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Jury Duty Santa Cruz, California

By: Piccina

Page 1, First love

Santa Cruz, California

March 12, 1998

It was Thursday, March 12, 1998 and I arrived at the courthouse early in order to find a parking space in close proximity of the main doors. I was excited and honored to be summonsed for Jury Duty, especially being that I had recently graduated from the Police Academy and once I was officially sworn in as a Police Officer, I would most likely never be granted this opportunity again. I considered viewing a criminal case from the eyes of the Jury as a critical element in my upcoming success as a Police Officer. I live by the principle that it is just as important to exonerate the innocent as it is to implicate the guilty. Since Monday I had been anxiously dialing the Jury hotline to see if my number had been selected to report for duty and to my delight, today was my day.

I swung my truck into the parking lot and found a space under a tree. I brought a lunch hoping that I would pass the attorney screening process and be selected to actually sit on the Jury. The shady parking space would help preserve my lunch best I thought to myself. I wondered about what type of case I had been called for. I silently hoped for something critical with interesting details and evidence to evaluate. I figured my desire for a serious offense would be forgiven as the crime had already occurred and I wasn’t willing it to existence for the sake of entertainment. As I entered the court room I had no way of knowing how profoundly my life was about to change – forever. All my years of martial arts training, physical fitness and spirituality could not prepare me for what was about to come. It was almost unfair to me. I never really stood a chance.

The Jury Clerk instructed me to sit in chair 6, pointing to the last row far left seat. I proceeded to walk across the court room to the Jury Box and then our eyes met. She was seated in chair 9. Her eyes dashed with brilliant beauty and her blonde hair was wavy, falling just short of her shoulders. She was wearing a light blue button up long sleeve shirt with the sleeves rolled partially up, mid-way between her wrist and elbow, a multi colored scarf, tan shorts, thick brown and grey socks and brown hiking boots. She was captivating, stunning – the most beautiful person I had ever seen and I was immediately drawn to her. A wave of emotion washed over me and every inch of my skin tingled. I had never felt such a rush before. Upon realizing that I had gone well beyond the polite 2 second glace rule, I jerked my eyes away from her and took a seat. Had I been paying attention to anything other than her I would have known that I had in fact sat at the Defense Table instead of my assigned seat in the Jury Box. “Miss? Miss? You can’t sit there.” The Jury Clerk’s words slammed into me like a train. My face filled with heated embarrassment as I quickly apologized and sprinted to chair 6. You’re such an idiot! I sat breathless, motionless and in shock. I’m a lesbian. That’s why I’m different. I get it now! I fought the urge to turn and look at her again. She was absolutely amazing and I instantly understood why movies and books were written about love at first sight – there was no doubt it existed. In what may have only taken a moment, she was now ever imprinted on my soul. I never saw her coming and I will never be the same. My heart pounded so fiercely in my ears it became the only sound I heard. For a moment I forgot where I was and the world stood still.

The Judge announced that the case we had all been summonsed for was a Misdemeanor 273.5 PC, Domestic Violence case. Misdemeanor 273.5? I leaned forward and felt my brow scrunch as I listened to the Judge explain a bit about the case. Penal Code section 273.5 is felony Domestic Violence, a straightforward felony, not a wobbler, which can be made into either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the severity of the crime. Misdemeanor Domestic Violence was 243(e) PC. I sat perplexed and maybe even a little disappointed by his words. If it was a felony case then let it stand as such. And if it is truly a misdemeanor case, then why isn’t it a 243(e) PC? I knew as a Judge, Magistrate he held the authority to essentially create law by interpreting cases as he saw fit. I wondered if the Judge realized the possible implications of his actions or if he had presided over so many cases he had allowed himself to become complacent and cut off from the impact of his actions. I professionally assumed that if the arresting Officer had charged the Defendant with the felony it had been based on the initial facts at hand, which most likely included an honest, in the heat of the moment statement from the victim about the abuse. Domestic Violence is commonly a misunderstood form of tragic abuse in which the victim often struggles to exit the violence and seek help. And when the helping hand (all levels in the criminal justice system) does not understand the psychological component of the crime, the victim frequently plummets into an even deeper sense of despair, feeling they must really deserve the abuse.

The Defense Attorney began to ask members of the Jury questions about their personal lives, arrest record and opinion of Domestic Violence. He appeared every bit the sleaze attorney I had expected him to be. His suit was flashy, not professional and he wore his wealth on his wrist. Santa Cruz is a small Berkeley, a laid back anything goes surf town where a $7,700.00 Rolex watch didn’t quite fit in the forum. His questions were laced with sarcasm and arrogance, often ending his conversation with each Juror, laughing. I struggled to find the humor in the case. As he made his way through each member of the Jury it hadn't occurred to me that someone on the Jury may have actually been involved in Domestic Violence as a victim, witness or suspect. He finally arrived at chair 9 and my gaze turned into a glare. I felt a natural, instinctive sense to protect her. As I turned in my seat so I could look at her again, ever thankful that I had an excuse to do so, I was surprised to find her looking back at me and not the Defense Attorney. We shared a moment I didn’t want to end and then her questioning began. “Have you ever been involved in a Domestic Violence case before?” His smile seemed inappropriate as he waited for her response. She twisted and sank in her seat, placing her feet on the banister in front of her, which divided the Jury Box rows. “Yes, I’ve been hit by a partner before.” Her eyes drifted down as she spoke and I felt yet another new emotion – RAGE. How could someone, anyone EVER hurt her? What’s wrong with people? I found myself now supporting the death penalty for any act of violence. I couldn’t fathom the thought of someone hurting her. My stomach wretched in agony over what she had experienced and most certainly had not deserved. It was evident when she spoke that the violence of her past still affected her.

To my dismay, I was one of the first Jurors thanked and dismissed from Duty. I assumed from her response about being abused that she was as well. I never saw her again that day. And though I was not selected to serve as a Juror, I was most fortunate to at least know what it feels like to love without end. To love knowing my love would not be returned. For there began the silent love affair that I can never escape and never hold – she will always be the one. Every time I close my eyes I see her. I’ve never been without her. Even to this day I remain spellbound by her presence. Oftentimes she finds me in my dreams. At times it has been difficult to distinguish between my dreams and my thoughts of what could have been, but was never meant to be. Some moments never leave us. Some dreams remain asleep. And, though I’ve never told her, in my heart she will forever be.

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