Twelve Confused Men


(Next week I’m scheduled for jury duty for the first time. Last night, I dreamed the following dream in black and white …) 

Scene:  an empty meeting room with a long table in the center with chairs around it.  12 men of different ages and nationalities file in and take a seat in chairs around the table.  One man, in a white dress shirt with a black tie, the foreman, remains standing.

Foreman:  Okay, that seemed pretty cut and dry.  I’d like to suggest we vote on a verdict right away. I’ll poll each of you. Jurist number one, how do you vote?

Me (raising my hand) I’m sorry, Mr. Foreman, but shouldn’t we vote by private ballot?

Foreman:  I don’t think that’ll be necessary.   We all saw what happened in there.

Me:  Still, I think, just in case, we should make sure we do this right, to the letter of the law.  So there’s no chance of reprisal, or getting the defendant off on a technicality.

Foreman: Of course, you’re correct, thank you, jurist number twelve. Please cast your vote on one of these little folded up pieces of paper.

(Everybody writes their vote down.)

Foreman:  Jurist number three, would you mind collecting the votes?

(Jurist three, a small, nerdy looking man, rises from his chair.

Jurist Number Three:  Not at all.  (He picks up a small wicker basket from the table and goes around the table.  One by one, the jurists all put their votes in the basket, I am the last to do so.  Jurist Number Three hands the basket to the foreman.

Foreman:  Thank you.  Jurist Two, would you mind keeping a tally of the number of guilty and not guilty votes as I read them off?

Jurist Two:  Got it.

Foreman (reaching his hand into the basket) Okay, here we go …

Me (raising my hand and interrupting): Excuse me, Mister Foreman, excuse me …

Foreman;  Yes, juror number twelve?

Me:  Don’t you think you should, you know, shake the basket up a little bit?

Foreman:  What? What do you mean, shake the basket?

Me:  You know, mix the votes up …

Foreman:  Huh?

Me:  Well, it’s just that I was the last to put my vote in …

Foreman:  So?

Me:  So my vote is on top.  If you don’t shake the basket, everybody will know that the first vote is mine. And the whole purpose of using the paper ballots are to protect the anonymity of each vote cast.

Foreman:  Okay, okay, I gotcha.  (With great exaggeration, he puts his hand in the basket and mixes up the contents.) Is that good enough?

Me: Yes, thank you.

Foreman (taking out and unfolding each piece of paper) Guilty …. Guilty … guilty … not guilty?  (He and all of the other jurors look at me)

Me:  What?

Foreman: (going through the remaining votes) Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.  That’s all the votes. Jurist Two, please read the final tally.

Jurist Two:  That’s eleven guilty, one not guilty.

Jurist Four:  Okay, Twelve, joke’s over.

Me:  Joke? What joke?

Jurist Four: Look, we get it, very funny.  Now can we get on with issuing a verdict and get the Hell out of here?

Me:  Why are you looking at me? You don’t know that I was the not guilty vote. In fact, I’ll bet that if you look closer at the not guilty ballot, you might find a clue as to who really cast it.

Foreman:  (holding up the vote) You mean, where it says here, “Voted by Jurist Number Nine, not Number Twelve.”

Jurist Nine: (jerking awake from nodding off) Hey!  What’s the big idea?

Foreman:  Okay, Twelve, would you like to explain your Not Guilty vote?

Me: But you don’t know that I …

Jurist Six (A large and muscular and intimidating man) Knock it off, Twelve, before I knock you off!

Foreman:  Do you really vote Not Guilty?

Me:  I do. (The entire room erupts in unison at me)

Foreman (gaining control of the room) Okay, okay, everybody calm down. That’s better.  Now, Twelve, could you please explain your vote?  I mean, the defendant admitted to being at the scene of the crime.  And we have the bank transactions that prove he was laundering money.

Me:  That’s just it!  Where’s the detergent?

Foreman:   Huh? What detergent?

Me:  My point exactly! If he was laundering that much money, there had to be some detergent somewhere! But the prosecution never produced a single sud!

Jurist Eight:  He makes a good point.

Jurist Seven:  You’re an idiot, Eight.

Foreman: But he was caught at the scene of the crime with the weapon in his hand.  How do you explain that?

Me:  By the Handyman’s testimony.

Foreman:  What’s that got to do with anything?

Me: Remember when he described the contents of the refrigerator? When he got to listing the condiments?

Foreman: Yeah?

Me:  Remember he said, “Mayonnaise?”

Foreman: Yeah.  So?

Me:  So when we examined exhibit B-1, there was no mayonnaise, just …

Jurist Eight:  Miracle Whip!

Foreman: So?

Me:  Miracle Whip is not mayonnaise! (Pulling a packet of Miracle Whip out of my back pocket) See, it says right here, Miracle Whip is salad dressing.

Juror Seven:  Why did you have a packet in your pocket?

Me: Never mind that! If you want to find the real criminal, I suggest you look no further than right here! (I move over by juror eleven and dramatically lift the mask off his head, revealing JIM PAYNE.) You’ll find a trail of victims that lead to his doorstep. He is none other than ….

Foreman: You mean …

Me: That’s right. He’s the notorious Mayonnaise Madman that’s been terrorizing our community for years! Once he found out there was no mayonnaise in the fridge, he went mad!

Jim Payne: How does that make you feel?

Foreman: And I thought you were a complete idiot, Twelve! Now I know the real idiot is whoever wrote this drivel!

Me: Guilty as charged!

 

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Numbers Game


I made the mistake tonight of reading some Facebook comments on the Las Vegas shooting. They all kind of bleed together, so I can’t remember the name of the one troll whose comments stuck with me or the article he was reacting to (I’m pretty sure it was a Washington Post article, but damned if I could find it again). The general gist of his arguments is that the 59 dead and more than 500 injured, let alone the 948 total victims of mass shootings over the past fifty years, represents a “statistically insignificant” percentage of the total population and therefore is not deserving of legislative attention.

So to Mr. Troll, whoever you are, from a fellow numbers guy, here are my immediate reactions:

  • 948 is equal to or greater than the population of thousands of U.S. towns.  I gave up trying to get  a number, but look at this list from Wisconsin to get an idea of how many towns this small there are just in my home state   http://www.city-data.com/city/Wisconsin3.html  Ask any resident of any of these towns if their entire population was murdered or injured if they’d consider that to be ”insignificant.”
  • The number of dead and injured in Las Vegas is greater than the total number of players in the NBA. Imagine if the entire National Basketball Association was wiped out in one event.  It’d be quite an impact on local economies – stadiums and restaurants and television. I’m sure its economic impact would rise into the statistically relevant range. But economics isn’t even the most important impact ….
  • Looking at the wrong numbers. To me, the most heart breaking of all mass shootings remains the twenty first graders killed in the Sandy Hook massacre. I still have trouble wrapping my head around this one, let alone the horrible treatment of the victims’ families by those sub-human “conspiracy” morons. But let’s play Mr. Troll’s numbers game for a moment – the number of victims, twenty children (not to mention the seven teachers who were also murdered), is microscopically low against any national number.  But when we count the years lost, by subtracting the victim’s average age of six years from the average lifetime (75), you end up with 69 years lost for each of the twenty victims, and you get a total of 1,380 years lost, and about 20 spouses and 40 children and 80 grandchildren and 160 great grandchildren and so on.  In just three generations, that comes to 21,000 years of life lost. And who knows what contributions those unborn children with their unrealized potential may have made to our society.  We may have lost a cure for cancer, or the next Einstein or Martin Luther King, or who knows who.

 I think it’s time we look at all shootings in this context. How many years of life are we losing, how much potential is being lost, and how much damage is being done to our psyche? How many concert or dinner or movie dates are being cancelled from the fear these incidents plant in us, how deadly is the distrust they instill in our hearts and minds? How many family members and friends are waking up every day for the rest of their lives without someone they loved? How do we calculate the damage to our souls, the value of the innocence lost?

I don’t profess to have any answers or solutions.  I have no idea where to even start. Maybe a good place to start would be to reject terms like “statistically insignificant” and agree that not everything needs to be politicized, and condemn the horror we all recognize the loss of innocent lives to be.