Voir Dire

Video and stills, I Don’t Need You Anymore, a sketch for the live portion of a multimedia streaming performance currently in development, based on my lifelong experience of bipolar disorder, specifically mania and auditory hallucinations.I felt like a failure after being cooped up with a 100+ jury pool, a judge with a big personality, five lawyers, a murderer and countless bailiffs, cops and guards for three days. I was excused after very difficult voir dire. The trial was for murder of two people and attempted murder of seven others, including a number of police officers. Though he clearly committed this violence, using first an assault weapon and then a knife on his already deceased female victims, the defendant pled guilty by reason of insanity. I have been a mental health activist for 20 years – you’d think the insanity defense would be a no-brainer for me. But as the long hours of jury selection passed, I increasingly could not get past those moments in my early forties when rage would rise inside me out of nowhere and paranoid thoughts would drive me to yell at and sometimes strike strange men on the street. Yes, I know blind rage and I have crossed the line because of it. I am fortunate that my mental health providers helped me understand the rage before I was arrested for committing violence. I sat in the courtroom and could not get past: “If you know something’s wrong with your mind and sometimes you feel anger and rage then you should never never never have any kind of weapon in your possession.” (I want to make it clear that because of my bipolar moodswings, struggle with aggression is ongoing for me. I never let up on myself. Never.) So when my name was called for me to take one of the juror alternate seats; and the judge questioned me whether I could be fair, I said: “No.” I said that was upset that I had to say no, “but I knew when I was a three year old struggling with depression for the first time that there was something wrong with me – so, how could a young adult like the defendant, not know?” And I also said, “I know crazy anger and rage because I used to feel it when I was on the street and I used to give into that anger and rage and commit violence.” I had to say, “I’m sorry. I am shocked that I feel this way and I feel like a failure. But I cannot be fair – he never, ever should have had any weapon of any kind in his possession.” I had no idea how straight to the bone the issues in this case would cut for me. However, the other people in that courtroom heard firsthand a mentally ill person speak frankly about how it feels to be crazy. I likely am not cut out to be a juror in any trial involving violent crime, but I am not a failure. I told the truth.

Source: Voir Dire

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