Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A drama played out underwater.

I can't leave off the Jury Service Experience without saying something about the drama of it all. You can see why theatre and film are attracted to the action of the courtroom: The problem is, it's just like it is in the movies, but as if the script was written by Samuel Beckett while in a catatonic trance. Hence my describing it as a slow regal procession.
And of course, everyone is aware that they are not merely being their mere selves, they are acting out the roles of themselves too. Oftentimes they protest too much, or meekly overabase themselves, in order to look more honest or sincere or incapable of hurting a fly.The presiding magistrate, like a bewigged deus ex machina, will occasionally make a wry coment to the prosecution or defence team, or now and then turn and smile kindly at the jury, while giving some point about the action in the courtroom at that moment. In the attempted murder case, the prosecuting barrister was full of dramatic self-importance; He swung his gown in such a way, gesticulated with one neat hand, flourishing a gleaming pen. He would suck in his cheeks expressively while listening to the defence, then flip a page loudly and blow out air, before pouting finely over another point in the story. When it came to cross-examining the defendent, he would reduce his voice to a quivering whisper, before bringing to a crashing wall of booming noise, batting away the man's story and denouncing his tale as preposterous.
I had to feel sorry for the Defence barrister. I got the impression that she was relatively inexperienced, and she didn't want to play along with the drama. At times, she visibly reddened, as if embarrassed by the flimsy story she had to defend, or as if ashamed at the blatant lies she was forced to try and persuade us were true. Also, for whatever reason, the judge didn't seem to like her whatsoever. There was certainly a frisson of animosity whenever she (the judge) said 'thank you, that is enough' or even, at one stage, curtly barked 'sit down!'.

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