A debut memoir recalls a juror’s momentous decision and his struggle with religious faith.
In 2009, Dubler was summoned to jury duty in Colorado’s Arapahoe County, and his 10-week service in a double-murder trial changed his life. The charges in the case were grim—a drug dealer was accused of a coldblooded shooting—and the stakes were dauntingly high; if the defendant was found guilty, he could face the death penalty. The author was emotionally overwhelmed by the gravity of his role, torn by a dilemma that he poignantly recounts: “I could choose mercy and offend everyone who clamored for the full extent of justice. Or I could choose the death penalty and offend everyone who said that there had already been enough tears, suffering, and death.” Dubler situates the trial within his own painful crisis of faith. Raised as an evangelical Christian, he was taught that the line between sin and righteousness was inflexible; he also says that he was generally seen by others as a man who was filled with divine spirit. However, despite his commitment to his faith, he felt disappointed in God as he languished in a dysfunctional marriage. While reconciling himself with the enormity of his judgment as a juror, Dubler felt compelled to confront his inclinations toward moral judgment. In this book, he sensitively portrays his duties as a juror, filling these moments with nuance, introspection, and self-doubt. Despite the monstrousness of the crime, Dubler recounts how he resisted thinking of the defendant as the personification of evil, as he detected “glimpses of his humanity.” Throughout, the author’s personal recollections are remarkably forthcoming and unguarded; he even discusses how sexual abstinence before marriage affected his relationship with his wife and how uncomfortable he was about sex’s “mechanics and messiness.” Still, the highlight of the book is his running comparison between his uneventful upbringing and the defendant’s traumatic one and the ways in which both virtue and chance indelibly shape a life.
An emotional, edifying remembrance written with power and clarity.