Words, Words, Words

April 26, 2000

I was excused from jury duty service a couple of weeks ago, but I kept an eye on the papers and yesterday I found out what trial I had been summoned for. It was a death penalty case--brought under federal, not local, law, because I and a majority of the voters of the District of Columbia are strongly opposed to the death penalty--involving the murder of three Starbucks employees. I am relieved that I did not have to serve in this case, even though I feel honorbound to serve if given the opportunity, because a trial before twelve men who are comfortable with the death penalty would be a farce. Legal precedent allows courts to exclude from service those jurors who say they could not in conscience bring themselves to impose the death penalty. I believe that the death penalty is constitutional and that as a juror I have a legal obligation to enforce even those laws I disagree with, so I do not think I could be disqualified on those grounds. (Although, come to think of it, I'm not sure that the particular law in question is an allowable exercise of federal authority, and if after studying the matter I found I disagreed with the judge on this point, I don't think I could in good conscience follow his legal instructions. Which would be grounds for disqualification. Hmmm.)

To be fair, there is one arguably good argument in favor of the death penalty, which is that it serves as a bargaining chip in plea negotiations. The defendant in this case agreed to a sentence of life without parole and pleaded guilty, saving the country the expense and uncertainty of a jury trial. Whether this is an immoral means to a laudable end is a pertinent question.

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I had a not-fun experience today at work. I was slightly off-balance when I got up from the toilet seat this afternoon, so I put my right hand out to steady myself. Unfortunately the door popped out of its frame and suddenly I was *really* off-balance. For an instant I thought I might recover, then I knew it was hopeless. I did manage to twist around so I fell on my back. Then the door fell on top of me, bounced off, and slid under the sinks.

I have intense cultivated phobias of falling and being helpless. This usually serves to keep me from getting into situations where I need help. This time the aftereffects of the fright and the shock of the fall had me hyperventilating, almost whimpering, and it was about thirty seconds before I composed myself enough to call for help. Fortunately there was someone in another stall, and he helped me sit up, which made me much more comfortable and helped me pull myself together. I was still in an awkward position as far as getting up goes, and he went and fetched a second person to help lift me. (I can get up from the floor by myself if necessary, but it's difficult and it helps if I have furniture nearby to lean on.)

I wasn't seriously hurt--my left buttock is a little sore, but I think it'll be okay tomorrow--but it took about fifteen minutes before I was calm enough to get back to work.

The plastic rod holding the door in place was obviously broken. I didn't lean on it hard enough to do that. It was just a freak accident that might have happened to anyone. It's just that I have less padding, a nervous temperament, and a tendency to bang up easily. Fortunately, I took a strong painkiller this morning for a sore arm, and I think there was still enough of the drug in my system to me some good. Also, upper management decided to hand out 59 minutes of administrative leave to encourage us to fill out an employee satisfaction survey, so I was able to go home early.

So it could have been much worse, but it still was not fun.

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By the way, for those of you who have been asking about my hand--there was a little improvement early on with the new therapist, but it plateaued a while ago and it's not going to get much better. I still have very little movement in my wrist and I'm never going to get much back. I'm adapting pretty well in most ways, but my typing is still lousy and likely to stay that way. So this whole affair has really been a double-hitter--not only could it not have been much worse, but it wasn't fun either.

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