Monday, October 16, 2006

I Know How the Reservists Feel

Back to the feast for the eyes at yesterday's street fair. These are African baskets -- some one has ordered them in non-traditional pastels Aren't they pretty?

Then there was the eye popping opulence of this table of semi-precious gems. I think, but wouldn't swear, the lapis lazuli is real. I'm not at all sure about the authenticity of the turquoise. Really, if you're just looking and not buying, who cares. The Pharoahs of Egypt loved these stones. They still are among the favorites of not only native peoples but of such pseudo-rustics as Ralph Lauren.

Arriving at the court building for jury duty this morning we jurors found just getting into the building a challenge. A crowd, orderly but large enough to almost block the entrance was visible from half a block away. I'm still not sure what they were there to do, but the reason was the sentencing of Lynn Steward, the former lawyer for Sheik Rachman who passed information on to his colleagues. She has been convicted for aiding terrorism. Ms. Steward is in her late sixties, has breast cancer, and faced a possible 30 year sentence. -- All that was only peripherally known to me when I worked my way through the crowd to the guard at the door and told him I was on a grand jury.
He put me in a line that moved slowly. The guards at the x-ray and metal detectioin machine were in full tyrany mode, scrutinizing everything in purses and bags, wanding people, making everyone check all electronic devices. The guards are mostly retirees who have taken the jobs that give them a uniform and a modicum of authority that they weild well beyond any necessity. One regularly opens the top on my cup of coffee ... I presume he wonders if I'm hiding a hand gernade. The general paranoia in American public places will someday be the subject of satire.
Once in the jury room we were greeted with official letters ... NOT saying thank you very much for 18 months of selfless service [as 4 or 5 of the group have already rendered] but saying, you've been extended until, at least, April 18th, 2007. Yes, they CAN do that, just like the military can, and do, call up reservists for duty in Iraq. We were not greatly surprised, Conjecture had been that we would be extended. As if to prove how valuable we are we heard two long presenatons about complex cases that have been appearing before this jury off and off for more than a year -- they're brought back for superceding indictments when enough new evidence is gathered for new charges.
When we left the crowd was still doing vigil outside. At home I heard on the news the judge gave Ms. Steward 27 months, a light sentence that, in light of her age and medical problems, seemed reasonable. So there was drama inside and out -- a part of public life I'd know nothing about if I weren't on this jury
So it seems I will be seeing these people through the winter. It's not Iraq ... it's only lower Manhattan. ... When I have the butterflies ready for hand embroidery for the possible show quilt, I wonder if the guards will let me take in needles and thread ... No scissors, I presume, but threaded needles might be possible. We'll see.

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