The worst moment was when I sarcastically suggested we all get t-shirts, and the other jurors started a sign-up sheet. I really wasn’t as mean as they thought I was, so I didn’t point out how ludicrous it was for a group of responsible citizens to celebrate sending a woman to prison for two decades. I just passed the sheet along to number ten.
Linda did not murder anyone. She did steal, and she did smoke pot with her son’s friends, and when she came home from the movies one night to find her son and his school friend had beaten her handicapped employer to death with baseball bats, she did clean up the crime scene. She did not call the police. She did not turn in her son.
By law, the prosecutor told us, she was equally responsible for the vicious crime.
My fellow jurors, however, convicted her of being fat. Of being nervous on the stand. That part they said out loud. I surmise, I think, they convicted her of being dumb. When they discussed her weight, I tried to explain that jail food is fattening. I know, because my brother, who could usually eat anything he wanted and not put on an ounce, came out of a four-month jail stay as husky as a lumberjack. The only time I’ve ever seen him fill out. But they weren’t listening. They could just tell she had planned the whole thing.
I thought maybe the two actual murderers might be the ones who organized such a heinous act. The old man was about to turn them into the police after discovering their marijuana stash, then he winds up dead. Coincidence? I think not. But Linda’s “peers” gave them the benefit of the doubt. Linda had masterminded it all. As I argued with them, number two, a man in his early twenties, did point out that teenage boys aren’t often easily manipulated by their mothers; quite the opposite, in fact. But they beat him down, too. In the end, they did back off of giving her life without parole, so I guess we made a small dent, anyway.
This article brought all of this rather traumatic experience back to my mind. Amanda Knox was also pre-judged by her appearance, by her perfectly natural actions. These are extreme examples, but we do it every day.
Back in high school, my best friend James was an oddball like me. James used to tell me he sometimes thought the whole world had a different set of facial expressions than he did. Everyone else knew that to express surprise, you did a certain thing with your mouth or your eyebrows, but he didn’t know. He thought he had been deliberately taught the wrong expressions. It would explain so much.
For so many of us.