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In July of 1996, Jay Levine sat on the jury of a small criminal case in New York City. It involved two separate yet equally important groups: The police, who investigated the crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecuted the offenders. These are their stories. DUN DUN!

Jury Duty i (10/15)

July 8, 1996

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This could well be the day of reckoning, of finality. That is, the case to be decided thus. Anyway, the testimony on Wednesday progressed as predictably as it could have with DA drawing out the probity of his witness (Shahini) and Mr. Frankel doing his best to undermine it. The witness himself is a somewhat pathetic Pakistani character w/serious lack of confidence and not negligible challenges with the language. So when DA Hayes attempted to elicit that oh-so-important description of the perps, all Shahini could come up with was a muttered repetition of the same [My Lord! Shahini himself just walked right past the bench where I’m sitting! What timing.] dim factors: “I told them. One was… taller and the other was more… built up.” This last quality accompanied by a subtle shrugging of his own not-at-all-built-up shoulders.

The case itself is simple: Family of Asians progressing up B-Way at 28th Street. Moore and Lucky come up behind. Moore breaks left, bumps Asian gentleman on left, all others turn to see the disturbance, meanwhile Lucky snakes his hand into the far right front pocket of the man on the far right, removes, “…a flash of… could be money.” Both perps break for the subway, Shahini left to attempt to reassure and calm the victims who remained, according to him, in shock, but then soon left, never to be seen again. Shahini, virtuous citizen that he is, felt called upon to pursue the case to conclusion.

But what conclusion can that be? Case should, by all rights, be decided and concluded today, perhaps soon. In my irrelevant, alternate, eyes: not much to decide. Shahini has already proved vague at best. Inarticulate, unsure. At one point he said he identified Lucky to the officers (at this point he was near desperate to produce some quality beyond “taller”… Hayes was pushing hard for something…. Everyone cringing at the discomfort of it all) and Shahini said: “He was… less black.”

“You mean, more light-skinned?” clarified Hayes, no doubt agonizing + kicking himself even as he uttered the words. Because there, right there, at the defendants table, sat Lucky + Moore: two of the blackest residents of NYC – and definitely indistinguishable in hue from each other. This was a cinematic moment: Shahini caught in a clear contradiction, and I’m sure both Frankel + Dwyer (especially Dwyer – Lucky’s attorney) would have leapt to expose it, had this been a movie. Unfortunately there were no quick cuts and DA Hayes was allowed to drone on + on in an attempt to deflect or negate the mistake or else bury it forever beneath layers of legal garbage.

But today Dwyer should have her opportunity to cross-examine, and I would be VERY surprised if she did not retrieve that tidbit of discrepancy for further review.

But even w/o the assistance of stumbles and blunders, does Hayes have a case? Shahini has more than ½ admitted that he doesn’t, really, know what, if anything, came out of the (ripped?) pocket. A flash of money, he thinks. Well, “thinks” sure isn’t enough to convict a man. What if he pulled out nothing? Was a crime committed? Is it a crime to tuck your hand into another’s pocket, briefly? What if he pulled out a dirty kerchief? Is that 2nd degree burglary/larceny? What if he took $1 dollar? Is it the same crime as $100 dollars? What if he put something IN the pocket? These are confusing questions and ones which probably will never be answered, at least not by our judge, not to us.

So it’s 10am, Monday morning. I just heard a rumor that juror #5 AND alternate #1 (Dennis) are not present. That means that if they don’t arrive, I would be in. I don’t know how I feel about that. Odds are, one or the other will still come. If not…

So now we sit and wait for the “crying of Part 49” (as I have begun to refer to it). Rather amusing, that: we are Part 49 and when the security leads us in, he calls out: “…” Well I don’t know what, exactly, he says, but it sounds remarkably akin to: “Calling Lot 49!” And any Pynchonesque reference is appreciated by me.

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