Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Truth and Nothing But

I thought I was going to write this blog at a leisurely pace on an entirely different topic. Then again, after a lifetime of being called for jury duty and never being picked, I also thought I would had plenty of time to write it.

On the way home from court, it occurred to me that being a juror is a lot like researching a nonfiction book. You never come upon the important information in a neat package. You have to ingest the pieces of evidence as they come, then sort through them to create a narrative you believe best resembles the truth. Some witnesses seem to be lying to support their agendas. Others seem untrustworthy for a more benign reason. You wonder if their emotions have pushed their sense of what happened into a posture that actually feels true to them. You find both types of when you research books too. Try to figure out what was going on in Salem during the witch hunts. Or explain McCarthyism. Or many of the American myths from George and his cherry tree onward.

Sorry, this blog is going to be short. Frankly, I want to watch some bad TV, go to sleep, and get ready for tomorrow’s closing arguments and deliberations. Coming up with a verdict in this case will require much thought and hard work. I’m not going to equate being intellectually lazy in the jury room with writing a mediocre book—someone’s freedom is at stake here. But doing the best you can at both jobs may have lasting effects (albeit it, quite different ones) on the lives of people you don’t really know.


Jane Heitman Healy said...

This practice seems really unethical to me. Even if you are using an anecdote to illustrate a point, you should make it clear whether or not it's true--especially for kids.

Terry Doherty said...

Interesting. I had never thought of looking at the processes in parallel.