Saxophonist John Doheny was born in Seattle Washington in 1953 but has spent much of his adult life in Canada, primarily in Vancouver and Toronto. After early experiences accompanying strippers in bars and cabarets he became a professional R&B sideman in the late 1970s, touring and recording with artists both prominent and obscure. In 1991 he returned to Vancouver and began a program of intense musical study, both in academe (Vancouver Community College, the University of British Columbia) and in the more informal area of performance. He asserts that "all human intercourse is either an opportunity to learn or to teach. Everything that I know about jazz performance (to the extent that I know anything at all) I owe to those players, teachers and students who have suffered to share the bandstand and the teaching studio with me." Since 2003, Mr. Doheny has been a permanent resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, but makes every effort to spend summers in Canada because "it's too damn hot down here then."

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Jury Duty cont.

They called for 25 potential jurors and herded us into the elevator, where a small, elderly very dark skinned man with a voice like Howlin Wolf informed us that "somebody meetcha on th' second flo." We were lined up outside the courtroom in the hall by number (as 'juror number one' I got to stand closest so I could get whacked by the door as it was repeatedly flung open by various attorneys, cops and bailiffs) and then ushered into the courtroom of Judge Daryl Derbigny, who turned out to be a sixty-ish, light-skinned Creole of Color with glasses and bright blue eyes.

Absolutely nothing happened that we all haven't seen before on TV, many times before. Judge Daryl instructed us, in his soft, cultivated 7th ward accent, on the various procedural and legal niceties; presumption of innocence, beyond a reasonable doubt etc. I couldn't help but notice that the two prosecuting attorneys were both very young versions of a 'type' I've come to think of as "Garden District Bird Bones,' tiny, perfect little white women with bones like birds, who speak in a manner known as 'uptalk'? You know, where every sentence elides upward like it was a question? The defence attorney, on the other hand, was a solid, muscular Queen Latifah style African American woman who looked like she could kick both their asses.

The defendent was a suitably shifty looking young guy in dreadlocks and a cheap suit. Since it was a simple burglary beef, I couldn't figure out why he didn't just plead it out, since he'd likely get minimum to no actual time. Either he really didn't do it, or he was up against some nitwit "three strike felony" law and had nothing to lose by demanding a jury trial. Me, I kept hearing Frank Zappa's lines from "The Illinois Enema Bandit:

"The jury was composed, of ordinary folks.

And the judge instructed....no poo poo jokes."

Anyway, all that talk I'd heard about how they don't like teachers as jurors must be true, because they kicked me loose, along with the Tulane-grad high school teacher who'd been sitting in front of me. By the time we got back down to the jury lounge they'd filled all twelve dockets and let us go around one o'clock. I didn't have any teaching to do until two, so aside from feeling burnt from lack of sleep (I'd been playing at Donna's on North Rampart the night before) my day wasn't scuffed up too bad. I walked over to the Rite Aid at Canal and Broad and Darlene came and picked me up and drove me over to Tulane.

Wednesday was the same ole same ole, a bunch of tired, pissed off people sitting around reading the paper and bitching. This time I was called up in a 50-juror job lot to the coutroom of Terry Q. Alarcon. Where judge Daryl had been soft spoken and cultivated, Judge Terry, while he looked distinguished (he was a graying, middle-aged white guy) had the voice of Super Yat. (for the uninitiated, a 'yat' is a working class, usually white New Orleanian. The 'yat' is taken from the standard greeting "where y'at," and the accent is a hard edged, urban bray, where 'church' is pronounced 'choich' and there are plenty of 'dese, dem and dos-es.' Think Archie Bunker, but with southern diction). The case was a "possession of marijuana with intent to distribute" beef, the defendent was another shifty young guy with dreads, the defence attorney was a male version of monday's Queen Latifah (only with a folksier vibe) and the two DA chicks were light-skinned, 7th ward versions of the Garden District Bird Bones. Judge Terry spent a lot of time talking about how we'd need to render a 'just and fair verdict' regardless of our personal opinions on the efficacy (or lack thereof) of criminalizing marijuana. He waved around a blue-jacketed volume of the Louisiana Criminal Code. "Regahdless a my poisanal opinions on da details o' dis heah book, my pernt is dat I gotta rule on da law AS WRITTEN. I can't jus' say I'm down wit' page twenny but I can't git wit' page twenny foah." But when it came time for me to address this dilemma I had to say that no, I simply can't guarantee that I'll rule impartially on the case. As I put it to judge Terry, "I have some very strong personal objections to putting people in jail for possession with intent to distribute flowers." We went back and forth on this for some time. Finally I said, "look judge, what I'm saying here is that I will try my best to interpret the law as written, but that I have a big problem with being part of a process that I perceive as unjust. Let me put it this way; if I were the prosecuting attorney, I'd get rid of me with my first pre-emptory challenge." I figured I was off this jury for sure right there; not only a professor, but somebody using legal terms as well. Anyway, they all went back to chambers to do their thing while we sat there. Then a bailiff came out and said, "Mr. Doheny, Judge Alarcon would like to see you in chambers.

Oh shit. The walk back there felt like getting called into the principal's office. But it turned out that judge Terry just wanted to make sure I didn't think he was insulting me by belaboring the point. He also let on that his own opinions weren't far from my own ("but I gotta rule on da lawr AS WRITTEN because hey, dat's da gig") and that I was going to miss out on a nice lunch ("we usually order in from Mandina's") by mouthing myself off the panel. We shook hands, I went back outside, and they kicked me loose again, just in time for me to make my 2 o'clock class at Tulane.

Next: Who Dat's in the jury lounge.

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