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« Jury Duty | Main | I'm Not Making This Up »

Jury Duty - Like High School, Only Moreso

For those of you lucky enough to have escaped this civic duty, you show up at the courthouse, and are told to site in a large room and wait your turn to be called for a case. This room has TVs for those instructional videos we all thought we left behind in college. It also has sound, which somehow starting piping in local radio, drowning out the lady giving us instructions. What it doesn't have it wifi, which wasn't entirely unexpected in a 70-year-old building.

Naturally, I was late, so I got to stand in the back until the first set of jurors had been rounded up. I finally found a seat, and in walked my friend Mike. This was also not unexpected. I'm convinced there's some sort of rolling geographic filter at work here. Nobody I know got called for duty the first 8 years I lived here, and now, suddenly, 6 other people in my precinct get recruited.

The video itself, as the plaintiff's attorney later admitted, didn't really tell you anything except not to be scared, and that you probably wouldn't have to give up your life for the next 2 months. It was capped by a personal thanks from a nearly-comatose Chief Justice Mary Mullarky. The whole video is about how important we are to the system, how we are the system, how people like us designed the system. And then the Chief Judge in the system smiles like she's getting a cue from a director telling her to look like a stewardess and "big smiles, everyone!"

Now, I was late, but I was also dressed right - collar and tie. I was one of three. The whole room was dressed more like a defendant than a juror. Honestly, people, show a little respect. If you're a defendant, or even if you're the little-guy plaintiff looking for justice, would you really want your fate decided by people who's sense of fashion comes from Bill Bellichek on gameday?

Here's an idea: instead of making everyone sit through a video together, work out a deal with Comcast where jurors have to download and watch this video in the privacy of their homes. And then tack on a little show-and-tell explaining to people that they should shower and maybe even change between the gym and the courthouse.

I kind of wanted to sit on a case. Mike had no such ambition. Mike wanted to get back to his job.

More numbers. 4345. 3334. 4536. 4223. 4223. James Wannamaker. 4223......4227.

Mike: "Boy, that job must stink."
Me: "Well, I understand she works the Bingo circuit, too."

That got about 5 people to turn, look at me, and start laughing.

Now, sitting there waiting is kind of like Juror Keno, with numbers all around you falling, but your own still uncalled.

4111. 5337. 5483. and, 5839.

Mike: "Damn. I mean, 'Here'."
Me: "Bummer. Kind of like getting shot the morning of 11/11/1918."

Then the same thing happened to me, and I think people were a little disappointed when I answered "here," rather than "Bingo!"

The selection itself was straightforward. They brought in 25 of us, sat 14 of us in the Box, and then we became the Default Jury. Nobody managed to disqualify himself despite some pretty strenuous efforts. Most people weren't going to outright lie about their own objectivity, after all.

So it's supposed to make me feel better being a pre-emptory dismissal? I know everyone who gets tossed thinks, "they were just worried I was too smart," but in this case, I think they were just worried about how I saw the case. The plaintiff's attorney spent a lot of time asking us about what type of information we'd want to know. This was his way of finding out if we were Fairness People, Justice People, or Law People. I was doomed the moment I came off as a Law Person.

Ah well, at least I have the rest of the week free.


Actually what some people discovered a few years ago on jury duty in Baltimore was that a tie and a jacket was the surest way to get peremptorily challenged.

AUTHOR'S COMMENT: Dennis Prager is right, then, when he says that clothing means something. In this case, it means, "ain't no way we're letting you on that jury."

...And we wonder why juries hand down billion-dollar judgments on corporations because somebody's late spouse couldn't read the fine print warning on a can of paint thinner...

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