All eyes were on me. I knew what they wanted; I knew what they were hoping for; their eager faces frozen between hope and fear. I dropped the folder on the table as my face turned to a grimace. It didn’t add up. No matter how many times my fellow jurors tried to explain it or how many times they forced me to look at the case files, something was wrong. I sighed and looked up to meet the eyes.
“Sorry guys,” I said, “I just don’t see it.” Groans erupted around the table, a few dropped their heads to the table with dull thunks.
“Christ Almighty Ben,” said Joe, “how stupid are you?”
“Look, there is something off here,” I replied, “some of the evidence doesn’t add up or it contradicts other evidence.” Joe rubbed his forehead at that one.
“Alright sure, some of the evidence doesn’t make sense but there is enough to convict!”
Mary touched Joe’s arm and piped in, “Look, we know he’s guilty. I mean look at the guy, he even looks guilty. Let’s vote this and be done with it!” She looked annoyed. Joe looked angry. The rest looked tired. I couldn’t blame them, this was the third time we had voted and the third time I had stood my ground and said no. I looked to Jeff at the other end of the table. He had been my ally early on but had since caved to the pressure of the other jurors. If I could convince him to stand with me again, I might sway a few others. Jeff looked up at me, his eyes pleading for this to be over. Guess I won’t have him after all, I thought to myself. I would have to sway someone else. Preferably I’d sway them all, but even if I only got one it’d be an accomplishment and I wouldn’t be in this fight alone anymore. Shit, I thought, good luck with that.
I let out an inaudible sigh and pulled the case files toward me, “Lets go over the evidence again.” I said, cracking open the thick folders. All around the table the jurors opened their folders with weary sighs. I didn’t care. I would not send someone to jail for life unless I was sure. It was my duty. Our duty. I needed them to see that. To see that something was off with this case. “Alright, let’s start with the witness statements.” I said, flipping through the first few pages. “We have a Mrs. Sheridan who claims she saw the suspect fleeing the scene through the back door of the building. She described the suspect as wearing a black rain jacket with a dark-colored baseball cap. She also said he was running. Now when Colter was arrested an hour later, he was wearing a green parka and no hat. Granted, he could have changed, but what sticks out to me is that Mrs. Sheridan claims the suspect was running. Colter has a prominent limp in his left leg, some industrial accident at his job about 10 years ago, he’s even classified as partially disabled. There’s no way he could have been running.”
“So the old lady got it wrong, maybe he limped away, and she saw it as running.” Joe replied.
“Okay, let’s go on to the next one.” I said. “A Mr. Morey described the suspect the same way only he said the suspect walked quickly away from the back door. Still no mention of a limp.”
“It was 4:30 in the morning in an unlit alley, too dark to properly see anything.” Mary retorted.
“Exactly. These witnesses just didn’t see the limp.” Joe said.
“So what about the video footage from the ATM across the street?” I asked.
“What about it?” Joe said.
“Well the footage shows the suspect exiting the alley, he then stops and looks around before walking away. Walking with no limp. And before you say it, Joe, the street is well lit. Enough to clearly see him walking normally.” I stated.
“Hell it’s adrenaline. He just killed someone. People can forget about pain when their adrenaline is going full throttle!” Mary said, looking at Joe for confirmation.
Joe nodded in agreement, “she’s right, I’ve seen it happen before.”
“It’s unlikely but okay,” I said, “let’s move on to the murder weapon. The police report states that Colter’s gun was found at the scene. The ballistics report says that the bullet that killed Blaire matched Colter’s gun. Now when the gun was dusted for prints, they found Colter’s prints all over the gun except for the trigger. They also found no prints inside the gun or on any of the bullets left in the magazine. The gun had recently been cleaned and oiled, they even found some gun oil inside the wound. So Colter, who owns the gun, somehow didn’t leave any prints while loading the magazine and also didn’t leave any prints while cleaning the gun? Not to mention that Blaire was killed by a single gunshot to the forehead from 20 feet away. So either Colter got very lucky, or he is a secret hitman.”
“So he’s a good shot,” Mary said, “maybe he goes to a range or something.”
“No,” said Joe, “the police didn’t find any evidence that he belonged to any shooting ranges. Plus the report on the gun stated it was likely that it hadn’t been fired in quite some time before the murder.”
There it was. Doubt. Joe was seeing something too. I just needed to push a little more, get him to change his mind. “There’s also the fact that Blaire was a powerful attorney on Wall Street and Colter is a night janitor at an insurance office. The police found no connection between them at all. All of Blaire’s valuables in his apartment and on his person were untouched, so it wasn’t a robbery gone wrong. And I find it hard to believe that Colter would just decide to murder someone and leave behind the murder weapon. Even if he did, what are the odds he would go all the way to Tribeca from South Bronx to do it.” I said.
Joe looked at me, “Okay Ben, something’s off.”
“Seriously Joe!?” Mary said, “You’ve got to be kidding me! He did it!”
“Sorry Mary,” Joe replied, “Looking at all the evidence, Ben’s right, things aren’t adding up. I mean sure it looks like Colter did it, but there’s enough here to suggest maybe he didn’t. Are you willing to send a man to prison for the rest of his life over a maybe?”
“Exactly Joe,” I said, “that’s what we are talking about here. If we say he’s guilty, he goes away for the rest of his life. What if he didn’t do it? What if we convict him and he dies in prison and then it comes out that he was innocent? Could you live with that?”
“So what,” Mary asked, “we are just supposed to say he’s free and clear? This guy has a record for assault for fucks sake.”
“For a bar fight,” I replied, “how do you go from one bar fight to shooting random strangers in the head? I’m not saying this guy is a model citizen, I’m saying I don’t think he is a murderer. The saying is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I have doubt. I have a lot of doubt. Nothing in this case makes sense! There’s no connection between Blaire and Colter, missing prints, witness descriptions that don’t match Colter, and no motive. All adding up to a murder that looks like a pro committed it not a disabled night janitor.”
Heads nodded in agreement. Mary looked around the table and dropped her argument. Now was the moment of truth. We’d have to put it to a vote again. I better be fucking right about this, I thought, if I’m wrong a murderer could walk free. “We should put it to a vote,” I said, “Judge Wallace is waiting on our decision.” I listened silently as the vote went around the table, one by one the jurors choosing a man’s fate. Finally it came down to me, 11 votes for not guilty so far, I panicked. It’s up to me again, I thought, what if I’m wrong? What if he really did do it? I don’t know what’s worse, sending an innocent man to jail or setting a murderer free. No. I should stick to my gut. The evidence is off which means it’s on the cops if he really did do it right? Guess we will find out, I thought, fuck. All eyes were on me again, “Not guilty.” I said.
“Okay, I’ll grab the bailiff.” Joe said as he stood and strode to the door. After a sharp knock, the door cracked open, and the bailiff stuck his head inside. “We’ve reached a verdict.” Said Joe. The bailiff nodded and closed the door. Joe turned, a grim look on his face, and said, “Well, here we go.” The bailiff opened the door again and ordered everyone to into the courtroom. One by one we passed through the door and took our seats in the jury box.
Judge Wallace waited until we settled in before saying, “Have you reached a verdict?”
Jeff, acting as the jury foreperson, stood “We have your Honor.” He said.
“What say you?” Asked Judge Wallace.
Jeff cleared his throat, “We the jury, in the case of The State of New York versus Mark Colter, find the defendant not guilty of the charge of first degree murder.” The courtroom erupted with noise. The victim’s family screaming for justice, the defendants family celebrating. Judge Wallace banged his gavel repeatedly, calling for order. When silence finally fell over the courtroom he continued.
“After 25 years serving this bench, I find myself in the unique position of disagreeing with you and furthermore being downright disappointed in you,” Judge Wallace said, “the evidence presented by the state paints a very clear picture of the heinous crime committed by this man. As such I am issuing a judgement notwithstanding the verdict. Mr. Colter, I find you guilty of the charge of first degree murder and sentence you to life in prison. May you rot in a cell for the rest of your natural life.” Judge Wallace slammed his gavel down. That was it, I thought, everything was being brushed under the rug. What the fuck was going on?
There are many reasons why I choose to write, though I suppose at its core I would have to say its a form of expression. I can express myself in ways that I normally wouldn't, especially in person. It's a sort of freedom. A way to unburden my soul without fear of judgement, well immediate judgement at least. I can be myself. My true self. Compared to my other reasons for writing it's a selfish reason, but I think thats okay. Other reasons for writing mainly fall into the category of getting people to think, convincing them to take an introspective look at themselves. To take a deeper view of things, to feel, really feel. I think that should be an important reason for most writers. Words can shape generations and I think that today people focus a lot on the superficial and barely scratch the surface of emotions or their subconcious. Writers are storytellers and I think it is our duty to share stories that deeply impact people or force them to delve beyond the surface of things. Now I realize that there are writers out there who only write for themselves, as a form of therapy or to express their emotions in a safe way and that is totally fine. Writing should be only for you in the beginning and I hope that writers will move out of that stage and begin shaping the world but if they don't that is perfectly fine. The thing I love about writing is that I always find new reasons why I write. I guess my main point is get out there and change the world with your words.
Monsters in the Dark
Coming from the black.
Ripping my flesh,
My shame spilling out.
Theirs for the taking.
I’m watching in disgust.
They are devouring me.
Looking for someone to help,
I hear more noises coming from the black.
More beasts coming to enjoy the feast,
Stepping out of the dark I see myself.
An evil grin spreading across my face.
What a sickening realization.
What a menacing truth.
I will always be the monster,
Devouring the good in myself.
Hey everyone! First off I just wanted to say thank you for all the entries! I really wasn’t expecting that many! Secondly, you all did a fantastic job and had some really great entries! So well done! Finally it is time to announce the winner:
“The lives we live would be incredibly boring if we were free of pain and suffering.”
Congrats to timsevertson!!
Writer’s Block (explicit language)
This blank page, taunting me, daring me to create. I have nothing of worth to offer you. Fuck you page. You arrogant canvas. I am the writer; you are the page, and I command you. Yet here you are controlling me. Driving me insane. Pushing me, bruising me. Why do you punish me? Why do you tear me down? I am ready to rip you from my typewriter and toss you in the garbage! Not literally seeing as this is a typewriter app... why am I arguing with a digital piece of paper? This must be it, madness. You’ve driven me to madness page! You’ve taken every sane part of me and hit the delete key! Though being fair I’ve deleted you many times over... is that why you are doing this? I just want you to hold something interesting, something of worth. I don’t want you filled with idle words! Just let me write on you! You’d be happy, I’d be happy, and everything would be fine. Just let me write!
My feet tangle with obscured assailants.
Darkness holding sway over the forest.
My arms stretching out,
Grasping for any reassurance.
Devoid of sight,
The silence is terrifying.
I see nothing.
I hear nothing.
My sense of touch cannot be trusted.
Malicious branches grabbing hold,
The forest pulling me in every direction.
My voice smothered,
In the weighted silence.
Realizing I cannot go on,
I surrender with a whimper.
I am lost.