In Darkness

Prologue

Following a suggestion to make In Tenebris shorter, I have adapted it for readers who understand that myriad concrete circumstances cannot be subsumed under a single dimension.  Explanations are pointless when confronting human dramas and temperaments.  Clarity is open-minded:  It is attached to what is vital and to the reader’s own intuition. In these explorations complexity becomes all encompassing and signification multiplies.
Ricardo F Morin, Bala Cynwyd, Pa.; June 30, 2022

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*

Time Magazine named the “Silence Breakers” of the #MeToo movement its 2017 Person of the Year; the President cursed the Press as “fake news,” and temperatures in New York City felt higher than ever.

Amidst all of this, I became juror number 12 in the murder trial of a fourteen-year-old boy. Now, the search for truth loomed foremost in my mind. Bias and suspicion, how were they to be treated?

The defendant–young, dressed in a crisply starched white shirt and tie–sat barely 30 feet away from us, the jury. His pleading the fifth and his twisted grimace of a grin were disturbing.

We put aside our apprehensions. If doubt were to play a part in the case, it would have to come from the evidence.

As a jury we were surprised at the lack of cohesion in the allegations: what witnesses stated didn’t correspond to what the prosecutor argued. No weapon nor DNA pointed to the identity of the perpetrator. “What justified the accusation of this young man as a murderer?”

On the 18th day, each of us would have to reach an approximation as to the truth.

The deliberation room was barely large enough for the long table and its 12 uncomfortable chairs. The air conditioning was old and inefficient. The temperature was as stifling as it had been in the courtroom.

We jurors were diverse and had little in common. The foreman was an office manager, comfortable in his role as moderator. His communication skills were excellent. Some of us had been reticent and never had voiced an opinion one way or the other. Others were more voluble. A teacher remained calm throughout; she listened to others before expressing her own views. Another juror, number seven, was impatient about the length of the trial; she had a toddler to care for at home. Aside from myself, there were two other retirees, one of whom was a corporate lawyer.

From the first days of the deliberation, we were uncertain whether the accused had taken any part at all. On our fourth day, I said: “the principle eye witness was not credible”; juror number five, the young woman who had been most adamant about the guilt of the accused, began to waver. Though most jurors still thought him innocent, four remained unconvinced. The more jurors accepted their own limitations, the more difficult it became to form an opinion. The phrase “blind justice” turned piercingly poignant.

The majority argued with the four holdouts. Tensions rose with the thermometer. The heat of the midday, the humidity, and the noise from the street made us increasingly fractious. With the windows closed, we turned on the anemic air conditioner and became more fearful than ever of not measuring up.

Our variances put us on edge. Juror number five persisted categorically: “the principal eyewitness was not lying.” The crucial moment, though, for all of us, was when juror number seven voiced in fury: “the only features visible on the security cameras could have been any one else’s in the gang.” Slowly, we moved toward common ground. The decision was unanimous, innocent.

After we had returned to the court room, the judge polled us individually. Indelibly imprinted on our faces was the murdered child’s mother’s face. Her sorrow contrasted sharply with the clawing glances of the defendant’s family. I felt deflated, even inadequate. “Were we right, or wrong?,” I asked myself.

The jury disbanded. We collected our belongings and moved to an elevator at the opposite end of the court house. Below, the family of the acquitted awaited. At our approach, they shouted deafening thanks.

We the jury, the lawyers, and the witnesses were only actors in this absurdity.

The end

Edited by Billy Bussell Thompson

June 24, 2022

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