Jury Duty At Last

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When I was very young, I tried repeatedly to get jury duty. Probably due to my asinine name, I couldn’t manage it. I remember the look of incredulity one of the federal court employees gave me when I asked her how to get on jury duty. One would have thought I asked her to cut my hair by peeling the scalp off my head. I guess asking for jury duty wasn’t something a normal person aspired to? The same result occurred at the county level. I’m pretty sure they were laughing at me when I exited the clerk’s office after inquiring.

No one wanted me. I felt like Spiderman must have felt when he showed up at the crime scene suffering from terrible diarrhea.

After years of thinking nothing more of it, I got the dreaded Jury Duty Notice in the mail recently. I could also hear the universe laughing maniacally at my shock when I opened the notice. I’m not sure the government knows what kind of nutcase they are inviting to be a part of the process, but if they want me to play the part of dutiful citizen, I will vainly try to keep a straight face while doing so. I may very well be wearing a fake mustache, but I will have a straight face.

Let’s be honest, would any of you want me sitting in a jury deciding your fate? I didn’t think so. I would come in 5th in a three-man race for ‘Most Reasonable.’

In what universe is it sensible to invite ME to jury duty? If called to trial, I am going to object loudly for both sides, bring my own handcuffs, as well as consume large quantities of beans for every meal. I may also chew on garlic tablets at every opportunity. To paraphrase Zach Galifianakis, I might also sit quietly with my eyes on either the prosecutor or litigant’s attorney and say “Oh bullcrap” quietly each time they make a point. I’m also going to wear a different wig each day until someone notices.

I have a real problem deciding a person’s freedom. Monetary claims are one thing, but I have always said I’m not comfortable being involved in cases where jail is a possibility. (For the defendant, not me, although given my irreverence, I may very well be behind bars for a big list of reasons, the least of which might be contempt of court.)

Anyone with a critical eye can see that money is the single biggest determinant of outcome for lawsuits, whether criminal or civil. Eyewitness testimony is unreliable, our memory is nothing like we imagine it to be, and impartiality is what we claim we have all the while believing in nonsense such as horoscopes and the political process being fair. The ability of our legal system to restrict our ability to see and hear all the evidence is almost total. As in life, we think we know what we are talking about because we saw a two-minute clip about it on the Ellen show one afternoon. We’ll all seen too many courtroom dramas and heard too many cases where nothing turns out to be as it seemed. Trials are massively complicated affairs that should be left to the experts.

I feel very sympathetic to those without means being required to perform jury duty. Not all employers encourage or treat those chosen for jury duty appropriately. It disrupts one’s life, the ability to care for one’s family, not to mention gives some of those who can’t get out of it a terrible attitude. Remember that when you are watching a real jury sitting in the box, frowning and fidgeting, desperately waiting to get behind closed doors and find a way to give someone the death penalty. Just for not returning a library book.

There are too many people who are retired, independently capable of duty, or not able to work but who possess the mental faculty to be on juries for us to continue to mandate jury duty.

And it will be me, confusing the perplexed jurors stuck in the room with me, who is to blame when a one-day trial results in a six-week jury deliberation and $12,000 dining bill for the county.

We’ll all finally come out of the jury room and then quietly line up in the box. The judge will ask with great solemnity: “Have you reached a verdict?” At which point the fatigued foreman will rise, open a crumpled envelope and say, “Yes, we the jury find X Teri guilty of gross ignorance and stupidity and sentence him to jail instead of the defendant.” And a great applause will erupt while all the jurors weep in relief.

And as the judge commences to bang his gavel to close the proceedings, I will jump up to the bench and hold a single nail underneath his gavel, so that when it arcs down and hammers, it will drive the nail halfway into the judge’s desk. It’s something I’ve always aspired to, especially when I used to watch Judge Ito in the O.J. case. I could then gleefully say “He nailed it.”

I really did get a 3 month sentence (I mean to say ‘term’) of jury duty. I’ll do the best I can and although I am joking about it, I will do what I can to follow all instructions from the court. Like the Army though, my motto is “Be All You Can Be.” That’s dangerous advice for weirdos.

I will faithfully listen with great caution and remind myself that we are wrong about so much that failing to take it seriously can cause harm to people who have done nothing to injure me. But if the prosecutor paces in front of me too much, I am going to lick my lips provocatively at him or her until he or she forgets what in blazes was being said. And if he walks to close, I’m definitely going to trip him or her while mumbling, “That was for Marcia Clark.” Thanks

 

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