Judge Not, Nor Jury Either

After freaking out for several months about my impending jury duty, it of course became a non-event. I showed up shortly after 8:00 AM, slightly delayed by the metal in my belt, and had chosen an aisle chair by the 8:15 reporting time. Of the four scheduled trials one had ended in a settlement, two had the defendents cop a plea, and one defendent (perhaps having seen us) opted for a bench trial. According to my Twitter timestamps, we were all let go around 10:30.

Of course, “let go” drastically oversimplifies the process. We were called up, one at a time, to return our badges and collect our pay cards. Then we stood in line at a custom ATM that read the cards and spat out — rather contemptuously — $17 for our inconvenience.

I had nearly made it back to my car (in a university parking lot half of a mile away), when the day again threatened to become legal. At a 4-way stop I witnessed a driver run the stop sign and smack the rear of another car.

The offending driver pulled up next to me and stormed out of her car, barking about lawyers and such. She asked me if I’d seen what happened, and I warily admitted that I had. Then the driver of the other car came over, and the woman who’d caused the accident started yelling at her.

“You had a stop sign!” she roared.

The women who’d been run into goggled at this and simply retorted “So did you.”

There was an awkward moment as the first woman stared at the sign she’d blown through.

“Oh God,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”

At that the two started to sort things out rationally. Relieved that my testimony would not be needed after all, I quietly slipped away.

Having dodged the jury box and the witness stand, my only remaining goal for the day was to stay clear of the defense table.


Trial by Trial

My jury summons is for next week, and my thoughts of late have centered on the trial I sat on the last time I answered a summons.

It was the first summons I’d had to answer; every time previously had been for courts where my parents lived while I’d been away at college. Everyone had assured me that all I’d have to do would be to read a book for a while. In the unlikely event I wound up on a jury, I was told, it would be some minor suit that would be settled as soon as the opening statements were over.

Instead, for three days I heard testimony about a murder over hurt pride. The whole thing was upsetting, and not just because of the stupid waste of lives.

We all know that TV is filled with lies, but sometimes we just don’t want to believe it. In reality judges are unengaged, lawyers are inarticulate, police lose evidence, and there is no moment that makes the case irrefutable. There’s just a parade of witnesses that aren’t allowed to say much and twelve people trying to make sense of it.

So I’m really hoping that this time I just get to sit and read for a while. The plot would undoubtedly be better.

Registering Complaint

I got a notice from the county to register for jury duty. This is different from a summons; it’s sort of preliminary step where they want to remind me that they own my ass and might decide to claim it soon. I need to fill out a questionnaire (why are so many government communications centered on forms?) that basically ensures that I can’t run away. Later, perhaps in the next month or two, I’ll get the actual notice. Unless I don’t.

Being on a jury is weird, but that’s not what I’m worried about. A few years ago I served on a murder trial. It’s dull, and it will kill your illusions about the oratory skills of lawyers, but it’s not difficult or stressful. If it’s my turn again, then it’s my turn.

What bothers me is the uncertainty of it all. I have a trip coming up in a few weeks to which I’m really looking forward. With the two-week response window and time for data processing, there’s very little chance that any summons would conflict with my long weekend. I know this.

Nonetheless my brain is working on the assumption that the notice will arrive while I’m out-of-state and that it will all end with me on the wrong side of the jury box being judged by sensible people, who reworked their plans to fulfill their obligations. I fear they won’t understand that two nights of monster movies at a drive-in in Pennsylvania is more important than waiting around to maybe be selected to possibly hear a case.

Maybe I can submit Vincent Price movies as my defense. At the very least, my crime would seem trivial in comparison to his trail of cinematic slayings.