Twelve Angry Pickers

595 words

At Avogadro's last Wednesday before the jam started, we sat around tuning and checking out which pickers showed up. It's always a different mix of old friends and new strangers. The talk turned to the Nichol's trial. "I don't know why the judge excluded a juror who performed a cost-benefit analysis," I said.

"People have to be able to follow your argument," said Sue Forebucks. She pulled out her solid steel slide ukulele and wiped it down. I like the mellow tone she adds.

"Spoken like a true lawyer," said Tanya Hide, meanly. She's the only person I've seen who plays musical saw on a gas-powered chainsaw. She always adds an edge to the music.

I jumped in. "Shouldn't people be allowed to decide the case any way they want?"

Sue shrugged. "They always do, but you want to try to make sure they're willing to follow your line of reasoning." She noticed our quizzical looks. "For example, if I'm doing a cost-benefit analysis to show how much money my client should get for back injuries, I don't want someone thinking along the lines of alternative jobs or massage therapies. And someone trying to show how all the pieces fit together into a pattern of guilt or innocence wants the jurors following the complete line of reasoning, not overlaying their own attitudes." She plunked out an E-minor chord and slid it up to a major. "There's plenty of time for that in the jury room."

I strummed an E on my banjo and began tuning to the general sound in the room. "I can see that's plausible, but there's no reasoning behind the victims testifying about their injuries."

"What's wrong with that!" hollered Tanya.

I nervously eyed her fingers on the starter rope. "Calm down. I know some of those who died. Talked to them on the phone while fixing their computer problems. Now I feel creepy every time I get in the new van we got. After the bombing, we inherited it because the Oklahoma Veterinary Services office didn't exist any more. The victims have a right to be heard during the punishment phase, but to decide if Nichols helped with the bombing, a juror needs facts: eyewitness accounts, paperwork, stuff like that. Losing a child in the bombing is tragic, but would have happened if McVeigh worked alone."

"Oh those poor dears," said the Siamese twins Maude Lynne and Misty Ida Moshen. They sing excellent harmony and play a synthesized tambourine that adds a nice rhythm to the jam.

"You cold-blooded banjo picker," sneered Tanya as she fingered the manual choke.

Sue laughed brightly. "He's right. Perhaps the judicial process could be more impartial, but the D.A.s or their bosses are politicians who run for office during every trial. And everyone in the jurors' box has emotions."

"True," I said, "but if you just picked the first 12 people and stuck them behind a one-way mirror so no one could tell their sex, age, race, occupation, religion or anything, then the lawyers would have to present their best case not knowing whether they had a jury that was swayed by the facts or the emotions. I suspect we'd get more facts, maybe even get closer to the concept of fair and impartial truth."

Jan got tired of waiting, thumped his standup bass, and said, "I'm impartially taking the first 12 people with instruments. The verdict is 'Blow Up Your TV' by John Prine." We all followed his lead. Despite the odd mix of instruments and personalities, the music melded into a unified sound.