These words appeared on a letter I just received in the mail. No, not the bit about not passing Go or collecting $200. The “Go Directly to Jail” part.
A jury that’s not so grand
You see, I’m part of the Grand Jury, and every month, I get a new summons. We meet one day a month for a year, locked in a room with 18 of us, a room so small everyone has to stand up to let one person squeeze by on their way to the bathroom. Next week, we’ll meet earlier than normal to inspect the jail, and not in our regular room in the courthouse. Hence, the wording on my letter that took me back to Monopoly games of my youth.
I can’t talk about the cases I hear or they might not let me go home once I go to jail next week. That is, unless I turn in this card …
But I can say that I’m not like most who try desperately to get out of their civic duty. Juries need people who try to follow Christ, the one who is Truth and who perfectly blended justice and mercy. I’ve been selected to three juries in the past; one of them actually resulted in a trial that lasted a week. It was fascinating, and I left with greater faith in how our judicial system actually works.
However, grand juries aren’t as interesting as trial cases. We only hear one side–the prosecution’s side. We don’t weigh in on guilt or innocence, just whether there’s enough evidence to go to trial. We vote on whether it’s a “true bill.” We’ve listened to as many as 70 cases before in one sitting, some minor but some the stuff of nightmares. Those cases still haunt me.
A crime that’s not so bad
Each time I go, I witness another crime that goes unreported and unprosecuted. The crime of butchering the English language. Things like “the truck was stole” and “he had a broke arm” accost my grammarphobic ears.
I remember Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle who wanted to start a volunteer Apostrophe Posse to corral the offenders. We need Verb Vigilantes here.
Think I’m overreacting? Here’s a sample conversation from the first day I sat on the jury.
One of the jurors asked the officer why he searched a house.
“I had saw it was through,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“It was through.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”
“I seen it.” His frustration starts to show.
“What did you see?”
“The contraband. It was through.”
“Do you mean it was finished?”
“No. The drugs was threw inside the house.”
True bill. I rest my case.
A transition that’s not so smooth
I go directly to jail on Monday. If I’m lucky enough to get released, on Monday evening, I will see another jail. This time, from the safety of a movie theater in a free country.
“Tortured for Christ” is the story of Richard Wurmbrand, tortured for 14 years in a Communist prison in Romania, because of his faith. He is one of my heroes. In the early 1990s, I saw people line up for blocks to meet him in the Christian bookstores he founded in Bucharest. I wish I’d jumped in line with them.
If this film comes to your local theater, please go to see it. I promise you’ll be inspired.