“There, But For The Grace Of God, Go I.”

17 Feb

I just spent 6 days on jury duty. I was selected to be a juror on a murder trial.

I went to the Criminal Court Building in lower Manhattan last Monday.

I’ve learned since that this building is where part of Law And Order is (was?) filmed – I can’t say as I’ve never seen the show. But it’s an impressive building. All of the police at the entrances wear bullet-proof vests and you can see defendants being brought in wearing handcuffs and sometimes leg irons. No cameras are allowed inside, of course, and during deliberations our cell phones were taken away from us.

I did take this cell phone picture from the window on the 13th floor.

On the first day, I didn’t expect to be picked, and was happy to be in the neighborhood of my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.

I used to rent darkroom space  a couple of blocks away from here, and loved eating lunch at this restaurant.

The darkroom space was owned by the husband of Sex And The City‘s Cynthia Nixon. This was about the time that she broke up with him. While I was renting the space from him, he started staying overnight in his office area, and keeping his toiletries and shaving equipment in the darkroom. It became a little awkward and eventually I quit renting the space – I never knew if I’d be walking in on him sleeping, or worse – “bathing” in the darkroom!

Above, a young Cynthia Nixon pic was drying in the darkroom, and I took a pic of the pic.

Anyway, back to my story at hand. I enjoyed my first day at jury duty, playing solitaire on my phone and eating at the Vietnamese restaurant. It felt a little like a vacation.

But that afternoon, I was selected for this murder trial. It was no longer a vacation.

As we started hearing from the prosecution and the defense, I just felt sorrier and sorrier for the people who are born into poverty and crime-infested projects. How do they ever escape the horrific situations that they are surrounded by, day in and day out? I am afraid that most of them do not.

After 4 days of hearing witnesses, including the Medical Examiner, Ballistic Experts, Detectives on the case, the Assistant DA, three Eye Witnesses, and the Defendant himself, we deliberated for the better part of 2 days and found the defendant “Guilty” on 2nd-degree (not premeditated) murder charges.

He and another young man shot and killed the 3rd young man “execution style” at 4:30 am one morning a couple years ago. Rumor around the project was that the victim’s dog bit someone, and this was the reason for “the incident”.

Everyone involved had criminal histories, including the three eye witnesses. Lots of perjury was going on up there in the witness stand.

One of the eye witnesses, the most credible of the three, was staying at his aunt’s apartment the night in question. Sick and awake, he heard an argument and looked out his window. He saw the shooting take place beneath him – 1 shot by the man in “the gray hoodie” and 2 shots by the man in “the blue hoodie”.  He’s the person who called 911 immediately after the shooting.

He was silently crying while on the witness stand. When he was asked to give the address of where he had been, he asked not to, but was told that he must. He gave his aunt’s address. I imagine that he is afraid now for her safety.

We heard a recorded phone call that the defendant placed while in prison at Riker’s Island. He is heard threatening the life of one of the other eye witnesses (who has since moved from the project from fears of retribution).

The Foreperson on our jury was somewhat nervous about standing up to state the “Guilty” verdict. She and several other jurors said that they felt the defendant had been staring at them, trying to intimidate them.

Yesterday, after the case was finished, I came home drained. I looked up the Polo Grounds on Google News and found this picture and following article, from The Daily News, dated just last Sunday, 2/13/11:

“Elected officials want an emergency meeting with Housing Authority Chairman John Rhea in response to a Daily News report on a crime spike in public housing.

“We believe there is much more crime than has been revealed,” a Harlem State Senator said yesterday.

Urging against an increase in police stop-and-frisks, Perkins called for more surveillance cameras and more transparency. He also said tenants were concerned about residents with long criminal histories.

Bettey Rolle, who lives in the Audubon Apartments at 155th St. and Amsterdam Ave., said open drug dealing plagues her building.

“In the past year, we’ve had stabbings, robberies,” she said. “It’s getting worse.”

She also said criminals seemed aware of the cops’ surveillance schedule. “After that, they run rampant,” Rolle said. “People are being terrorized. They’re afraid to say anything because of retribution.”

Rolle, whose family has been in the building for two decades, suggested cameras and outside doors that lock more securely.

At the Polo Grounds Towers in Manhattan, Dorothy Brown, 73, said she stays in at night to avoid frequent gunfire.

“We need more of a police presence,” she said, adding that the complex is getting cameras but that door locks are frequently broken.

“You’re constantly watching when you come out,” she said. “I’m the type of person that when I go in my house, I stay.”

A Housing Authority spokeswoman said the agency declined to comment.”


Thanks Mom and Dad, for bringing me and Sis up safe and secure,





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