After two days of initial jury selection (voir dire) and a five-day long criminal trial, the proceedings (and my first lengthy jury duty service) officially came to an end today. Like everyone else who originally received a summons, I honestly didn't want to take time out of my schedule to be in court. At the end of the trial and deliberations however, I can say with certainty that each of the twelve jurors understood the weight of the important decision that we had been entrusted to make. We also all learned to respect the court procedures and deeply appreciated the privilege of having been selected to serve.
There is certainly nothing pretty about multiple counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault. As well, there is nothing positive that can be said about deep lacerations, a stabbing in the eye, or in one policeman's words, a Washington Heights street "awash in blood." But what I was most impressed by was that the process played itself out fairly and in a structured manner. Everyone had a voice and understood what "beyond a reasonable doubt" meant. Twelve jurors of different ages, ethnicities, gender, educational levels, economic backgrounds, and most likely political leanings sat in the closed jury room for two days and calmly discussed the case, available evidence, and the words of the law. We were not always in agreement, but in the end the group was able to come to a unanimous decision and find the defendant not guilty of all four serious charges against him. I am not dramatizing when I say that it is one of the more memorable moments of my almost four decades of existence. I may have indeed found a renewed sense of hope in the system.
Tomorrow, I leave the very real world of lower Manhattan's criminal court and step back into the world of art - a world that in many ways is disappointing and has been overtaken by shallow attributes. It is not enough anymore and we are certainly not challenging ourselves if we collectively continue to cater to bullshit concerns and mere sensations. This is an open call for the arts to be serious and high-minded again. There's enough entertainment around. Let's take this damn thing we call life and see if we can make it better. - PS