On Monday of this week I got to be a part of the American Judicial System.
I was summoned to be a juror.
Many people become unhinged when they get a Jury Summons. They think: “Jury duty could last days, weeks, or even months! I cannot be away from my work for that long!”. When in fact, just yesterday they spent over an hour at work conducting a vigorous and, sadly, fruitful search for navel lint.
I personally didn’t mind it much when I got my summons. I kinda felt like “Wait… so… instead of commuting two hours into the city, spending the entire day working and then commuting two more hours to arrive at a dark house with a sleeping family… you want me to spend the entire day deciding the fate of some poor bastard and still get home in time to enjoy a hot dinner? Where do I sign?”. Frankly, it’s amazing this doesn’t use up vacation time.
Me: Dammit! I cannot use my BlackBerry?
Guard: No, that’s ok, we allow Blackberr-
Me: This is an outrage!
Guard: But sir, we allow-
Me, handing my BlackBerry to the guard: My boss won’t be happy, but I guess that’s that. Which way is the courtroom?
Guard: That way. But sir, we are going to have to insist that you wear pants.
There was nothing about THAT on the Jury Summons!
Once you get past the security checkpoint, you are ushered into a large room where you…
WARNING: If you want to maintain the fantasy of the wild, crazy, hedonistic party that is the process of Jury Selection, then read no more!
Like a fool, I came early. I arrived by 9am, even though we didn’t have to be there till 11am. Because of my early arrival, however, I was able to get a good seat so that I could concentrate on the most entertaining part of Jury Service… the other potential Jurors.
Over the next few hours, I saw the first round of a game that I now know as “Jury Service Avoidance”. From my prime location I was able to closely observe, and categorize the players in this game. Some of the first ones I identified were:
The Mom: How is she expected to get a babysitter? I mean, you only gave her several months notice!
The Important Business Person: Sure, you may work. But not like them! You are but a cog in the machine. Without them, their company will go out of business!
The Non-English Speaker: When they were speaking to you earlier, they appeared to know English rather well. But when asked by a court official? Suddenly they don’t “habla” so much.
The Idiot: This is my “catch-all” category for the rest of the people that wanted no part of Jury Duty, but could not think up any believable reasons not to be there.
This parade of fantastic excuses trampled the ground before the uncaring government workers for hours and hours. Each assault, however, was soundly rebuffed by a shield of carbon-steel coated apathy. And so, the whiny bitches were forced to take their ridiculously uncomfortable seats and watch “News 12” just like the rest of us.
“News 12” seems somehow different when you watch it for hours at a time. It’s only after an hour or two, that you realize that the entire channel has only about 15 minutes of news. They simply repeat it over, and over, and over (and over). If I had to hear about Cadbury recalling their products ONE more time, I swear I would be entering the courtroom in a slightly different capacity.
But, after a mere five hours of waiting, we were all called into the courtroom. Once we were all seated uncomfortably on the hard wooden benches in the back of the room, the judge asked if there were any of us that felt we could not perform our duty as jurors. That’s when round two of “Jury Service Avoidance” began. A couple of new players emerged:
This Sick Person: When I sat near this person in the waiting room, they were as quiet as could be. Thoroughly engaged in the captivating news program about the dangers of sports drinks. But, as soon as we entered the courtroom? They started coughing like they had Tuberculosis.
The Old Person: His excuses were: a) He doesn’t hear so well, and b) He has to pee… often. While he was up talking to the judge, I would estimate that he put his hand to his ear and said, I quote, “Eh?”, about a dozen times. Stupid? Yes. But his plan appeared to work, since he was allowed to leave. And it’s a good thing for me too, since he sat next to me, and I am pretty sure I knew what “Plan B” was.
After that round of filtering, they selected 15 of us to sit up where the jury sits, and they started to interview us. I was among those 15 potential jurors, and so were several members of our last group of players in the third, and final round of “Jury Service Avoidance”:
The Desperate: I am pretty sure these were the same exact people that I lumped into the “Idiots” category. But moving further along in the process forced them to metamorph into something more strange and beautiful. Something more… retarded.
These poor souls were now fighting like cornered rats. The fear that they might actually have to do something useful for their country was now fully clouding their judgment. They would do and say almost anything to avoid being there. I saw one of them eyeing the bailiff’s gun.
Lawyer: Does everyone here believe they can be fair and impartial?
Juror #9: No.
Lawyer: What do you mean, “No”?
Juror #9: I hate you.
Those may not have been his exact words. But they were close.
Eventually, the interviews were finished, the judge and lawyers discussed their observations in private, and finally they announced who would stay and who would go.
Alas, I was not picked to be a juror.
But still, I feel like I got to play a part in the never-ending pursuit of justice.
And I got home in time for dinner.