Check That Metaphor, Counselor

Context: I had Jury Duty on Wednesday. We’re done now. We reached our verdict at around 5 pm after deliberating for about an hour, and with that done, all the sequestering and no-talking stuff is done too. The judge gave us permission to speak freely about the case.

The defendant was charged with “possession with intent to distribute.” The defense claimed that he was going to use all 250 doses of meth himself. The prosecution claimed that this was actually unheard of. They also pointed out that, according to the law, even  if he only planned to share, not sell, and was going to share just one dose, that’s still intent to distribute.¹

When arrested, the defendant did not have all of the other paraphernalia of drug distribution in the car with him. Just 25.681 grams of chunky, uncut methamphetamine. Distribution would require baggies and a scale, and a full operation would be evidenced by cutting agents, a client list, and some wads of $20 bills.

I’m getting to the metaphor soon, I promise.

The prosecution suggested that these things would likely be left at a facility, where they could be used in secret on a large flat, stable surface, exactly like none of the surfaces found inside the car. The absence of the other stuff in the car simply meant they hadn’t found the facility yet. (They never found a facility, and whether or not they looked for one never came up from either team of attorneys, which seemed WEIRD to me, but maybe these things go missing all the time.)

The metaphor: In closing arguments the defense attorney said “if you’re going to bake a cake, you don’t leave all the ingredients at home, and then go shopping for an oven.”

It’s cute, but okay, stop.

If you’re going to bake a cake, some of the things you need are re-usable, but some are consumed with each cake. You go shopping for the stuff you run out of. A digital scale is the sort of thing that is very sensibly left at home when you go shopping for the key consumable ingredient in your business.

That was my exact thinking when she broke out the oven metaphor. Literally, the moment she said “oven” my brain said “your metaphor works better against you² than it does for you.” During jury deliberations I found that pretty much all of us had that same thought.

The point being, if you’re going to use a metaphor, you go shopping for the one that isn’t pointier on the end you’re going to hold it with. Same rule if you’re shopping for swords, probably.


¹  I see the logic in that law, but I can also see how it can easily be abused in its application. That said, I am not a lawyer, even if I am now a part of the system.

² I was pretty disappointed³ with the prosecuting attorney for not reversing the metaphor during his rebuttal. I’ll grant that it is possible that he trusted That One Juror Who Said He Is A Cartoonist to make the reversal during deliberation. Lawyers trusting juries to be clever seems like a stretch, but trusting me to fix a broken joke is a slam dunk. 

³ Technically, I did not go to court today to be entertained by the attorneys. I went to court FOR GREAT JUSTICE and that’s usually only entertaining on TV.