Juror No. 12

The city lays in solitude at the seven o’clock hour of a Tuesday morning as I
nudge the car into the parking garage on Commercial St., find a spot on Level
2 and turn off the radio.
Hank Stolz, ever perky, has been talking with his listeners on WCRN about“Extreme Vetting” of immigrants as proposed by the  you-know-who presidential candidate. “An issue that will be left unresolved, like so many Hank discusses with ʽQ’ and other callers on his drive-time show every morning,” I think, not realizing that the topic is about to have special significance for me as well—although in a different context.
By 9:45 a.m. I too will be subjected to intense scrutiny before being chosen to take my seat in the jury box at Worcester Trial Court and have a hand in determining the fate of a man from Dudley who is charged with four separate infractions stemming from an accident on Plantation St. in March of 2015. The streets of the city had been dampened and freshened by an overnight rain. Traffic is light. Admiring the flowers along Foster St., walking past the Figs & Pigs kitchen pantry at the DCU Center and then the former Viva Bene and The Citizen in the gathering mugginess, I have time to contemplate the advances the city has made in its Ed Augustus/Joe Petty/City Council-led drive to be recognized as first-rate if not world-class. “I will find time to hoist a pint at the new British Beer Company on Shrewsbury St.,” I vow. “I will check out P.E. Singer performing at the Grill on the Hill in Green Hill Park and Mauro DePasquale doing Italian love songs at Union Station. I will have dinner at Rocky’s on Water St., operated by John Fresolo who is a friend and Joe Dell’Ovo with whom I worked at the Telegram & Gazette. I will visit WAM during “FREE August” for the “Experience Meow” exhibition.
Et cetera.
In the Jury Pool room on the third floor of the courthouse we are shown a video reminding us of our civic responsibility to serve (“the better angel of our nature,” as Lincoln put it) and further informing us that the summons to do so originated with the Magna Carta and was brought to Massachusetts Bay by the Pilgrims. We are given a pep talk by Superior Court Judge David Ricciardone (who would then leave to preside at the Albion rooming house murder trial of Howard F. Penn).
“In my opinion your appearance is very small payback for all the rights we enjoy,” Judge Ricciardone says. “See how you can make jury service work in your life.”
Afterwards comes a warning from an officer of the court as his eyes scan more than fifty people sitting in library-like silence. One man is already dozing with his cheek resting on his hand. A woman to my right has her nose in a book with a yellow hardcover entitled “F♥CK FEELINGS” (I am reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, and smugly thinking as I do so how much more highbrow I am than her). “You are going to find waiting dull,” our steward—short and stocky—says. “I hope you brought something to occupy your time (cell phones, allowed for jurors, are already working at a feverish pitch). “Unfortunately you are restricted to this room except for the lunch break which occurs at 1:00 p.m. When this courthouse opened in 2007 we tried letting folks come and go. Two things happened. Either they went outside to smoke and then wandered around the building or they walked out the door and never came back.” He gives us the good news; Massachusetts was the first state to adopt the “One Day/One Trial” provision. After our stint, he says, no chance of being summoned again for three years.
In Courtroom 22, where Judge Jennifer L. Ginsburg—Northwestern and Georgetowneducated,  young, with light brown hair and an accommodating disposition—officiates, she and Attorneys Brian Hurley (for the Commonwealth,
also youthful, a studious note checker) and Thomas M. Grady (for the defendant,
older) go about the arduous process of seating seven jurors (one of whom will become an alternate and thus not vote). I am grilled, told to stand aside, brought
back, asked again based on some family history with the court if I can be fair and impartial. “Yes I can, your honor,” I say. The jurors are selected. We meet Jimmy Malone who is instantly likeable for his thick Irish brogue and chirpy wisecracking personality. Mr. Malone leads  us down a passageway behind the courtroom, saying “I got twenty-two years, three more months and I’m out of here.” He directs us to the Jury Deliberation Room with its bird’s-eye view of Main St.—the Elwood Adams hardware store, Armsby Abbey—and says “you have options for lunch including the (Garden Fresh) Courthouse Café across the street and the cafeteria downstairs.” With our best interests in mind Mr. Malone, nodding toward the cafe, says “their food has improved, but don’t eat the tuna fish.” “This Mr. Malone,” I think, studying his mirthful face beneath thinning grayish-white hair, “likes to have a little fun at people’s expense.” Sure enough he soon says “don’t want to spoil your day but you’ll definitely be coming back tomorrow. This judge is new. She doesn’t know what she’s doing yet.” On that note he parades us single file into the courtroom, tapping the door lightly before entering and announcing “jury’s coming in,
please rise.” The case itself takes some judgment. The defendant, perhaps in his 30s, ponytailed—wearing a blue shirt with white stripes, jeans and sneakers—is charged with two counts of Assault & Battery, Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle and Leaving the Scene of an Accident Causing Bodily Harm. He had dropped his two daughters off to his ex and her new boyfriend at the corner of Plantation and Cohasset streets around 8:00 p.m. after apparently becoming increasingly agitated for not being able to make the exchange earlier in the day. There was already bad blood between him and new boyfriend when, with a woman in the car with him, the defendant
suddenly reversed direction and jumped the curb—as if intentionally trying to hit the new boyfriend and a friend of his standing on the sidewalk. Instead he struck a fifteen-year-old boy walking down Plantation St. after playing basketball with friends. The impact knocked the boy into a hedge (the boy, as it turns out, wasn’t seriously hurt). The defendant then sped off toward Grafton St. in the wrong lane, nearly sideswiping a parked car. The Commonwealth calls a number of witnesses, Mr. Grady only the defendant’s female passenger, who, noticeably nervous, says “we were just trying to leave.” Both sides rest their case before lunch. I think, “Mr. Malone is wrong. This will be over today.” Heading out, I encounter Billy Breault from Main South. “Here for the Albion trial,” Mr. Breault says. I walk over to Worcester Wares, chat briefly with Jessica Walsh, the store’s owner/designer. I buy a postcard. At 2:30 p.m. we are called back into the courtroom. By 3:00 both lawyers have given their summations. It takes the six of us only about twenty minutes to find the defendant not guilty on the two more serious charges and guilty on Negligence and Leaving the Scene. There is in our view no pre-mediation, no malice of forethought on the defendant’s part. It was an accident.
Liz, our forewoman, taps on the door to let Mr. Malone know we have reached a verdict
(I think of “Knock Three Times” which I’d just heard performed by Tony Orlando & Dawn at the Mohegan Sun Arena with Joe Cutroni Jr.). Judge Ginsburg thanks us for our service. “You are dismissed,” she says. I’m glad I didn’t eat the tuna fish at
lunchtime. I’m happy I ate a PJ&B sandwich  that I brought with me instead.


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