This post would be self-explanatory in one sentence, because you would surely know exactly what happened with this one sentence alone:
I had jury duty the other day.
I’ll elaborate. It will hopefully be both cathartic and informative.
We started with at least 120 people that morning. Everybody had a look of resignation on their faces, as if we had all been sentenced for a minor crime. People walked a little slower than normal, it seemed. Nobody spoke to anyone. We assembled, checked our mobiles…and waited.
The orientation was about 30 minutes. The nice lady charged with herding these cats gave us our instructions, then gave them again, then delivered them a third time.
“If you have the slip of paper with the BLUE box, write your cell number in the box and bring it to me. If you DON’T have a blue box on your paper…” The instructions were simple and straightforward, all three times.
We waited some more, while numerous fellow members of the jury pool scratched their heads in bewilderment, then walked up to the lady and said, “Now what do I do?”
We then watched a decade-old video civics lesson, explaining why we were here, what it meant, and why it was important. It was a bit like those old instructional movies we used to watch in school.
She sent us upstairs to the courtroom. It was packed.
The clerk of the court greeted us, and held up a pile of papers.
“if you have a hardship which you believe disqualifies you for jury service at this time, please come up and fill out this form.”
The stampede was akin to refugees storming a Red Cross food aid truck.
Did I want to be here? No. Did I have a real hardship (cancer surgery tomorrow, tending to a sick relative, etc)? No. I was going to play the numbers game. There were still 4o or so that didn’t get up.
I was among the first 18 people called to sit in the jury box. I let out an audible sigh. This was not going well.
This, however, is where the fun began. Fun might not be an appropriate word – maybe I’ll call it a sideshow.
The judge and the attorneys started asking questions. Is there any reason anyone believes they might not be a good fit for serving, they queried.
I listened to the moans and groans, the pleas and the excuses. Each person chipped away at my feeling of love for my fellow humans.
Many of these people were lying. They knew it, and I knew it.
The woman who I distinctly heard speaking precision English on her mobile not 30 minutes earlier all of a sudden forgot this language when the judge asked her what her problem was. She mumbled in her (possibly) native tongue and kept shaking her head, “No no no.”
I considered calling her out. Then I realized I would be on someone’s YouTube video, or under arrest (for being a nut) soon thereafter. I remained quiet and temporarily hateful.
One by one, the excuses flew.
Another lady said her Christian faith precluded her from judging other people. Really now. Does her religion not recognize sin? Does her religion teach it’s okay to lie under oath? I steamed with resentment and shot her a cold glare.
A very well-dressed gentleman looked the Assistant District Attorney right in the eye and declared that he was unable to distinguish right from wrong. He said he would “get too confused by all the facts”.
Dismissed. Back to work at Yahoo! or wherever for you, white-collar manager/smart guy/liar.
The baby boomer lady in horrid mom jeans said her previous jury experience was a nightmare because “lawyers just try to prove a point”. The defense attorney says, “That’s the point, you know…” Over and over she repeats the phrase. The ADA knows she’s looking to get hooked. The attorney presses, probes, tries to get this lying liar to connect the legal dots.
I fidget in my creaky seat. Ohnoyoudidnt, Mom Jeans. Dammit.
The trio ask more questions. I cannot lie, I tell myself. I don’t care if I’m never going to see these people again. I will not pretend I am against (the issue presented in the case). I CAN be fair, unbiased and judge the case on the basis of the facts presented.
The guy who says he can’t possibly be fair because he was once charged with (the crime detailed in the charges).
The numbers are dwindling.
The pathetic lies continue. No one here said, “I have three weeks to live, your Honor.”
They obfuscated, talked in circles, and used the now well – worn phrase when asked if they could be fair…”I’m not sure…”
It’s taking time, and wasting time. I now contemplate attempted murder because I want to kill them.
Then it’s my turn.
The judge asks me about something. “Son, can you be fair?”
“I’m good, your Honor.”
Ten minutes later, I’m raising my right hand with 12 other people. The day is over. We’re in.
Now that I’ve been in for a couple of days, my tone has changed. My country asks me to do two things for the 76.875,690 freedoms and rights and privileges I have – they wish I would vote, and they want me to serve on a jury once in a while.
I can’t really complain about that trade-off.
The next time they ask (and they will) I will complain less, rearrange my calendar and suck it up for America if I have to.
If you were on trial, you probably would want me and my 12 new friends to hear your case. I think we’re a good group – balanced by age, gender and ethnicity. We seem, well…normal.
We’re snappy dressers too.