The Thin Blue Line (dir. Errol Morris) this afternoon, part of an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute class on Morris. I saw this movie—a documentary—many years ago, probably when it was first released, and remember being dismayed at the injustice it portrayed. It was symptomatic of the times, in part (the 1970s, with its culture wars), and the place (Texas), but also: I'm afraid it was and still is symptomatic of our flawed "justice" system.
Which I'd now like to learn more about. I've Googled, and come up with a few books: The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, by journalist Matt Taibbi; The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, by legal scholar William J. Struntz; and The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by legal scholar Michelle Alexander. There are three places to start learning more about this troubling aspect of our society.
I have been called for jury duty a few times; served once. The case had to do with drunk driving and an illegal immigrant (from Brazil) who fled the scene. I was amazed at all the assumptions my fellow jurors made, about what was "reasonable" behavior (especially for a foreigner). I tend to be pretty flexible in my expectations of people, and I felt surrounded in that jury room by walls of brick. I ended up going along with my fellow hard-asses and voting guilty. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" has a short play for some people, and a pretty long one for folks like me . . . I still sometimes regret I didn't have the backbone (or the speaking agility) to argue against the more vocal jurors. Then again: maybe he was guilty. This was not the first jury trial the defendant had had, but the
reasons for the previous cases were suppressed. It was hard for me to
forget that, as we, the jury, deliberated. The whole thing just seemed awfully shady.
The last time I was called for jury duty, I wore my WAG MORE, BARK LESS t-shirt. I like to think that's what got me excused. And now, I work with the Sheriff's Office, which I think gives me an automatic out.
I don't mind civic duty, by any means. But I'm just not convinced that our justice system works. Not that I have any idea what would, or could, work . . .