this will take… I get up and use the toilet. Don’t want to have to wee when we go to the courtroom. I always worry about that. Just sip my tea. Have a bit of dark chocolate. Offer it to woman on my right.

Interesting to see how we all make an effort to get acquainted. I watch to see who listens, who smiles. The judge said yesterday he wanted us to bond. I wonder if keeping us in the jury room for so long this morning isn’t part of his plan. This judge knows exactly what he is doing. I will keep an eye on him.

Woman on my right works at Wal-mart. I am glad I am next to her. Think I might eat lunch with her. She seems shy, not used to “the city” Mercer has 4000 people. Husband raises Springers. I don’t want to get close to anyone here, just a feeling, but I think having someone to eat lunch with will be nice.

Still shy. I keep quiet and listen. Black Chick has started talking to Jamestown Chicks. Everyone is being polite and cautious, everyone but Fredonia Chick is a bit nervous. No one wants to be here. No one is complaining though. The process from the first day has worked. I wonder why it is that we follow orders so easily. But I always wonder that…think what would happen if I just left. No. Can’t Back to knitting to stay calm.

Young Black Guy is next to Wal-Mart Chick. Very, very quiet. Doesn’t drink anything, has no snacks, talks to no one. Not a gangbanger, not a professional. Heard him say to the Black Chick he does maintenance at Thiel College in Greenville. I wonder what he is thinking. I wonder what he thinks of the man on trial. We all must be thinking the same thing..and I think all but Fredonia woman will be fair. I could be wrong, but she keeps talking about “all these people on welfare”. Hmmm. I just keep knitting, talking a bit, glad I don’t wear a watch.

Last person on the jury is a man in his 80’s. He just sits and hums a bit. He is engaged!

I am very guarded, on edge, unsure of what will happen, unsure of the people I am with. Here comes the Tipstaff. “File in and sit where you sat yesterday. Don’t talk.” OK. Knitting put away. Shit! What pattern row was I on? Another mistake. Oh well. We stand, we get in order, we file into the courtroom and take our seats. OK. This is it. I’m on a jury. No one has told me there was a mistake and I can go home. I’m here. Juror #7. And I have to decide on what will happen to this man in front of me. It’s not something I want to do. All the other jurors are nervous, anxious…we all sit up straight. “All Rise!” The judge comes in. “You may all sit”. Shit. Hope I don’t embarrass myself! I’m on a jury! I can’t really comprehend that. Wonder what they would do if I just left, or threw up on Wal-Mart Chic sitting in front of me.

Young Black Dude is on my left. Beard Guy is on my right. Black Chick is behind me. This is new to all of us…wow.

Quiet, that’s what I notice…how quiet we all are. No one fidgets, coughs are muffled. So, what do we do? What happens? Here comes the Bailiff. Legal notepads and pencils. I wondered how we would keep track of things. “Each pad and clipboard are numbered. Make sure the number on your clipboard is correct.” Juror # 7, that’s me. “When you leave, the pad is to be placed face down on your seat.”

Judge Dobsen talks to us, I listen very carefully because I know I usually don’t, and I don’t want to mess up. “Don’t write too much. Keep one ear on what is happening while you write. The defendant is assumed to be innocent and does not have to testify either for or against himself.” Yeah…Fifth Amendment. Wow! Constitution! “The prosecution has to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that this man committed the crimes he is accused of. If they do not, if you have a reasonable doubt that this man is guilty, you cannot convict him. Mr. Kochems, you may begin.” Jeeze, I wonder what the evidence will be. OK…number the witnesses, number the evidence presented…keep track Caroline!.

Fidget a bit while the prosecution starts. No one around me looks anywhere but at the front. The judge has an inscrutable expression on his face.

Talk, talk, talk. Is any of this important? Little notes…will I be able to make sense of them at the end? All right. Clerk from the first robbery. Standard market in Ohio. Why this? He can’t be tried here for a crime committed in Ohio. Listen. #1 witness. Why the hell didn’t this girl take advantage of the education she was given so she didn’t have to work in a dinky store for minimum wage? That pisses me off to see people waste their lives. OK…two men…black, white…shotgun…$56.00…ran out. No car visible. Made to lie down on the floor. Didn’t see the face of the Black man. Two clerks? Where is the other one? Missing witness? Odd.

Video. Really? You’ve had a year to prepare and you can’t get the video to work? Look around…um…have no patience for this…judge, lawyers..all just sit and watch the assistant DA ..what…stand and watch the computer screen. Minutes…lots of minutes…I have a trip to plan! Wonder if I can volunteer to do the video. Why is the TV all the way across the room from us? We murmur. Judge shushes us. Jamestown Bar Chick pipes up quietly…”we can’t see because of the glare. Can you close the curtains behind the TV?” Bailiff obliges on Judges orders. Nothing happens unless the judge orders. WE all murmur thank you.

Valance is crooked. Black Chick ‘hmmmms’ about that. I smile.

Finally…video. One frame at a time. Look carefully, look at the defendant…his face is completely covered! Black shirt, black pants…this could be any black man…I can’t tell. I can’t say the man in the video is the defendant!

Defense…Stanley Booker. Nervous…does this thing with his lips…can the clerk ID the robber as the defendant? No. Duh…of course she can’t!

Witness #2. Arthur Novel. Seventeen at the time of the robberies. Nineteen now. Arthur Novel…one of the other robbers called to the stand. Blah, blah, blah… “Yes, Defendant and I robbed the Standard Market. He and Jeff went to a bar. I waited outside. I tried to rob McQuaid’s in Farrell alone, but I was laughed out of the store. Shawn made me do it. He threatened me. (uh huh…little twerp Wait…if Jeff was his mentor…why did he let Shawn threaten him? No sense.). Jeff and I robbed the Circle K in West Middlesex. Shawn(defendant)drove. Blah, blah, blah. I snorted three bars of Xanax the day of the robberies and smoked some weed. Jeff smoked weed too. So did I…just before we drove to Brookfield to get Shawn.(jury stirs…’What is a bar of Xanax? No, you can’t ask questions..Judge looks amused at us..Booker asks Art to tell us what a ‘bar of Xanax’ is. Piss ant drug. White boy drug.)

Booker on cross. “Plea deal? Is this the first version of your statement? Your fourth? Explain why you changed your story. Did Ed’s wife send a letter to you in jail to say the black man’s name was Shawn? Oh, she did. Where is that letter?(Black chick-prison guard behind me coughs..judge looks at her and ..was that a smile?) Your mother made you turn yourself in? Where was your mother the day of the robberies? The Mustang Bar in Mercer. (Jamestown bar chick giggles. We all smile. I think Artie is going to cry) What has the DA promised you? Oh really? Nothing? (Black Chick murmurs ‘Uh huh’) That’s all I have for this witness Your Honor”

Booker is good. I believe Arthur is telling the truth…but where is Jeff’s wife then? Evidently jeff is dead. So…Arthur’s testimony is all they have? Oh.

Witness #3 from the Circle K. Wait! No witnesses from McQuaids? No video? What bar had they stopped in? Had to be the Lighthouse…wouldn’t have been a ghetto bar in Farrell…they would have stuck out. Great witness, but…Jeff and Arty robbed the Circle K…not Shawn…no sign of Shawn in the video. So……watch the video…Jeff and Arty.

Witness #4. Cop from West Middlesex. “Yeah, we knew right away it was Jeff.” On and on about Jeff and Artie…but not a word about Shawn. I sit back. Four witness and no direct evidence against Shawn except the suspect testimony from Artie. Shit! I have reasonable doubts! I can’t vote to convict! I have seen tons of evidence against Jeff and Artie..and only suspect testimony against Shawn. I know he’s guilty! Artie drew a map to Shawn’s house for the cops when he turned himself in. I know where that apartment is. But…you can’t tell who the black man is in the Standard Market…and there is no car or black man at the Circle K. Shit. Oh damn. Nothing at all from McQuaids. What if we can’t all decide…what if I’m back here next week? Shit, shit, shit. Lunch break.

Talk to Wal-mart Chick. Walk to Sheetz’s for a sandwich. She is unfamiliar with traffic lights. Nice woman. Get our food and eat on a bench on the bottom floor of the courthouse, yellow badges displayed. Second husband. First husband was abusive. She finally got the courage to leave him, met her second husband at a bar…been married twenty years. Helped raise her kids. Loves meeting the people in Wal-Mart.

Back to the Jury room. Talk of basketball, Black Chick is joshin with Old Guy. Asking him about his Fiance. Cool. Jamestown Bar Chick, Pipeline Guy and Basketball Guy talk about hunting coyotes and how old they were when they got their first gun. I can talk about that. No one discusses the case. Fredonia Chick is spouting off about welfare queens. Why is there always one.

Back in. We know our order now so we wait for each other before we line up. One more robbery. Stand. Sit. Court in session.

Cop from Greenville. Pictures from Veado’s Mrket of a white Neon. Photos from Ed’s apartment of a white Neon. On and on..OK..it’s the same one. We see the rust stains. We see the wheels. Burns oil…see the black by the tail pipe. I get it…same car. But wait. The night pictures weren’t taken at Veado’s. Then where? From the farm store up the road. White Neon goes down the road at 10:22. White Neon comes back up the road at 10:40. Is there a picture of the Neon at Veado’s? No. Um…so what does this prove, and did we have to take a damn hour on it? I want a picture of the Neon at Veado’s!

Witness #5 Clerk from Veado’s. Black man robbed her. Face covered. No, she can’t say that Shawn is the man who robbed her. You go Booker! So…what proof other than a picture of a white Neon driving down the road???

Video from Veado’s. Tall, skinny black man. Black jeans and shirt. Can’t see face. I want to see these videos again! I want to see them closer.

That’s it for day 2. Sit in the jury room while court is cleared. Talk of going to the game. Too far away for me. I just want to take a bath and have a glass of wine. So very tiring to sit and concentrate all day. Will they finish tomorrow? Tipstaff says they might. Then we deliberate. Tipstaff says to tell everyone we might be very late tomorrow because once we start to deliberate we stay until we have a verdict. Shit! Have to arrange for someone to take care of Maggie in case… Not happy at all.

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