I can now officially talk about the case.

The story is all too familiar. A impoverished man is hauled away on a drunk driving charge by police with scanty evidence; all of which begs the question of racial profiling and shady police work. Why were field sobriety tests not conducted on the scene? Why did senior officers stand by and do nothing? Before testifying, did the police make sure to collaborate their stories?

When deliberating, the weight bearing on a juror is immense. Will I wrongfully send someone to jail or will this same person be set free only to do more damage than before?

In the end I do feel that ‘justice’, insofar as one defines justice within our current system, was served.

There’s much to think about after serving on a jury for a criminal trial, but one moment of the case stands out. Upon the judge’s reading of the verdict, the defense counsel stands with the defendant. She gently prompts him to stand as well and offers another of her reassuring smiles that I had grown found of seeing throughout the trial. He then stands, faces the judge and tries to look as strong and stoic as he can. His face has a look of one who has been through this before; of one who knows what it’s like to stand before someone else who holds your fate in their hands. Upon hearing “not guilty” to the first charge, she smiles and turns to him, while he almost looks confused but happy nonetheless. The second verdict is read, “guilty.” She now stands stoic herself and he simply stares ahead as he has done before. He does not seem angry, nor does he seem sad. And that is it. The jury are then marched out of the room.

It was the second charge that broke my heart. So badly did I want mercy, a mercy that trumps the scales of blind lady justice. As melodramatic as it sounds, I did see Christ standing there, “Christ on trial,” as Rowan Williams has spoken about. Christ, before his accusers, his bare humanity exposed, poor, broken, at the complete mercy of the forces of the state.

I also saw Christ in the defense counsel, as one standing for the oppressed. The reassuring smiles she would from time to time give the man; the gentle touch on the arm that helped to calm him. I wondered how grateful this poor man must have felt that although he hadn’t the money for a private lawyer, he had this very kind woman to stand with him. Not some incompetent rookie or has-been, but someone who seemed to truly love justice and mercy. Upon hearing the “not guilty” charge, the smile on her face was a smile that betrayed this very fact. She didn’t seem concerned about “winning the case,” as it were. The smile was one of true joy; the very smile that arises on one’s face when one sees that justice has been met.

But what about St. Basil?

In a sermon called, “I Will Tear Down My Barns,” Basil offers a homily about the rich, who instead of distributing their surplus wealth, hoard out of an unnatural desire to possess what is naturally common. Basil, like most, if not all of the Fathers, claims that if you have more than you need, you are in fact stealing from the poor or something much worse. Basil states,

“But whom do I treat unjustly,” you say, “by keeping what is my own?” Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theatre, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all in common – this is what the rich do. They seize common goods before others have the opportunity, then claim them as their own by right of preemption. For if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, and no one would be in need.”

“This is what the rich do.” They take again and again, and will go to great and shameful lengths to protect what they have hoarded. And in their wake stands the defendant. He is a broken and poor man. He has only four teeth left in his mouth and his body, that was once strong, is now failing him. He seems confused, asking, “why can’t I join you in the theatre? There is plenty of room and I am in need.” “Go outside,” they reply, “go to the fields, go to garbage heaps; there you will find what is your due.”

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