Robert Paul Reyes was born in San Francisco and currently resides in Alameda, Calif. A year and a half after launching his web page, he became an unofficial Cyber-Columnist in April and shortly thereafter became a "regular" Fort Worth Star-Telegram cybercolumnist, writing essays in "My Turn," where he makes his observations on anything and everything in life.

A graduate of Jefferson High School in Daly City, Calif., Robert describes himself as "self-educated and a voracious reader." He works as a claims examiner in Oakland, Calif, but says his real job "is simply being a writer." Robert had never had a single work published before this year. He has now had his essays published by over fifty newspapers and magazines including the Op-ed page of the Oakland Tribune.


Fate drops a jury duty notice in my mail box. Don't most American citizens simply discard those pesky summons? Should I just toss it? That little slip of paper has the potential to disrupt my life for the next few weeks.

I respond. I survive the jury selection process. My identity is stripped away. For the new few weeks I will be juror #4. Twelve jurors. A teacher, an airplane mechanic, a registered nurse, an accountant, a paramedic... Taxpayers one and all. Civic-minded citizens one and all. Good Americans one and all.

We are white, we are brown, we are yellow, but most of all we are all red, white and blue. We are fulfilling our civic responsibility. We feel proud. We feel patriotic. We are pining to get started.

The trial starts. The testimony begins. Sometimes numbingly boring. A technician describing the intricacies of DNA. Sometimes numbingly emotional. The murder victim's best friend crying on the witness stand.

Twelve jurors. Twelve perspectives. The trial has gone on for a couple of days now. We still feel proud. We still feel patriotic, but we are also pensive and we are also edgy. We cope. During breaks we tell lame jokes. We make small talk. We aren't allowed to discuss the case until deliberations start, so we chat about the weather and we chat about our lives that have been temporarily suspended.

The shocking details. A young woman stabbed in the heart. Her body dismembered. Her body parts stuffed in garbage bags and buried in the defendant's back yard.

On television murder is so clean. On television murder is so antiseptic. Television has time for commercials but it doesn't have time to deal with the aftermath of murder. In this trial we are immersed in the aftermath of a brutal murder. We see how the murder of one young woman has emotionally wounded and spiritually scarred so many different people.

The victim. Tiffany Boyce. A dancer. A model. A poet. A gifted young lady who worked taking care of disabled adults.

The defendant. He shall remain nameless. A convicted felon. An admitted abuser of women. A self-absorbed young man who seems to care only about himself.

Juror #4. Trying to be as impartial as is humanly possible. I keep my mind open. I keep my ears open. I take it all in. The district attorney and the defendant's lawyer both have my undivided attention and well earned respect.

Deliberations start. Pent up emotions erupt in a torrent of words. Finally we can express how we feel. We discuss. We deliberate. We review the testimony and dissect the evidence. After a day and a half of deliberations we arrive at a verdict.

Twelve jurors. One unanimous verdict. One last time we have to file into the courtroom, for the reading of the verdict. The court clerk dispassionately reads the verdict. Guilty. Murder. First Degree. The defendant covers his face and weeps. The family and friends of Tiffany gathered in the courtroom exhale as one. The jury cries out of relief. The jury cries out of emotional exhaustion.

I wish I could breathe life into Tiffany Boyce. After a month of hearing her family and friends talk about her, I feel as if I am a member of her family. I wish I could put her severed limbs back together and make her whole, but she is dead. I can't bring her back to life, but I can keep her memory alive. With my words I can make her immortal. This essay is for you Tiffany Boyce.

Juror #4 is a writer. The best gift I can give someone is the gift of words. I hope my words will console and comfort all those that knew and loved Tiffany.

1999 Robert Paul Reyes


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