Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What I've learned

Today marks the end of the first month of grand jury, completing one-third of my commitment. I'm not at all sorry I agreed to do it and I've learned a lot, including:
  • how to find the courthouse downtown and how to park without getting tickets
  • all the acronyms and abbreviations used by the criminal legal system--I guess every profession has its own code
  • how pervasive the old myths are surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault
  • what happens to someone when they get shot at very, very close range
  • how incredibly intricate good police work is and how impressive the people are who do it
  • how much of police work is attributable to good luck
  • how easy it is to subtly influence peoples' opinions based on the words you use to describe the crime or the defendant
  • the reason that a defendant's prior arrests and convictions are excluded from most trials
  • the enormous power that a grand jury has to indict under almost any circumstances, even absent a request from the district attorney (although I'm sure it's almost never used)
  • how incredibly stupid people can be and how dearly they can pay for it
  • how pervasive the scourge of illegal drugs is and the high, high toll they take from our society
  • how complex group dynamics are and how simplistic they appear
  • why every psychology student taking a social psychology course should serve on the grand jury instead
  • how hard it is for me to make a quick decision

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


C woke up yesterday morning with a black eye! I left before I saw him, so he called me about midmorning and said, "Did you punch me in the eye last night?" I said, "No!" but then I started thinking about it and wondered if maybe . . . Surely not . . .
Anyway, he looks like he just got clobbered, with a big purple spot below his left eye. I'm blaming the blood thinners.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

This just in!

Overnight, a backyard shed caught on fire! Emergency crews responded and put it out! No one was hurt!

I love living in a place where this is the lead story on the morning news : )

Saturday, April 12, 2008

May the force be with you

Last night, we watched Star Wars with Boo--a movie she considers one of her favorite "old movies." For us, of course, the movie is not only about Han Solo and Luke and Leia but about our growing up. What movies are on your list of films that you remember in vivid detail? These are the ones that evoke memories--where you sat in the theater and who you sat with, the awe at the special effects, maybe, or the emotional impact of the plot. I saw Star Wars for the first time at a movie theater near Fort Worth, where my movie-averse Grandmama took me while I was staying with her for a week in the summer. I remember how the special effects were like nothing I'd ever seen before--like magic and how the story and the music made my heart soar. That was 32 years ago and last night, my heart still soared. I hope Boo's did too.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Date Night

For two weeks, C has been telling me to block off a night (last night, actually) for a date night, mostly because he has been working a lot or one of us has been traveling and we haven't had much time together. Last night, he took me out to eat downtown and as the waitress was clearing our dishes, she said, "So, are you guys going to the show tonight? It seems like everyone here is going to see Ray Romano." As I was about to say, "No, I don't think so," C winked at me. Even though we often go to concerts or plays, we had never been to hear a comedy show and it was so much fun! Romano's show is mostly about observations on life, especially relationships. His riff on "vacation sex" vs. "home sex" almost made me cry and his observations about falling asleep at the wheel were hilarious.

So, if you've got a long-time sweetie and it's been awhile since you've had a leisurely evening together, it's time to plan a date night. Have fun!

Monday, April 7, 2008

One in a hundred

If you had asked me what nation of the world had the greatest number of its civilians incarcerated, I would have immediately guessed China. I would have guessed China partly because of its vast population and partly because of its totalitarian government. I would have guessed wrong.

The most recent statistics show that one percent of Americans are in either in a county jail, a state prison or a federal penetentiary. That means that one out of every one hundred of us is behind bars. That doesn't even begin to cover all of us that are on probation or parole or are awaiting a trial.

Whether you count the number of incarcerated Americans as a discrete number or as a percentage of population, the U.S. is ahead of every other nation of the world. It's not even close.

There is something very wrong here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My latest adventure

Today is my first day to serve as a Travis County grand juror. I received the summons about a month ago but knew that I probably wouldn't be chosen. On Monday, I went to the courthouse and found out that I was juror number 13, pretty much guaranteeing my selection. I am now grand juror number nine. Orientation was yesterday and today we begin hearing cases for the first time. It's a pretty fascinating process. I could have gotten out of it, I think, but didn't for several reasons. For one thing, I figure that this is the only time in the near future that I will be able to do something like this and for another, I figure it's part of being an American.

But there's more to it, for me at least. For years now, I've been learning and teaching about cityreaching--which includes the idea that God's people have an obligation to work for the good of the place in which they live, even in exile, as we see in Jeremiah 29. I tend to live a pretty insular life and I'm hoping that seeing the city through the somewhat wider lens of the criminal justice system will be helpful.

Yesterday, we had an orientation with the ADA who did a great job of helping everyone understand that just because something is a sin doesn't mean it is a crime and even encouraged the grand jury to "no bill" in any situation where evidence is insufficient. That surprised me--I assumed that the bias would be the other way.

I also enjoyed noticing that the grand jury I'm serving on is the most diverse group of people that I've been with in years. I made a crack last night that they are diverse in every way except age (I'm the youngest person in the room) but then I realized that if I am 43, there is probably a 45 year age range in the room, so I guess that's its own kind of diversity. : )

The ADA told us yesterday that the one thing she could promise us was that we would never be able to watch "Law and Order" the same way again.