15 July 2009

When once again, Laura proves to be somewhat of a crummy citizen.

You know, I try to be a good citizen.

It was my week for jury duty. Always a pain in the ass, probably just as much for people with regular jobs as for the self employed, but it's our civic duty, righty-o?. For some weird reason, I've never, ever been picked to actually be on a jury. They always chase me right out of the courtroom and "Thanks for Playing and See You Again in a Couple Years!"

So off I went again this time. First you go sit and wait in the modular outside our County Building Courthouse. Our county, spares no expense. Offers airport plastic seating and all of us shoved in there like little sardines in a can. Everyone has a book and you wait and you wait and you wait and you wait. A lady explains how it all works very, very slowly. As if we are all very, very stupid. Also there are little signs, printed from MSWord on pink paper posted all around saying the exact same thing in big bold allcaps that she just told us. Slowly. Speaking in allcaps.

Until a crabby faced deputy comes and shuttles us up the stairs to Homeland Security, where you go through disgruntly staffed metal detectors into the court building. Our county, in the middle of humungous layoffs and no one in there looks cheerful and happy to be at work. SLAM goes your stuff on the metal detector conveyor belt, and SLAM it comes off and Hiya and Thanks, Security Guys!

All the prospective jurors are walking around without belts on. There's no place by the metal detector to re-strap them on and the prospective jurors shuffle around, trying to rebelt without looking too stupid. Ha HA and take that, Security guys. I wore a skirt.

We all sit outside Department 3. Once again, packed in like sardines in a can, on hot sweaty benches in the hallway. Looky out there-my exact wedding site, right in view! Everyone pulls out their book again. The bald guy in sweats is reading Tom Clancy. There's a monk in red, flowing robes with a Kipling backpack, who hides his book cover when I am totally busted stealing a glance. He's writing down little notes in the margins in blue pen. Didn't know monks did that. The lady next to me is reading something called Loving One Another that looks like it was printed in the 70's. She has a big dreamcatchery type tattoo on her arm and giant feather earrings, also from the '70's. We all sit there, together, on the long benches and wait.

Until a new deputy pokes her head out of the massive courtroom doorway, and admonishes us in. And guess who it is? The scarey lady bailiff from our very own Courtroom Drama in November! We totally know her, but not in a good way! Boy oh boy, her frown is never going to turn upside down. The evil bailiff lady's face is frozen like this forever, but you can bet nobody going to put a foot wrong in her courtroom. Because something about her expression, or maybe it's just her bangs, seems to say, "I'll shoot you dead, asshole." We file in, the judge is ready and everyone sits, packed in once again like sardines in a can.

He introduces the cast. The Bailiff. She glowers. The Court Reporter and the Clerk. They don't look up. The DA. He's the dapper guy in the bow tie who was squinting at all of us when we walked in. I hate his bow tie and I hate his haircut and I hate his squinty little eyes on me. He squints at me, and I squint back. His suit pants are just too short. The defense attorney stands for a minute, smiles weakly, and sits back down. She has bad posture and an unfortunate tweed suit. Terrible orthopedic style pumps and hose and makes me wonder, THIS is how attorneys dress? She's plaid, with a stoop, and her hair is possibly worse than mine.

So then the judge introduces the defendant, that we're going to be queried on whether or not we are suitable as his jury. He has to turn and say his name. He's stuffed into a wrinkly, striped shirt, has a big scar and something about him right away gives me the creepy willies. He looks at us all, and sort of smirks for a moment. His neck is the size of a ham and his shaved head has skin folds that shove their way into that wrinkled, cheap shirt. And then the judge tells us that the case is for felony child molestation. He's the accused, and accused for crimes too heinous to type. If I did, you'd cry. There's sort of a collective vacuum as all the air in the stuffy courtroom gets sucked up, because I'm pretty sure everybody thinks the exact same thing. All at the same time. That the guy is a slimeball and let's just string him up right now.

I guess? Or maybe they're better, more fair American citizens than me and I just imagined that. The judge said we were supposed to be impartial and wait for the evidence to be presented.

The overweight lady in the cat t-shirt next to me stops playing solitaire on her Blackberry and shoves it into her faded Hello Kitty tote.

The hunchy attorney in tweed is trying to get him off. Squinty eyes bowtie wants to prosecute. Bailiff glares and the judge says it again. Jurors need to remain impartial and base their decisions on the evidence that will be presented.

Because of the delicate nature of the case, and the questioning, we're once again sent to the hallway to be packed and sweltered and led back to the courtroom one by one for questioning. This takes a long time. I go home on the lunch break, and come back for more packing and sweltering and waiting for my turn. I sit next to the monk again and he keeps scooting away from me, sliding down the remaining millimeters on the bench, finally grabbing his backpack from between us and wedging it firmly onto his lap with an exasperated little hiss. Do I look like a monk robber? Never did see what he was reading. Good citizens don't talk in the hallway there, and for hours you can hear a pin drop as everyone waits their turn to go in for questioning.

When it's my turn, I only last a second up there, on the stand. Which is just a red rolling office chair, adjusted a little bit too high. My feet sort of swing and don't touch the floor. I sneak a look over at the guy, and when asked about my ability to remain impartial, apparently something about the ugly daggers shooting out my eyeballs at the attorney and at fatty scarface guy are enough, combined with whatever it is I spit out at the judge, that I'm excused within moments. I KNOW he's innocent til proven guilty, but it was not all I could do to yell out at him, "I hate you, evil, ham necked child molester and your evidence twisting tweed wearing attorney!" and ask to please just have him shot by the bailiff asap.

Like I said. I am a bad citizen. And a bad liar. So when asked whether I could be impartial, something about him just made me all seether and that was that.

I thought about it, the whole time waiting in the hallway, wedged onto the bench. I was just listening to the radio about Justice Sotomayor on the way there, who is always fair and in good temper. Try to be unbiased and hear him out and make an informed good citizen decision, if selected onto his jury. I know how I felt in court. But being innocent for walking dogs vs. being accused of child molesting, we're not talking apples vs. oranges here. Apples vs. a stinking, hulking, damaging ogre more like it.

So that was that. Don't know who, of my peers sitting out there on the sweaty, sunny bench in the hallway, will have to make that judgement. The monk? Lady with the giant Balenciaga bag that is totally a knock off? Guy that looked like Lurch in all leather ensemble? Some of those khaki wearing bluetooth ear guys standing by the window? Didn't hang around to find out.

I just walked away.


Elf said...

They don't make being selected for jury duty a pleasant experience, do they! I hate those plastic chairs and the ugly room and the nothing-to-do for hours and then you'll probably end up being dismissed anyway. I have never even gotten to the hot seat; they always decide they don't need a jury or they select their 13 before I ever go up. So I always have to sit forever and don't even get to hiss at the defendant or the attorneys or even the judge.

Quincy's mom said...

I say you got off easy. I ended up being foreman (forewoman?) on a jury for an aggravated assault (second-degree felony, whoo-hoo!) case. The case itself was pretty straightfoward--guy goes to bar, gets hammered, gets pissed off at another guy, and what should have been a basic barfight turned worse because the assailant just happened to have a knife. And was so hammered he attacked a guy other than the one he was actually pissed off at. Assailant admitted to attack but claimed self-defense. We called bullshit and found the guy guilty. He's probably already out of jail.

patti said...

If you are apples, that guy is poison.

Kathy said...

Our case was straightforward, but I found my jury members wanted to make up their own stories about what could have happened instead of analyzing the facts of the case when discussing reasonable doubt.