Tuesday, September 05, 2006

jury duty

JURY SUMMONS: You are required blah, blah, blah…
The above are the last words you really want to read after retrieving your mail. I recently got one of these notices and grimaced. I had about two weeks to think about it before I had to appear.
The list of things that went through my mind that I would rather do than spend a day, or possibly more, in a courthouse would be far too exhaustive than space here allows. Tedium, I would like to think, is rarely anybody’s objective.
However, when the morning of the day arrived, I put myself into the mindset that if be a juror I must, then be a good one. Maybe it would even turn out to be somewhat interesting.
First of all, I at least learned that one does not have to be a registered voter to be selected for jury duty. One merely has to be eligible to become a voter. This is explained in incredibly long-winded fashion when you are seated, then asked to stand and then try to remember the words to the pledge of allegiance.
After about a half an hour of telling you what it takes to not be a qualified juror, it happens to be that to be disqualified, you pretty much have to be over the age of seventy or a convicted felon. (Insert sigh here.) Not that I ever aspire to be a felon. While my hair might be graying at a more rapid rate than I care for, I would be hard pressed to pass for elderly.
There had to have been three hundred people crammed into what is referred to as the “Central Jury Room.” Names were called and seats assigned. Maybe, as others have told me about, my name would not be called at all and I could just go home and forget about it.
There were 48 seats to fill in one particular section and 12 of those assigned to those seats would eventually be selected to serve. One group got to leave as whatever it was to be decided had been suddenly settled out of court. Hope did indeed exist.
My name lasted all of the amount of time it took for the facilitator to say my name and the number 2. So I went and sat down in seat #2 and read for a bit while other names were called.
I wondered to myself who the heck would want someone like myself to decide upon the fate of another. Maybe they would just want me to plug in an amplifier and provide some dramatic background music. This, of course, was not the situation.
We were all herded up to the eighth floor were we could sit or pace for a while. I chose to pace as I figured I would probably be sitting a fair amount of time.
Once called into the courtroom. I was seated in #2 and looked upon the scene in front of me. To the right, there was a lady seated next to a podium. To the left there was a seedy looking guy and a professional looking guy. Just have to use your imagination there.
We were all asked to stand as the judge entered and were then told to sit again. Everyone obliged.
The lady by the podium turned out to be he prosecuting attorney. She gave a brief explanation of what was to be taking place and that the man going to trial was accused of sexual indecency with a child and could face up to twenty years in a state penitentiary.
Then the seedy looking guy stood up and said pretty much the same thing. It was he who was the lawyer and the professional looking guy the defendant. Go figure.
It was sometime around that moment that the gravity of the responsibility of a juror hit me. I mean, I could possibly be selected to be a part of a team of people that could send some dude to prison for twenty years.
There were to be several witnesses describing what allegedly took place. I actually began to be interested in what was going to transpire. Was it possible that somebody was lying about an innocent man, or was the guy guilty as sin? He was probabaly not more than fifteen feet from me and we did make eye contact several times. I tried to gain an impression, but there was none there.
Alas, I was released after the first set of questions. I am not sure why they did not choose me, but it probably was because of one answer.
The prosecuting attorney asked if would I would hold her to proving guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt.
“Yes,” I said


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