Truth Justice and the American Way

Yesterday was my last day of jury duty. In the morning we heard our last witness. Each of the lawyers then did their summation.

We broke for lunch. Thank you New York City taxpayers for buying us lunch. My tuna wrap was delicious.
After lunch we were given our charge by the judge.
The judge really impressed me. He carefully explained the parameters of the law that we were expected to rule on. He explained that the job of the prosecution was to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, that is, a doubt that could be explained through reason. A gut feeling is not enough to either prove or disprove.
We went into the jury room. I had been chosen to be the forewoman of the jury. I have been around enough social workers to know that before you do anything in a group we all need to introduce ourselves.
We had one law to rule on--gun possession but that is made up three parts, one was that the fire-arm be operable, the second was that the firearm was in the defendant's possession--that is in a space over which she had authority and lastly we need to determine if she actually knew that the gun was in that space.
The first part was easy, the expert witness who testified that the gun was operable was completely convincing. As a jury we were convinced and decided to not waste time dithering over that piece of that decision.
The other two pieces of our decision were a little more complicated. Most of my fellow jurors were completely convinced that the defendant was not guilty. Some of the jurors were fairly sure that under the law she wasn't guilty but weren't comfortable delivering a verdict  until they were more convinced. We asked to see evidence. We discussed the issue further. We talked through some of the sticking points.

The defense lawyer in his closing remarks mentioned that  beyond a reasonable doubt is a high hurdle, mostly to protect all of us from wrongful conviction.
We shared examples from our own life experiences. We listened to one another
By the end of our time in the jury room we had agreed. A working gun was found in a room where the defendant had been sleeping. We were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt  the defendant actually lived in the room, if it was her room.  We also were not convinced beyond a reasonable  that she knew that the gun was in the room before it was recovered by the police.
We voted again.
We found the defendant not guilty.
Each day as I entered the courtroom I was blown away by this fabulous mosaic mural just past the elevators. Actually you can just see a bit of it. I think a later renovation made it impossible to see the mural in full. Using a camera in the courthouse is forbidden. I had to check mine with the security desk each day after I went through security.
I asked the officers in charge of the security desk if I may have their permission to take photos of mural. The guard explained that undercover cops and informants use the staircase next to the mural so I could take photos only if I was accompanied by an officer. He then accompanied me so I could take photos of the mural.SAM_2756
While I got the imagery of Moses, the burning bush and the ten commandments I haven’t figured out what this is.
It looks a bit like creation imagery to me, the tohu va vohu, the chaos that existed before creation  forming itself into the natural order of the world. OK by writing that out I’m guessing that the allegory here is that natural law  and legal law arise from the same divine source.

Frankly it seems a little sectarian for a public court  for my taste, even if the images are Jewish. However understanding Jewish legal concepts, concepts I learned studying halacha made my decision making much easier. The laws relating to the possession of hametz during Passover are direct corollaries to the laws of gun possession.
I am grateful that my fellow jurors were so serious about our task. We are all of us imperfect, doing the very best we can.


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