Paul Newman and the chicken defenseFebruary 8, 2013
I always wanted to be on a jury. Court proceedings fascinate me. Though I was called to report for selection a few times I was never chosen, but in the mid 1980s, Grandma Beanie was.
We were all excited for her and awaiting news from her jury adventure. We wondered if it would be a capital case. We wondered if she would be sequestered. We wondered what amazing stories she would tell us about being in court and seeing how it all worked. In the 1980s there was a certain reverence for court proceedings that has been lessened by exposure of the populace to a number of more recent public trials. Trials are still riveting for many, including me, but there is a certain missing mystique that was once a large part of a trial.
Grandma Beanie prepared to go to trial with allowed reading materials and some crochet work for time spent waiting before being called. She was excited when she and her fellow jurors were called to the courtroom, soon to be apprised of the case about which they would be deliberating after all evidence had been presented.
Others filed into the courtroom, and then they all saw the defendant. He was a tiny thing. He didn’t look at all scary. What could he have done to be standing there in front of a judge and jury? The judge said something, to which someone responded that the court was awaiting the arrival of the defense attorney, a Mr. Paul Newman.
Grandma Beanie’s mind, probably because she was overexcited, envisioned the suave and impossibly handsome Paul Newman, the actor. We all fall into a bit of romance from time to time, don’t we? Even court proceedings could have romantic moments when a defense attorney named Paul Newman was involved. It didn’t happen. When Paul Newman walked in, at least one of Grandma Beanie’s romantic court bubbles burst right in front of her. While the defense attorney was an okay looking guy, he was an enormous man bearing no resemblance to Paul Newman, movie star.
Paul Newman, Esq., looked like a defense attorney in a mid-sized metropolis (well, we like to think of it as a mid-sized metropolis – romantics to the last, we are). He looked just like you and me and everyone else around here. And it was okay, because Grandma Beanie was in court, part of a jury. That was going to be exciting.
Once everyone was settled the charges were read. The defendant was accused of breaking into a home via a bedroom window, climbing over the bed and making his way to the kitchen, where he opened the freezer and absconded with a whole chicken. That was it. He stole a frozen chicken. It was made clear that he exited the home through the same window and left it open. The house became very cold with winter air flowing through that open window, the window whose gaping countenance displayed to the world that the owners of the home had been violated.
Each of the jurors took the case very seriously and deliberated when the time came. They found the young man guilty of breaking and entering and sundry other charges. It was serious because no one is allowed to break into the home of others and steal their belongings—not even a frozen chicken.
When Grandma Beanie told us of her experience over dinner that evening we hung on to each word of her story until she said, “frozen chicken.” We then all lost it, en masse. In our world, it seemed that ONLY Grandma Beanie could be called for a jury trial over a frozen chicken. It was priceless, because she had such great luck with poultry, such as the Thanksgiving when both of the breasts popped out of the turkey and on to the kitchen floor as she was removing the bird from the oven. It was the only year that Aunt Cindy’s FUTURE in-laws ever attended our Thanksgiving.