Not quiet sure I correctly remember a story told to me once about justice. The arc of the story stuck with me but I fear some of the details have faded. It was about a mass murder trial.
My college friend took to the witness stand on behalf of the prosecution, as far as he knew. He’d given pre-trial interviews to many lawyers and paralegals. He had aperiodically met with various persons who wished to hear the details of that night from 2 or 3 years ago. He was asked repeatedly during those interviews whether he was certain of the details.
“It was a Black Man in a White Sox hate?”
“It was a coworker in a Cowboys Jacket?”
“It was a gang member in a Logo Outfit?”
“He ordered a sandwich and it had ham on it? You served it? You knew him? You knew his brother? It was a Black Man who Knew People?”
Yes. He thought, maybe. Probably. But it had been a long time. He wasn’t sure he confessed. He was pretty sure but he didn’t want to be wrong.
They put him on the stand in front of the Black Man, the brother of the person he was certain he knew because he was on a school team with the person he did know. The man staring at him now in the Orange Suit seemed like the man who’s sandwich he made that night, some night years ago.
A Bearded Man in A Suit asked my friend questions about That Night Long Ago. My friend thinks the questions were like:
Why were you there? What did you do? Did you know The Man in The Orange Shirt? Can you Be Certain? Tell The Court about the store. When did you make The Sandwich?
And this one too
“Is This The Jacket He Who Ordered The Sandwich Wore?”
My friend told me he was sweating and very scared. I asked why, but gently. He said he was sure that everyone there was certain he was wrong. That he didn’t have the answers and he wasn’t really there. There were people who obviously wanted him to stop talking and at least one person who wanted him to not exist, perhaps wanted to kill him himself. He was sure he was perjuring himself but didn’t know how to not perjure himself. He was certain he wasn’t certain but not being certain was not ok. People needed to know that he knew. But he had forgotten or hadn’t been aware enough. He hadn’t know beforehand that he needed to remember so he just made a sandwich and clocked out. But then he needed to remember and he couldn’t. And he got very upset by himself and with himself because he couldn’t remember and he was certain it was his fault if someone died or someone didn’t die and everyone would hate him because he killed or didn’t kill the right person.
The other man Without the Beard but With Long Hair asked him only one question, at least that’s all he told me:
“When did you leave that night?”
but the other time he talked to him there were other questions. Just not now.
He took a drink of water. That is My Friend Who Was In Murder Trial drank some water right then, I think. My mouth was dry having tried to remember who did what and who was wrong and how I might be ruining it all and might have to go to jail and be punished in horrible ways because I couldn’t remember.