Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Grand Path to Jury Duty Downtown Los Angeles and Genocide

Spring is a good season to be summoned for jury service in downtown Los Angeles - commute time is a bit lighter, and the mild weather allows for pleasant walks starting from the designated underground parking at the Disney Concert Hall, then downhill to the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

The random draw of names in the Wednesday, May 20th pool of jurors in the 5th Floor Assembly Room placed me into a domestic violence case.  The jury service process made me feel vulnerable - all of my time was dependent on the presiding judge.  Each morning and after lunch, there is the mandatory procession to pass the "airport-style security" checkpoint into the building.

By Day 4 on Tuesday, May 26th, jury selection was still ongoing, however it was during this afternoon that the Defense thanked and excused me.

The four days created a holding pattern for chunks of my life.  I adapted to a routine, though, descending by way of Grand Park in the a.m. and then ascending the Park back to Disney Concert Hall in the p.m.. 

Armenian Genocide (1915 to 1921)

This path led me to encounter a temporary art installation, its display coincided with the centennial of the Armenian Genocide.  The plight of this history found a platform, beginning at the highest elevation, the Music Center, and continuing across the street at the westernmost point of Grand Park. 


The seats of government (the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration and City Hall), the various halls of justice, and a center for cultural arts (the Music Center) surrounded and sheltered these worn faces of survivors.  And I thought about their lives in holding patterns and their vulnerable states of being in the wake of the horror that began in 1915.

The building in the background is the county's Hall of Administration

On the grounds of the Music Center

Cambodian Genocide (1975 to 1979)

Prior to reporting for jury duty, the topic of genocide was in the media:  the community march on April 24th by supporters for American and Turkish recognition that the crime was genocide and undeniable; also filmmaker Arthur Dong recently released his new film on Haing Ngor, the voice of the Cambodian Genocide, in "The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor".

The late Dr. Ngor disguised from his captors the fact that he was an educated medical doctor; he was tortured but somehow survived, escaped to Thailand and made his way to Los Angeles by 1980.  He is remembered for being chosen as a non-professional for an acting role in the film "The Killing Fields" and making film history by receiving an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor among the films of 1984.  In 1988 he wrote his gripping autobiography, Haing Ngor, a Cambodian Odyssey.  His notoriety and subsequent acting roles funded his cause to help rebuild the lives of Cambodian refugees.  His life ended violently in February of 1996, outside of his modest hilltop apartment near Chinatown, where police concluded he was shot dead in a robbery attempt.

The afternoon after my release from jury duty I headed home eastbound to Whittier.  I live near the cemetery, Rose Hills.  My car climbed the steep mountainside reaching Alpine Terrace, the section where Dr. Ngor is buried.  I was struck by the similarities in the elevation and place naming of his final resting place and the sloped neighborhood where he died, as he had resided near Alpine Street.

The family chose a photo of his Oscar acceptance moment on the gravestone

Several years ago Rose Hills used a slogan on their billboards, as I saw riding along the 605 Freeway, "Where History Lies".  At the time I thought it was a lame slogan.  But having visited Dr. Ngor's grave, the pastoral scene below seems to truly exemplify where history lies.

Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument

Today, having finished my first full day back at my job, I took a detour off the 60 Pomona Freeway that I travel daily into the city of Montebello.  Here is the site of a permanent landmark:  the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument.  It is the oldest public landmark in the U.S. dedicated to the memory of the victims of the massacre, having been built and dedicated in the 1960s.

It is incredible that the Cambodian massacres would occur just 9 years after this 1968 monument was completed