February 16, 2010, Bristol Superior Court, Taunton, MA:
So here we are, in a gloomy, badly water-damaged, second-floor courtroom: dozens of prospective jurors; Nesto’s supporters; the African American woman judge; Christopher Tarrant, the prosecutor; Joseph Krowski, Nesto’s attorney; the court recorder; three bailiffs and Nesto Monell, himself.
As the interminable, mysterious, and mostly behind-the-scene jury selection proceeds, there’s plenty of time for those of us not directly engaged to take note of our environment. We stare at the courtroom’s gigantic gas chandelier refitted with energy-efficient bulbs, the intricate green and brown stenciled ceiling, the mosaics on the wall over the judge’s head and wall of law books behind her, the barely-functional window shades, the worn blue-green carpeting, the intricate, beautifully-turned spindles of the courtroom’s railings. We stare and stare again at those bulging, sloppily-repaired water-damaged walls. We listen to sleet striking the courtroom’s air conditioners and the rackety sounds of a major construction project—a brand new courthouse is being built just feet away.
But we’re here. In the current Bristol Superior Courthouse, a formerly palatial 1895 Greek Revival building, located in the very heart of downtown Taunton—which, BTW, resembles the “It’s a Wonderful Life” ‘s Bedford Falls.
What’s the metaphor?
More importantly (But perhaps the same question): What does the jury make of this setting?
Most importantly: Does what the jury make of this setting work in Nesto’s favor?
The jury pool: Most are in their twenties and thirties, all are white, it seems, most are working-class, I’m guessing; lots of scarves, jeans, jeans with heels; very few suits or dressed-up outfits; only one gum chewer that I can see.
Are they bored? Sleepy? Dismayed to be in this gloomy room ? Impossible to know: their faces give nothing away.
Once selected and seated, the jury hears the judge use words like “rule of law” and “presumption of innocence.” Staring at the mosaic of a disembodied, muscled arm wielding a hammer, the metaphor comes to me (OK, it’s not strictly a metaphor):
All of us in this creepy courtroom are exquisitely suspended in A Moment, a particularly Present Moment. Taunton’s “Silver City” past is well-represented by the craftsmanship and lofty ceilings of this courthouse—surely the jury appreciates those spindles, that mosaic arm, those stencils. The future can be seen, literally, right out the window.
What are these spindles, that mosaic, those stencils teaching us? (Hint: It’s something about Nesto’s character.)
What do those construction sounds tell us? (Hint: It’s something about possibility)
What will guide us, moment by moment, in this Present Moment? Answer: The timeless rule of law. And a wondrous, far-sighted (get it?) concept: that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.