|Jury Duty! How Fun!|
Recently, I was able to see our legal system at work. And I’m not talking about having to write a big fat check for a speeding ticket from Wisconsin. Not that I have ever had one.
No, I got a juror questionnaire in the mail. Hot damn! I filled it out immediately, sent it in, and waited anxiously. Approximately 4 seconds later, the county called me for jury duty. So fast! I marveled. All the other juror prospects must be either rearranging their sock drawers or washing their hair. Well, they wouldn’t know what they were missing. I felt so lucky and excited and chosen. My husband just gave me funny looks.
The day of my new legal career dawned bright and sunny. I had a whole extra half hour that morning, so that was exciting. I dallied around the house, petting the dog, drinking extra coffee to get my brain ready for all the legal puzzles I would surely be solving, and lining up an extra word find book in case I finished the first one, what with all that delicious free time.
After I reached the downtown area, I realized a much smarter way of using that half hour would have been to spend it looking for a parking spot, as it seemed every citizen in town--and a couple hundred from out of town--had business down at the courthouse.
If the parking deck was any indication, I estimated that there must have been approximately 700 people who had been called for jury duty that same Tuesday who actually showed up. I ended up parking somewhere in south Detroit.
We were all crammed into a area the size of a fitting room at a department store, except it was a little smaller and didn’t have mirrors. There were, however, some televisions, and we got to watch a stimulating movie about the justice system. I took meticulous notes until I saw I was the only nerd doing so.
However, I was excited because a) there was free coffee, b) I knew that I would get a big whopping check for $13 and daydreamed of how I would spend it and c) I got to do some serious people watching. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I got in enough people watching to last me a very long time, which means that I wouldn’t have to travel to Wal-Mart to get my fix.
After a couple of hours of swilling free coffee and getting lost find the ladies’, my name was called and I was taken with about 50 other people into a courtroom for possible inclusion as a juror in a criminal case. Name after name was called and once they had questioned and accepted 12 jurors, I was smugly packing up my books and magazines, cerain that I would be excused. I would go home to go online and spend my $13 on Amazon.
It was not to be. Would that I had this sort of luck in the lottery! In a room with approximately 35 other prospective jurors, guess whose name got called next. As an ALTERNATE. Not even a real juror, but an ALTERNATE, lucky juror number 13.
The jury questioning was very interesting. Here’s a sample of what they asked the REAL jurors:
Lawyer: What is your name? Where do you live? What’s the biggest problem facing this area? Are you related to any law enforcement people? Do you have pets? Are you a citizen of the United Sates? Can you breathe on your own? Are you human?
Here’s a sample of what they asked ME:
Lawyer: What is your name? How many hours do you sleep at night? Ever had a charley horse? Do you believe in aliens? Ever flush a goldfish? Are you regular? Do you suffer from tennis elbow? What is your favorite color?
Of course, I drew the line at that last one. Even I have my dignity and the whole color issue…well, that was just WAY too personal.
For those of you who don’t know, the alternate juror is like the pale, skinny kid in gym class who gets picked last for basketball or softball. It’s the punishment juror. You are forced to stay in the courtroom all day long, listen to all the same testimony as the actual jurors, take the same breaks and yawning the same yawns, but when the state and the defense have both rested and if the jury of twelve is ready, willing, and able to go into the jury room and begin the REAL jury work, YOU would go home.
Today, the 12 real jurors were all ready, willing, and able to deliberate. To make matters worse, now after listening to all that testimony and forming opinions, I was not even able to find out who they were going to vote off the island, because I was DISMISSED. Like an attorney’s used Kleenex or a judge’s broken shoelace.
At any rate, after being thanked profusely by the court, I was excused and free to go. I was given two days’ worth of jury pay, minus the cost of the paper used to print the check.
However, I was gifted with a lovely certificate, suitable for framing, congratulating me on serving. My eyes filled with tears as I swear I heard the song God Bless America. I was so honored that it took some of the sting out of the fact that I wasn’t even able to find out if the defendant was guilty or not guilty.
Never one to let things go, however, I found out through some tricky internet sleuthing that the jury ended up voting exactly the way I would have…not guilty.
John Grisham would have been proud.
(originally printed here: http://www.examiner.com/article/lucky-juror-number-13)