Sunday, April 10, 2011

In camera = off camera !

Well, tomorrow we get closing arguments, and on Tuesday jury deliberation begins. I have no idea if it's going to be easy or hard. I don't even know what I will be saying. In part this is because I've been trying earnestly to "keep an open mind" as directed (which actually happens less through effort on my part than through knowing I will need to work out a consensus with 11 others, whose thoughts and reactions I cannot yet predict: amazing how that suspends judgment). In part, however, it's also because the evidence we've been presented isn't black and white.
I include this still from Sidney Lumet's great film "12 Angry Men" not only because Lumet just passed away, but because I've become ever more aware that my only points of reference for how the judicial system works are film, television and literature. We've been made aware of this from the start. Before you even fill out your juror card in the Brooklyn Supreme Court you are shown a film called "Your Turn" that presents not only reenactments of "trials by ordeal" but scenes from Perry Mason:
Then our judge, in his very first instructions to us, told us that TV crime programs thoroughly misrepresent how a court works. In reality, attorneys never state opinions, or make emotional appeals to juries. Witnesses almost never break down, or point at a shifty person among the spectators who rapidly hurries out of the chamber! As for "evidence" (which doesn't include anything the attorneys say), it is neither as interesting nor as consistent as in a film. Still, I've caught myself several times expecting that some witness's stumble would eventually surely crack the case open - a smoking gun! - explaining in retrospect each of the seemingly odd or opaque or off-point things we'd seen and heard before that. No such luck. We will have to fashion a story ourselves out of human opacity, not merely uncover it. (Actually, not even that - we just have to decide if a certain story works "beyond a reasonable doubt." Opacity might win.)

No comments: