I just spent the week on a jury listening to a capital murder case. It's a life-changing event, and very sad. This case involved a drug deal which resulted in the death of a 20-year old Juan Castillo, whose wife was 2 months pregnant at the time. He was working full time at a tire center, to support his family, but he was also selling marijuana on the side to earn extra cash. He was shot trying to sell a pound to a 18-year old black guy named Kris McLarty who had decided he wasn't going to pay for it--and he had a gun. This all happened the day before Katrina hit, and one of the guys involved had just fled New Orleans to Dallas. Kris, the defendant, had no family show up in court, except for his mother on one day, who only showed up under intense coercion on the defense attorney's part. She seemed like she was done with her son, and didn't care about him. She wasn't there today when we delivered the sentence of guilty, which carried an automatic life sentence. The deceased's family, about 10 or 12 family members, were there during the entire trial. This affair was a sad tale of a bunch of 18-20 year olds all using bad judgment. Really, really sad.
The other side of this experience was meeting the other 11 people on my jury, whom I wouldn't have met under other circumstances, like Edna, a sweet diminutive black woman in her late 60's, not many teeth, but with a really infectious spirit. She also wore a very cute, turban-like cap. One day red, the next day the same cap in cream color. Edna had been a cook all her life (as was her mother), is now retired, but still loves to cook at home for her son and her father. She is a single parent with a now 36-year old musician son living at home with her. She also loves to look at beautiful paintings, and she writes poetry. When I asked her what kinds of food she cooked, she opened her purse and pulled out a Polaroid snapshot of several plates of food on her dinner table, including a plate of homemade biscuits. I thought it was so sweet that she carried around a photo of food she had cooked at home.