Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Juror I Could've Been

In the past month and a half, I've been called on twice to be a juror.

This didn't seem right, I thought. Why twice? Although the first trial was cancelled, I was called on again -- must've been to a shortage? Is voter apathy getting that bad, that there's a shortage for jurors and that I would have to be called twice?

Too many questions, and there are probably answers a government teacher would love to give me -- but onward, story, onward.

I sat in a room with strangers, some reading the paper, others reading novels, some on their laptops, because who knew how long we were going to sit in the room where "12 Angry men" was filmed.

OK. So, I wasn't at the historic set of the film, but it was drab with wainscoting and dark curtains -- "The Pelican Brief" came to mind, or the offices I read about in any other John Grisham novel.

Then we finally went into the courtroom and for two hours the judge asked whether we liked Twinkies, how often we ate Ho Ho's, if we've ever had a run-in with the police that was very unpleasant, how many times we've been in contact with marijuana and whether thong underwear was a preference. As each person raised their hand, they were either excused because of their bias toward the case (a drug deal of sorts?) or their bias toward the race of the man on trial.

I sat vigilant and focused my attention on everything. Of course I didn't want to sit in that room for two more days, but part of me was so curious to see what it would be like to watch a trial unfold -- without all that Hollywood glam. Then I realized that I would enjoy my Tuesday and Wednesday at home without any complications. Then I realized that the fate of this man rested on my shoulder...well, mine and eleven other shoulders. It wasn't a civil trial. It was criminal. It was Federal court.

As the lawyers went up to the judge, I just knew my name was going to be called. I never raised my hand. I was aware of everything that was going on. I didn't yawn. I seemed interested. And as they called off each juror...my name wasn't called.

Perhaps I looked too awake, too aware, too vigilant. The lawyers probably don't want someone like me. I would pay way too much attention to the facts. I would read their lips whenever the lawyers went up to the judge. I would want to touch the evidence, see it again and again.

Those lawyers would fear me. I would've been the best damn juror--ever.

And that's why I wasn't picked.

They wanted old people who would doze off during the trial so they could issue a quick verdict and get the hell out of dodge.

On with the next case...