Shown above is the foreman(*) of my so-called grand jury, Madame Defarge. Not her real name, of course, and she might even be a he; I am bound by strong oaths of secrecy:
But that I am forbid To tell the secrets of my prison house, I could a tale unfold whose lightest word Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, Thy knotted and combinèd locks to part And each particular hair to stand on end, Like quills upon the fearful porpentine. But this eternal blazon must not be To ears of flesh and blood.
The difference between the original Madame Defarge, and mine, is that the former was on the side of the sansculottes, while mine is definitely on the side of the District Attorney. They do however share a propensity for the guillotine, or at any rate the penitentiary.
This horrible ordeal is nearly over — Monday will be my last day. I’ve had many depressing experiences in life, but this has been one of the few that diminished my faith in human nature.
And I’m not referring here to the defendants, or the DAs or even the cops. There were no, or very few surprises there; the cops and the DAs were what I have long known them to be — despicable but predictable. No, what deeply disappointed me was my fellow jurors, and especially the young ones.
They’re all attractive — well, except for the one with the greasy hair and the bad dandruff and the grating voice, who unfortunately sits right in front of me. With that exception, they’re all personable and clearly quite smart. With no exceptions, they’re utterly brainwashed.
Of course the white kids are much worse in this respect than the black kids. The latter at least have enough mother-wit to be skeptical of police testimony. The white kids swallow it all, hook line and sinker. And they get mad when you suggest any reasons why they shouldn’t.
I wrote a bit earlier about their inability, or unwillingness, to consider facts. They’re also not very happy with logic. For instance:
I’ve noticed a persistent pattern in the charges we’re given. I call it Piling On. For example — a made-up example, I stress, but we heard cases with a family resemblance to this — some dump mope grabs a lady’s handbag, and is arrested thirty seconds later. He still has the handbag, so he gets charged not only with robbery, but with possession of stolen property.
Or a guy gets pulled over for drunk driving. He gets charged not only with drunk driving ‘per se’ — that is, he failed a breathalyzer — but also with common-law drunk driving, because the cop says he could tell the guy was drunk. The common-law statute, of course, antedates breathalyzers and remains on the books, presumably, because you can’t always get a breathalyzer — the driver doesn’t actually have to submit to one, in fact.
Now I tried to explain my dislike of this pattern to my fellow jurors, and this made me even more unpopular than I had been before:
“They’re different laws!”
“It’s two separate charges!”
“He could have thrown the handbag away! But he kept it!”
I appealed to the obvious intent of the statutes, and the idea that they might have actually been intended to cover different things, and that’s why they’re different statutes (e.g., a person being a fence rather than a burglar).
This literally produced howls of execration, taunts about my inadequate education(**) and so on. The idea that we might actually exercise some judgement was, it seemed, quite upsetting and unthinkable.
I actually like most of my fellow jurors, apart from Dandruff, who annoys me immensely, and Madame Defarge, who I think may be the reincarnation of Albert Shanker. Met in any other setting, they would be people I would like to befriend and see more of.
But in this setting they don’t show to advantage. I suppose it’s a testament to the efficacy of indoctrination. It has not escaped my notice that the best-educated are the most slavish.
(*) I simply will not say forewoman, or foreperson; that kind of thing makes my skin crawl.
(**) To wit, my lack of a law degree. Life’s little ironies.