Monday, November 15, 2010

Innocent until proven guilty~

I recently sat in an overheated courtroom with seventy-five prospective jurors waiting to be called to fill twelve seats, but most hoping to go home. As the judge read the charges there were audible gasps from many of the jurors, angry shakes of the head, disgusted faces. I too recoiled inwardly—it was an ugly crime: "rape of a child with force," and  "assault on a retarded person."

When introduced, the defendant stood and turned to face us, expressionless as coached, lest we judge the curve of his mouth or the level of an eyebrow. We are primed, each of us, to read subtle facial and body language cues. We often form a first impression in seconds. While we may come to change that impression in time, it's not easy. First impressions are potent.

There is a definite prejudice against those accused of crime, studies show. There's an initial presumption of guilt. After all, people think, this person has been arrested, he's been charged, and he's sitting in court with a lawyer, for Pete's sake.

Several times the judge reminded us of that most basic tenet of criminal law: a defendant is innocent until proven guilty.

While waiting through the lengthy voir dire, the tension was palpable. One person after another was excused from serving on the jury.  On their way out, most walked past the defendant without looking at him, but several gave him a dark look, a glare that said, "What a nasty beast you are."

Right now he's innocent, I reminded myself as I waited. For this day, at least, he's innocent. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt to a moral certainty."

By the end of the day, eight jurors were selected from the pool. I was one of them. The jury was filled the next day, and we settled into our seats to hear the details of the case.

After two days of testimony it became apparent to the dozen of us that there was no evidence that could convince us to convict this young man.

"Not guilty on both counts," was our verdict.

The defendant let go his expressionless demeanor and put his face in his hands and cried. So did his mother. And in the privacy of the juror's room, so did a juror or two.

It's so easy to form an opinion based on any number of things other than the actual evidence. So human…and so dangerous.  And yet, could this young man have actually "done something" as one of the jurors wondered as we were deliberating?


Of course. But there was nothing to prove it beyond a shadow of doubt. As for me, I don't think there was even a shadow.
---

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm a calendar girl!

I'm a calendar girl four times over! Ms. January, Ms. July, Ms. September, and Ms. November. 


Ooh la la!


Not exactly me (of course!), but my photos. *Four were chosen in a photo contest by the Taunton River Watershed Association for their first ever calendar.


I'm happy to be part of an organization that works hard to protect the local watershed.
*My photos  are #3, #5, #6, and #10.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Simplifying~


It's strange how the mind works. There's a stream of subconscious memories flowing continuously beneath our radar that influences us think or do things for reasons we're often unaware of.

When I downloaded this picture to my computer, my mind jumped back forty decades to when I was in college and worked as a cashier in J.M. Fields--a department store that has long since gone out of business.

I had a reputation among the various department managers as someone who could restore order from chaos, as in: refolding and organizing a customer-mussed pile of baby clothes, rearranging cups, plates, and wine glasses on the shelves in the housewares department, and folding bras—some with cups big enough to fit my head—and organizing them by size. Not rocket science, but an inherently pleasurable task making things neat is.

The long-ago praise from managers, so rare in jobs like that, still comes to mind when I'm organizing something--a kitchen cabinet, a sock drawer, a piece of writing—and for some reason, this photo made me think of it yet again.

This photo "neatens up" the tangled thicket of grasses, vines, and shrubs, pulling the important things (to me) to the fore, and downplaying the rest.


That's part of the lure of photography. Out of the myriad of things that assault the eyes and compete for attention, I can focus on one and pull a single image out of the clutter, one simple shot from among the millions I could have taken.

An inherently pleasurable thing to do.
-----

Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. ~Albert Einstein