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Toast and a Dress

In 2000, Justin Timberlake finished a radio interview and left behind two pieces  of French Toast that he had barely touched during the interview. The DJ at the station then put the left-over toast up for bid on eBay.

A bidding war ensued and a fan won the auction and the toast for $1,025. Apparently, being a fan of the singer gave value to the toast. (Story)

The dress in this picture was worn by Marilyn Monroe  in 1962, when she sang the infamous Happy Birthday song to President John F. Kennedy in 1962. (LA Times)



At the time, the entire event was controversial; That includes the “singing in a whisper” voice as she sang to the President, because there was a “well known secret” of the ongoing affair between Kennedy and Monroe.

The dress was made of silk gauze and covered in thousands of sequins and rhinestones. It’s original cost was $12,000. The gown was so tight that Monroe had to be sown into it before she walked on stage. Three months after her singing appearance, she was found dead in her apartment.

The dress has changed owners over the years. Recently at auction, it sold for 4.81 million dollars. Just a dress, a very tight dress.

In 1995, I was about to begin a jury trial in Rockingham County, North Carolina. When the Judge met with defense counsel and me in his chambers before going out to begin the trial, he asked if we were close to settling the case.

“Not even close”, I said .The judge looked at me and told me about a recent verdict in that county that was only $20,000, for the death of a 22-year old. As he put it, “the people of this county have nothing, and they want to make sure that no one else has anything”.

I unfortunately report that the jury did not return a verdict that I was expecting. The judge told me that he wasn’t surprised. It’s why, despite my many jury trials, I can easily remember when that trial took place.

The German word Schadenfreude is translated literally as harm-joy. It is the pleasure that is derived from the misfortune of others. It is similar to the meaning of gloating, but we have no specific word like this German word. Perhaps its our way of pretending that we don’t have this emotion.

There is an old English expression Roman Holiday. That literally comes from the days of  ancient Rome where people would travel miles to watch the Gladiators fight, with the expectation that a gladiator  would be killed “to make a Roman Holiday“.

This blog isn’t meant to provide an answer. However, the question is, “why do some put such value on objects and things, and not on life and human suffering?”.

When selecting a jury, it is always my hope that I don’t have someone on the jury who does not feel for others who have suffered. Many jury consultants suggest that it’s a bad idea to allow youthful jurors, especially males, to serve on your jury. Many of them have played video games that are based on war games and suffering, and they have detached from feeling human suffering. I hope that’s not totally true.

When I read stories of French Toast and memorabilia celebrity dresses that have sold for such significant dollars, it doesn’t surprise me. It just makes me hope that it will somehow impact our appreciation for the losses that people suffer.


And for pic o’ day…


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