Jury Duty: Go Civic Justice!

I’m off at jury duty today so I leave you with this little piece I wrote several years ago the last time I was on a jury.

JURY DUTY: INNOCENT FUN OR GUILTY PLEASURE?

A dietician, a teacher a youth pastor and a chemist walk into a room. No, this isn’t the start of a joke, it’s a list of my cast mates in one of our country’s greatest reality shows – jury duty.

I, of course, expected to be summoned to debate the merits of a well-fought and socially significant legal case with a diverse group of community peers. Instead, I got stuck trying to figure out which of the eight morons driving too fast on an icy expressway three years ago was responsible for injuries sustained by a female prison guard when her car was hit by at least three of them.And the diverse group of community peers? We were seven white kids, most under the age of 30, trying to figure out how to prolong the case so we could get our full day’s pay of $15 and our free lunch.

I think Homer Simpson summed up the experience best when he said, “Any 12 people who can’t get themselves out of jury duty are not my peers.” He also went on to say that the best way to get out of jury duty is to tell them you’re prejudiced against everyone. I had a plan of my own though. First of all, most of my coworkers told me that when the lawyers found out I was a reporter, I’d be off for sure. No such luck. They got rid of a waitress and a doctor, but not me. I also figured I’d be safe because I was caught on laundry day and decided to wear a bright blue Hawaiian shirt, jeans and sandals. That backfired like a ’75 Gremlin when the judge said she liked my shirt.Not that there weren’t some fun parts of the case.

The lawyer for the plaintiff seemed to have graduated from the Village Idiot law school. He repeatedly told us that the questions he was asking us were stupid and apologized for asking them. His objections were shot down more than a stack of clay pigeons and he even was mocked by a videotaped witness.All of the jurors agreed that the only one negligent in the case was the plaintiff for hiring this guy as her attorney.

Of course this is a vital civic duty and according to the framers of our Constitution the base of a strong democracy, but I think even Thomas Jefferson would have agreed this case would have been served better by a royal judge with power to execute anyone who wasted his time.After two days and two free lunches, we retired to our deliberation room where we spent approximately 10 seconds deliberating and about an hour digging through all of the confidential medical files and police records that had been admitted as evidence.

In the end, I don’t think my service as a juror had any impact on the American legal system. I did get to serve as the jury foreman so my name will remain on record forever as the signer of the verdict form and maybe some day in the future when archeologists are digging through the old records they will think I was on par with John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson. Of course, if they look real hard they’ll realize I was just some shmuck who wasn’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.