New - 22 September 2008
We the Jury, a novel:
Three days later, Jack and Lin Sue were outside of Jack’s home in a car driven by Lin Sue. Other than the signs of their previous visitation, there was no crowd of demonstrators on Jack’s front lawn… in fact, nary a soul. Mob oriented people are often a fickle crowd. They come and go… depending entirely upon the short-term entertainment value of whatever they’re protesting, urging, or claiming that they were sick and tired of and weren’t going to take it anymore!
Lin Sue pulled the car into Jack’s driveway and stopped. She turned off the ignition and turned to look at Jack. Her companion took her hand, holding it at seat level. For a moment they smiled in a vain attempt to be lighthearted.
“You’re okay with this, right?”
Lin Sue shrugged. “Do I have a choice?”
“I just can’t dump it without....”
“I understand... You told me. And I really do understand. I don’t like it, but I understand it’s necessary.”
Jack looked at Lin Sue for a moment, his smile turning to a grimace.
As Jack walked into the kitchen, Terri met him in the kitchen, her facial expression shifting from surprise, to a fleeting relief, to a more permanent scowl.
“Where have you been?”
“I told you on the telephone…”
“You told me you had to stay away the night of the verdict. Fine. But it’s been three days, Jack!”
“It was necessary for things to calm down first.”
“And you think now maybe it’s okay? Jesus, Jack! What were you thinking? What do you think was going on in my mind?”
“I can’t imagine. And yes, as a matter of fact… I am home and I did not have a nice day.”
“Do you realize what you’ve done? We were set for life… all your dreams of retiring early. You just tossed them away!”
“It wasn’t by choice.”
“Then what? Couldn’t you have warned me? Given me a chance to get away from this house and those… monsters in the yard? Weren’t we supposed to make these kinds of decisions together?”
“Terri, this was not a career move.”
“Are you kidding? Career? Your career just ended. Business had been up once I had begun telling everyone you were on the jury. People couldn’t wait to come in and spend money! It was like they wanted a piece of the action, some way to say how they respected and admired you. That, of course, was before they saw you let the murderers get off Scot free.
Jack was stunned. “You told our customers I was on the jury?”
“I told everyone I could find that you were on the jury. But then the day of the verdict, I had to hide in the office. We had to close down and lock the doors. Suddenly, there were all sorts of accidents. Plants falling over, vases toppling off shelves… and a lot of laughing.”
“If it’s vandalism, we have insurance.”
“Oh, it’s quite a bit more than that. They burned it down, Jack. The whole damn business, they burned it to the ground. ”
“Good Lord! Did you call Lawrence?”
“Of course, I did. And who knows, the insurance may actually even pay for some of the damages… but I wouldn’t count on it. And I wouldn’t expect any settlement to be made in the short term. It turns out that your buddy… actually your former buddy… Lawrence said there might have to be an investigation… perhaps a lengthy one. Meanwhile, Jack… Tell me: If they run you out of town on a rail, do you have insurance for that too? Do you realize that the business… or anything else we might have… or that you think you might have here… do you understand that it’s all down the drain? Can you possibly comprehend that?”
“Eventually, it’s going to blow over.”
“You have got to be kidding! There are people out there screaming for your blood. People don’t forget! Hate is something they can carry for generations."
For a moment, Jack just stood there. Then Terri looked back into the room at the TV, which could be faintly heard. Then she turned back to him.
“Were you under some kind of pressure to acquit them? Were you threatened?”
“No,” Jack answered, surprised. “Why?”
“There’s been some reports on the television about some possible jury manipulation or… tampering.”
“You’re kidding,” Jack exclaimed.
“Wait a minute,” Terri said.
Terri went into the living room and Jack followed. They looked at the report that showed Veer being interviewed.
“I, myself, didn’t experience anything like that. But I suspect some of the other jurors may have been contacted by strictly unauthorized sources.”
“But you voted not guilty. The verdict had to be unanimous.”
“Yes, I did,” Veer answered calmly, his lawyer behind him maintaining the traditional poker face. “I did so because I could see that nothing could come of it otherwise. A hung jury wasn’t going to help anybody. Besides, I knew if the State indictment didn’t result in a guilty verdict, there was always the Federal trial against the defendants for denying the victims their civil rights. I felt it would be better to allow that to proceed as soon as possible.”
Jack turned off the television, his voice coarse and disgusted.
“Shit! I didn’t even hear the cock crow once!”
Several of the jurors had lined up to pay the forty marks while the Lord Mayor and Robinson looked on. A few were still in the process of receiving money from various spectators -- most of whom appeared to be family members. Edward, along with Jack, Charlie and Duke, had remained in the jury box, the latter three looking to Edward for the next move.
Edward then spoke up. “Your Honor, forty marks constitutes for most of these men, half a year’s earnings.”
Starling smirked in reply. “Perhaps they should have considered that before their open rebellion in my Court.”
“I, on the other hand, have considerable wealth, a prosperous shipping firm, and I could easily pay the forty marks, even four hundred and eighty marks for the entire jury. Such a loss would be far less than my continued absence from my business.”
“Then perhaps,” Starling replied, a certain degree of cynicism in his voice, “I can increase everyone’s fine on your behalf.”
The other jurors, with the exception of Charlie, Jack and Duke, all looked at Edward with horror and dismay as they followed the intercourse with the Lord Mayor.
Edward then said, “I will not pay regardless. My liberty is not for sale. To pay anything would emasculate everything we’ve done. It would be a form of apologizing for acting in good conscience.”
Starling almost laughed. Perhaps the Lord Mayor was not yet beaten; he could still inflict pain and suffering! “Then you, Sir, will taste the fruits of prison… along with any others who refuse to pay.”
Edward, Jack, Charlie, and Duke all maintained their ground, while the others finished paying. Three of the last jurors to leave looked back at the four holdouts and then disappeared into the crowd.
Starling took a deep breath. “So be it!”
The Lord Mayor nodded to the Bailiff, then rose and exited, with the ever-following Robinson quickly following suit. The Bailiff, smiling cynically, then approached the four holdouts.
“Gentlemen! Allow me to escort you to Newgate. I trust you will find your stay an eventful one.”
As the four exited with police on all sides, the Bailiff grinned sadistically.
Lola, looking like hell (apparently having aged another ten years), slowly came out of her bedroom into the kitchen. She hesitated and looked around to see if anyone else was there. Then she began to creep toward the refrigerator. A brick came through the window with a note tied to it. Lola screamed at the sound and fell to her knees, weeping uncontrollably, her whole body shaking.
The well-dressed and thoroughly distinguished looking gentleman entered into the chambers of Sir John Vaughan, Chief Justice of Common Pleas. An aide was holding the door open. Seconds before the gentleman stepping over the threshold, the aide announced, “Sir Richard Newdigate, your Honor.”
Sir Vaughan stood up to come around and greet his visitor.
“Richard. What a pleasure to see you again.”
“And you, John, as well.”
“But in my official chambers? I thought you were retired; that you had had enough of being a Chief Justice under Cromwell.”
“My retirement has never prevented me from championing the people’s liberties.”
“Ah, yes… the Penn trial.”
“Precisely. I wish to argue the case before your Court.”
Vaughan hesitated. “I sympathize, of course, but the Court of Common Pleas is, as you well know, a civil court. This is a criminal matter and surely must be argued before the Court of King’s Bench. Besides, didn’t they get a not guilty verdict?”
“The original trial was, of course, a criminal one. But the imposition of fines and the subsequent refusal to pay them was not based on any criminal activity, but upon a civil act.”
“I think you may be stretching the point. But I can’t say I’m reluctant to ignore your plea.”
“Then you’ll do it?”
“It will take some time, Richard. We will have to build an unassailable case.”
“As always, I’m at your disposal.”
Art, as was his custom, was broadcasting live from his remote station. An ever expanding audience of listeners to his late night discussions were seldom aware of his preference for his dessert home, and the ease with which he was still able to communicated nationwide. This was due in large part to the ever-increasing stay-at-home and commute by electronics. Ah, the wonders of the technological age: space and time being continually reduced to miniscule proportions. Computers were truly defeating its archenemy of Commuting.
Another of Art’s customs was to initiate his conversations with well-known guests with a smattering of his own views. This allowed Art, the consummate show man, to set the tone for everything else, and at the same time adhere to the assumption that in most communications: the truth is often assumed to be what a listener hears first. Any later versions would be far less likely to get a reasonable foothold in the average person’s mind.
This was one of those nights when it was very important for Art to ensure that the tenor of the conversation was well established.
“By now, many of you may have already heard that one of the jurors who acquitted Bill Pense and Billy Matson of one of the most horrific crimes in U. S. history has been found dead in her home. Initial reports have indicated that Lola Tinsle committed suicide, allegedly because of the media and other pressure she was experiencing following the verdict. Other reports have suggested she may have been the victim of foul play.
“I would agree with the latter… regardless of whether she took her own life or not. The media, the press and public opinion have been vociferous in their condemnation of the juror’s verdicts. I for one, while not yet agreeing with the jurors, would say to each of you that at the very least we must respect the stand they have taken, even if we disagree with them. We have to give them credit for doing what they think was just. The media has, of course, suggested that there were undue pressures by the jurors on this unfortunate lady. But I have to wonder if perhaps the pressure being applied was media pressure after-the-fact, and that the media’s current position is somewhat self-serving. I rather suspect some of you listeners may be disagreeing with me on this, or may be agreeing with me -- I’m not sure which would scare me more. But we already have a caller on the line, so let’s hear from them. Good morning, you’re live and on the air.”
“The media has always been a scapegoat for you flaming radicals! Why don’t you get a clue and admit that maybe, just maybe you don’t know it all.”
“Thank you, Dan Rather. Or whoever you are. Sorry you hung up. It might have been interesting to talk to you… learn what exactly happened to your Neanderthal brethren. Okay… Caller number two, you’re live and on the air.”
“I don’t know that I agree with Dan Rather … or whoever that was… but there may be a thread of truth in it.”
“Where are you from, dear lady?”
“Stacy from Denver.”
“Ah, yes… the scene of the crime!”
“It’s worse than that. I work in downtown Denver and I got to see the circus outside the courtroom every day the court was in session. The undue pressure everyone is talking about was probably from the demonstrators… much more than the media.”
“The media had been pretty clear in its condemnation of the defendants.”
“Maybe so, but the jury was isolated from the media… weren’t they? Well I can tell you for certain that the jurors certainly weren’t isolated from the demonstrators screaming for blood, the families of the victims pleading for restitution -- however they could get it.”
“But don’t you think the families deserve some sort of compensation?”
“No more than any other lynch mob.”
“Then you agree with the juror’s verdict?”
“I don’t have a verdict. I wasn’t on the jury. I didn’t hear all of the evidence.”
“Well said. Thanks for calling.”
“Ah, yes,” Art continued, “the voice of reason. It does sometime happen here. Okay, caller number three, you’re live and on the air.”
“Fred in Oregon, Art. Regular listener.”
“Hopefully that’s good.”
“Are you aware of Congressman’s Bratton’s latest brainchild?”
“Can’t say that I am. Care to enlighten us?”
“Lester Bratton, the Congress’ latest answer to McCarthyism is now running off at the mouth claiming that laws are needed to better… and I quote, ‘focus the jury’s attention on the results of their decisions.’ He goes on to ask how any jury can be qualified to judge in complicated cases and on difficult legal issues. He figures that’s the role of the judge! And that… again I’m quoting, ‘the jury must restrict itself to legal authority; not go off on its own wild tangent.’ What do you think about that?
“Who boy! I think we’re in real trouble.”
Sir Vaughan sat behind the bench of the Court of Common Appeals.
“After two months of deliberation and exhaustive research, I am hereby taking the clearest position I have ever taken, both for the law and for the sake of reason. The power of the jury to determine its verdict, free and untrammeled, is supreme. No Court can dictate a verdict. The evidence could not be ‘clear and manifest’ if it did not appear so to the jury. Acquittal by jury is absolute.”
Art was on the air, now reading from several sheets of paper.
“The decision by Sir John Vaughan came after nine painful weeks of hearings, legal maneuverings, and finally the Court writing its lengthy opinion. The four jurors, Edward Bushell, John Bailey, Charles Milson, and John Hammond were during this time suffering the degrading brutality and sadistic jailers of the infamous Newgate Prison. Sir John had been more or less predisposed to his decision, but it had been necessary to cite many cases in order to build a foundation for the precedent. On November 9, 1670, the Conventicle Act fell; William Penn and William Mead were freed and never to be brought to trial again. The Magna Carta and twelve men had struck a decisive blow for freedom. Bushell and the others were released on habeas corpus, the first such writ ever issued by the Court of Common Pleas. And inasmuch as the Quakers had been meeting in an orderly fashion, the jury also set the precedence of the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech.”
Jack was laying his hang-up clothes in the truck of her car, while Lin Sue carried a small plant from her Denver apartment. The car radio was on and the voice of Art could be heard.
“By their courageous stand, these twelve people demonstrated that one of the strongest powers in government is in the jury room. Punishment of jurors for returning verdicts manifestly against the wishes of the Court was and continued to be a common occurrence. Such had for a time actually been authorized by statute. For example, the London jurors who acquitted Sir Nicholas Throckmartin in 1554 of high treason were fined five hundred pounds each -- a fortune in those days -- and sent to prison.”
Art stopped reading, his voice changed. “Well, I suppose it’s encouraging that we’re still not sending them to prison.”
Jack and Lin Sue exchanged glances, both with a expression of extreme chagrin. Lin Sue leaned against the open door.
“I suppose I got off easy. I’m only banished from society. You lost your business and your home.”
Jack shrugged. “Terri just couldn’t bear the thought that I had blown an opportunity to write a best-seller. She even took back her maiden name, so as not to ever be associated with me again.”
“Her maiden name?”
Jack smiled and shook his head. Lin Sue set her plant in a small box in the back seat already filled with boxes, clothes and luggage. She also reached in and turned off the radio that was at the moment broadcasting a commercial message for survival equipment.
“I hope you don’t mind. I wanted to turn the radio off for now. I don’t want to wake anyone in the middle of the night.”
“Maybe in a few years, the tide will turn and we’ll be seen as people who did their duty.”
Lin Sue stopped and looked at him for a moment. She was smiling, her hands coming up to rest on her hips. She shook her head.
“Sometimes, you’re so cute in your thinking. Just don’t hold your breath, Jack. The feds are going to try them all over again, convict them this time, and the public lynch mob will finally have their bloodbath.”
“Isn’t that double jeopardy?”
“Hey,” Lin Sue shrugged, “It’s been done before. Besides, such legal niceties don’t carry a lot of weight when it comes to an immense media campaign, backed by public pressure. They’re also claiming now that they’ve just realized that two federal officers were supposedly included in the explosions. Their death guarantees another trial. Especially when the first one ends up in an acquittal.”
“Well, I don’t think we’ll be called as jurors in the Feds case.”
“Outcasts usually aren’t called, period. That’s why they’re outcast.”
Jack closed the trunk, and looked around. Nothing was left on the ground or alongside the car. He smiled and got into the driver’s side, while Lin Sue got into the passenger side. He was about to start the car… when he hesitated.
“We did the right thing, didn’t we? We upheld our honor?”
“Yes, we did. And you know what? I find the idea rather exciting. This honor bit has begun to get my juices flowing, if you know what I mean.”
Jack turned to look at Lin Sue, a broad grin appearing on his face, as if he suspected that there might be rewards – especially the less than honorable kind -- for such courageous decisions… not to mention, honorable.
“You want to wait until we get out of town?”
“Why? Did you want to do it in an open field or something?”
Jack just grinned and started the car. With a laugh from Lin Sue, the car pulled away.
COURT IS ADJOURNED
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