As many of you know, I spent the last two weeks in a Brooklyn criminal courtroom listening to a story unfold. Being on a jury is all about listening to stories. And it's the jury's job to see if there's evidence to support one story above another.
For days and days, I listened to many people tell their version of the same story. We heard from the "victim" and her family, a detective, a cop, and a security representative from a cell phone company .
The defense never called any witnesses. The burden of proof was on
the prosecution to prove that the defendant was guilty. The defense
wanted to keep it simple. He never gave the jury a chance to hear from
Soon into the trial, it became clear that this was a complicated story. And we were going to hear many versions of it. Like the Japanese film, Rashomon, there were many ways to look at the same thing.
Just like fiction, we had our unreliable narrators, and those who know how to spin a tale. We heard from out-and-out liars, and those who tell the whole truth and nothing but...
Sometimes it was hard to tell one from the other. But that was our job: to get as close to the truth as possible.
The lawyers' closing arguments are truly the grand finale. As the defence attorney hammered away at the prosecution's case trying to create as much doubt as possible, he was making eye contact with me constantly. Overall, his speech was effective, though there were moments of hyperbole and psychobabble. It may have gone on too long, but it was a passionate plea for the defendant.
The prosecutor was a real diva. She deserves an Academy Award for her performance during the closing arguments. It was that good. She probably knew that she didn't have the evidence needed for a conviction, so she really had to ham it up and hope for the best.
Was justice served? I think so. I'm still not sure what did and
didn't happen. But the defendent was found to be guilty of endangering
the welfare of a child - and there was evidence to prove that. No one
seemed happy with the results: not the prosecution, not the defence and
surely not the defendant's family sitting int he courtroom. The truth is
complicated, nobody wins.
Being on a jury is an amazing expereince for someone who loves stories. There's high drama and the quiet drama of every day life. It's all about language: exageration, ommission, hyperbole, and undeniable sincerity.
So many voices, so many words. So may ways to spin a few moments in time.
Last night at the Old Stone House, Brooklyn Reading Works presented three excellent storytellers: Carlton Schade, Lauren Yaffe and Sophia Romero. Their stories were engrossing, and interesting; beautifully rendered with well constructed sentences, authentic dialogue, inner life.
More the 60 people showed up at this, our third installment of Brooklyn Reading Works. The next reading is July 21.
What a pleasure it is to hear a story told well.