Issue #2 of Pocket Notes is now available for the world to see. And you are now in the world. The editors, Stacey Tran and Travis Meyer, included 6 pages of my jury notes from a civil trial I served on last fall, and graciously blurred out the names of the innocent. I wrote an introduction for these notes, which I included below.
In October of 2012, I was selected to be a jury member on a two week civil trial in which a young widow was suing a large corporate health care conglomerate for malpractice, inadequate therapy services that she claimed failed to prevent her husband’s suicide. I was excited about the assignment–I was only teaching two days a week, I’d always wanted to serve on a jury, and the prospect of having real power to somehow affect a balance between the powerless and a faceless corporation seemed alluring, especially in the wake of a frustrating winter of Occupy. In the end, I became the foreman, completely invigorated by the level of seriousness of the other jurors, their carefulness and thoughtfulness, their willingness to truly consider, to break from their preconceived narratives and biases, and in general by our system of justice, how someone like me, biking in wet from the rain and wearing an elbow-tattered flannel each day, could be called upon to make a decision for this room full of lawyers in expensive suits with briefcases full of a few year’s worth of thorough research and preparation.
I wasn’t supposed to take my notes home with me. But here they are. I drew each of the witnesses as they took the stand. Witnesses for the plaintiff I drew in blue, and witnesses for the defense Idrew in black–and each of the major points I wanted to consider were also written in those corresponding colors. I learned a lot about litigation and the health care system, but at first I was hoping to use some of the language in the courtroom to write poems. So much of the language was litigious in nature, medical, technical, precise, flat, but a few things squeaked out, like a “fear of not dying,” “a sword in my heart,” “don’t poke that snake,” “I don’t agree with the impossible,” and “could you blow that up please?” In our deliberations, we ultimately sided for the defense, which I’m confident was the correct decision, but it came after a few shouting matches, some of us crying while exorcising some past demons of our relationships with the health care system and depression and suicide. Then half of us went out for whiskey, and I’ll never see any of these people ever again.