Thursday, 4 December 2014

ungrounded part 2: THANK YOU FUKKA!

midway through sitting on a jury of a murder trial felt a bit something like this . . . for obvious reasons, i couldn't post this in the moment:

Today, I was awakened at 5:30 am by a violent sneezing attack that felt like an elf had just attempted to give me a nasal lavage with pussy willow fronds.  

Or maybe that was what I was dreaming at the time.  

Nevertheless, it was an unpleasant, itchy throated, heavy headed, nose blowing awakening--until that is--I  put the jug on and looked out my window and saw this view.  Even my legally blind, unspectacled eyes could tell I was beholding something majestic and glasses on and an iphone later, I had this beauty to show for it.  

And thank goodness for glimmers of beauty, because the rawness of my day soon took over and "awe" couldn't be further from what I would experience for its entirety.

You see, ten days ago, I started my first ever stint of civic duty that I had apparently been saving up for my entire life.  My name was chosen to sit on the jury of a lengthy murder trial.  

Today, after the ninth and most grotesque day of testimony (awful vs. awe-full) I sit typing, alone (my husband was out of the country the entire week and part of the first week as well), late at night, as I cannot speak with anyone about anything.  

My body feels like I've been run through a clothes dryer-- sore, banged, bruised; head heavy, soul sad.  

No, I'm not alone.  The members of the jury of all of our peers express their brand of full-on exasperation.  We are spent.

And I can't talk outside that little room about any of the negativity that is being incessantly shoved into my brain every day.  

And words are what I do to cope. 

So here I sit, pecking, literally nauseous at the thought of going back tomorrow and sitting in an unforgiving jury box-- on display to an accused murderer, family and supporters of the victim and everyone that falls in between, all the while, working to stay focused and open-minded.

Two days ago on the way to court on a very busy two-lane thoroughfare there was a school-uniformed teenage girl stuck in the middle of the road, trying to cross and herding a group of five very little ones.  I stopped and motioned them to cross the road, smiling widely at them all and gently pulling away as they started their amble down the side walk.

And I heard it yelled my way.

Thank You Fukka!  

The leader of the group.  The role model.  The one teaching her entourage with every step, word and deed that she makes in their presence, unleashed her branded, very special thank you.

Unable to shake the heavy heart from my verbal gift of (fucking) gratitude, sitting in the parking lot before heading into the morgue-like day ahead of me, I called my native New Zealander friend begging her to tell me that there is a word that sounds like "fucker" in their precious accent and that I had misunderstood. 

Nope, she said.  Sorry.    

As I sit here and type, I realise that those words summarise what this jury experience has felt like.  

There is no interview or logical vetting process in jury selection in New Zealand.  No questions to assess if sitting on a case such as this could be traumatic.  

In the US, I was very familiar with the procedure of potential jurors being interrogated by both attorneys--one at a time-- to assess whether they would have bias or if either the defence or prosecution just didn't feel like they were going to be helpful for their case, they could be dismissed.  I even remember the attorney I was close to attending seminars on "how to pick a jury."  Jury selection can be a lengthy and integral part of the court case.

And now I understand why.

I find it difficult to fathom that we could have abusers and victims of abuse sitting on jury of a trial full of graphic testimony on same and the dear Crown would never have bothered to inquire whether it was in her or our best interest to serve.  As if there is some inherent trust that there was a magical jury mix chosen that have the skills to work such issues out on their own-- without inciting the need for subsequent trial for a violent crime.  

A very big ask.

"Bikkies," coffee and tea are the nutrition offered our bodies, but aside from the sweet demeanour of our lovely crier and the gentle gaze of our judge-- along with him being vigilant about getting us our breaks and dismissed in a timely manner-- it doesn't appear that much thought is put into the bigger picture of what an extended jury stint takes out of the mind-body-spirit of a room full of people and the care that should be given to the choosing and the treatment in those circumstances.

So yep, right now it's fair to say that most, if not all, of the jurors are feeling a bit beat up. Tired.

As we watched person after person get excused from serving on the jury (it seemed mainly from "knowing" someone on the long witness list-- it is New Zealand after all) and as we are held captive from our lives with extended exposure to traumatic testimony I can't help but feel there's a theme running through my week.

Sure we know we are an integral part of the process and our involvement is appreciated on a somebody has to stand up and do this level.  

We don't doubt that those professionals on this case are thankful for a jury such as ourselves and the time we are serving.  

It's not exactly a sincere thank you, but much like my kid-herding friend, a we-appreciate-you-even-though-we-know-we-are-abusing-you kind of thanks.

Thank You Fukka! 

Yep, that feels about right.

Next time I get that little note in the mailbox, if there ever is a next time, I'll be sure to be the one to stand up, take care of myself and plead my own case. 

(ungrounded part 1 can be found HERE and ungrounded part 3--- the final instalment will be coming soon)

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