The gent shown above got a lot of convictions. I am surprised that his portrait does not hang, as an encouragement to up-and-coming assistant DAs, in the offices of Cyrus Vance, Junior, son of Jimmy Carter’s secretary of state. Junior is now the Manhattan DA, having replaced the unspeakable and nearly perennial Robert Morgenthau (who of course was the son of FDR’s wartime secretary of the treasury). Seems to be kind of a Duchy Of Cambridge, the DA’s office.
I am now, being a grand juror in New York County, an unpaid employee of the honorable Mr Vance, or so his paid understrappers seem to think. These ADAs are a very arrogant and unamiable bunch, for the most part, though there have been one or two exceptions.
I never liked prosecutors, and after four days on a grand jury, I like ’em even less.
They hate it that we common folk have any say at all in the indictment process. They do everything in their power to restrict our access to information. They get furious — they start to slam books down on the table, and use intemperate language — if we ask questions they don’t like. They insist — though I don’t believe they have any legal basis for this — that we whisper our questions for the witness in their ear, and then they decide whether to ask them or not. They refuse to pass on questions whose answers might tend to be exculpatory.
I asked such a question the other day, and the result was Beckettian: the ADA stood speechless for a good minute, then scurried away and consulted with another ADA. Their conversation took another four or five minutes. Meanwhile the witness is sitting there, looking like an egg slowly frying on a hot sidewalk.
Finally the ADA asked a question, but it was not the question I had asked, and the way it was phrased gave the witness a very clear signal as to what the answer should be.
This happens over and over. It is invading my dreams. Kafka, thou shouldst be living at this hour.
What’s even more interesting is my fellow common folks’ reaction to all this insanity. But that’s a subject for another post.