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Archive for July, 2011

Note to self: next funeral you attend look around for visual markers. How far is the burial plot from the granite bench? The mausoleum, the white structure—anything? If you do not, I promise you will not go back in the rain, carrying an umbrella and the deceased’s favorite yellow roses and find her in less than half an hour. I know, I know, you aren’t thinking about that when you are burying your friend, but location will become important later. Trust me.

 

In the old days, stones were creative, artistic, monumental, or just small and respectful, but they were unique and easier to spot than flat granite and bronze plaques. You can’t stand in one spot and scour the horizon for a name or shape. No, you must walk in the wet grass clippings, and dare I say it, walk on graves. You try not to, but the head and foot of the gravesite become merged into the next occupant. Finally, I’m ashamed to admit, you just wander without regard to tradition.

 

You are so clever at first. You look for two stones, one for her, one for her husband. When that is fruitless, you look for a spot missing a stone by an older plaque because there has not been long enough to put a new one for your friend. Finally, moist and hot from the misty rain, you just wander. You even call your friend’s name and say, “Damn, it Gloria, where are you?” Then you see a wide stone with her last name spread across, her husband’s name on one side with dates and hers on the other without. One large stone was not even in your bag of tricks, but there it is. So you call the friend who came with you and the two of you finally plant the roses in a vase. You fuss at your deceased friend a bit for hiding and messing with your head as she was prone to do, wish her Happy Birthday and recall what a kooky, special person she was.

 

All the while, you are making a mental map for next time, where to stop, which tree to line up with, how far in to go – what you should have done at the funeral had you been thinking straight. So this is fair warning. Heed it or not. And if you do, you have my admiration. If not, I might see you wandering out there among the flat grave stones.

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I was once one of two holdouts on a felony jury. In another felony trial I was among the eleven who agreed. Presentation of those trials took hours and we had to return the next day to finish hearing evidence on at least one. The witness list was in the teens in the Federal case, two or three on the other. Our deliberation took almost as long as the trial, half a day at least each time. Both were years ago, so my times aren’t exact. My point is the proportion of time hearing testimony to time deliberated was about equal. The Casey Anthony trial lasted about six weeks. The jury deliberated eleven hours.

 

In the trial where I was a holdout I was certain the defendant was guilty, but so much conflicting testimony and alternate theories were presented that I could not be sure. I had reasonable doubt that the crime might have been perpetrated by another. So we talked, and talked, and talked. Finally another juror recalled testimony he thought pointed undisputedly to the defendant. I had not heard that. Neither had the other holdout. We asked the court clerk to let us see the testimony, thinking someone would just read it to us. Instead the court was reconvened, we all returned to the places we had been hours before, and the clerk read the portion we asked about. We adjourned to our room, voted and delivered a unanimous decision. We had all listened, but it was so easy to miss something important. At that time no notes were allowed either. Only two of us missed the key element.

 

The other case was similar, except that after hours of discussion someone mentioned particular testimony. The lone holdout said she had not heard that. The courtroom was set up again and the court reporter asked to read the testimony in question. I read the defendant’s lips as he said to his attorney, “I said that?” The vote immediately after that was unanimous for guilty.

 

While I totally respect the Casey Anthony jury and know what a gut wrenching job they had, I have to wonder at the brevity of their deliberation. You writers out there know that you may think a story or novel complete many, many times, but a critique group or editor will dig deeper and see something you missed. For that reason, as much as I hate to criticize a jury, I am afraid they didn’t dig deeply enough. Perhaps a few more hours, or days in this case, of discussion would have satisfied many of their doubts. But what is done is done. I can tell Juror #3 wishes she might have been able to connect more dots and perhaps she could have had those twelve have had a longer discussion. But maybe not. Remember all of us heard much more than they did both on court TV when the jury was out of the room and in the three years prior.

 

In the elevator after a trial it is sometimes hard to suppress the tears even when you feel you have made the right decision, so I get it. The jury is to be thanked for sacrificing weeks of their lives for justice. I just hope that was the end result.

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Forget booming and blasting, this has been a “beeping” 4th of July at my house. For the first time in many years, I had nothing planned for the holiday. My grandsons left yesterday and that was as far as my horizon went, so today would be relaxing and catching up. That was the best laid plan. You know what they say about those.

My son-in-law came a couple of days ago to troubleshoot the hot water heater timer. While there he kindly installed my new smoke detector over the garage door, next to the heater. Fast forward to today as I go back and forth to the washing machine. A faint beep beep beep sounds the whole time I am in the garage. The timer was stuck again and I could hear it beeping. But I also heard it near the washer and car (but not inside the closed car), and near the tool shelves. That’s it. I must have turned on one of the battery powered drill bits when my son was looking for one to hang my tiebacks a week ago. One of them was telling me it needed a charge.

Meantime my daughter calls back. Test the new smoke detector she suggested. That wasn’t a brand new battery either. Caramba! That had to be it. But. no. Her husband assured us there was nothing in the heater timer that could possibly beep. I checked outside by the AC, then opened the garage door. Maybe it came from the neighborhood. No again.

We are a couple of hours into this problem when my daughter calls back. “Could it be the old smoke detector you threw away?”

“Not a chance. I threw that in the kitchen trash –-

—which I threw in the garbage can in the garage. I’ll be right back.”

YES! I opened the lid and one of the plastic bags was beeping strongly. Do I feel like a fool? Well, yes, again. In an hour or so I will take the can to the street for tomorrow’s pickup, so won’t have to hear it anymore. Will the garage men think there is a bomb in my trash? I hope it burns itself out by then. Maybe I should put a note on the can.

Next 4th I’m going where fireworks and their cacophony light up the sky. It has to be better than this “beeping” 4th.

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