The Duty of the Jury

Recently I was summoned to jury duty and the experience, while pleasant, reminded me of this very short story I wrote back July of 2006, recapping the first time I was called upon to do what Abraham Lincoln described as, “the greatest service a citizen can perform for his country”. At least I remember reading something like that on a poster in the courthouse.

. . . . .

Through the doors of the US District Court of Minnesota I go. Right on time too. Well, actually a couple minutes late, but that’s right on time for me. Then empty my pockets to pass through the ultra-tight security, only to find out I don’t pass.

“Next time take your belt off,” says the little old man as he waves his hand-held metal detector over my crotch. Was he coming on to me? I blush the rest of the walk up to the juror assembly room.

Once there, me and the other 41 people selected got to watch twenty minutes of the most enthralling instructional video, “The Dos and Don’ts of Being a Juror” (copyright 1995) which was hosted by a wonderful lady in the brightest blue suit in the northern hemisphere. Of course she was accompanied by “The Asian Juror”, “The Black Housewife Juror”, “The Senior Citizen/Retired Librarian Juror”, “The White Farmer from Anytown, USA Juror” and probably a construction worker or something. The stereotypes all began to blend into, “who cares since you’re obviously all paid, bad actors”.

Now that the video was over we play a little game called “The Waiting Game” until the judge needs us up I the courtroom. It goes like this. First, you play it cool…and wait. Second, you go get a bottle of complementarity orange juice and continue to play it cool. Still you wait. Then, when things get rough, you pullout the emergency book, in my case it was “Barrel Fever” by David Sedaris. And after you’re three pages into it, “Okay, they’re ready for you all”. Damn, somehow I lost this round. But there will be more waiting to come.

We’re led up to the thirteenth floor, “Hey, I can see where Leena works from here” and then off into the courtroom. Inside we all sat on the wooden benches in the back and got the run down before our names were picked at random to see which 32 of the 42 would be widdled down to the final 13-14 actual jurors. I started doing the odds in my head. “Well, I have a better than 75% chance of at least getting picked to be questioned. Those are good odds and that will be fun.”

I didnt get picked. What are the odds? Oh yeah, less than 25%. Round two of The Waiting Game starts now, only I can’t read my book. The ten of us leftovers got the pleasure of listening to the judge get the whole life story of the other 32 jurors, only to find out that the video lied. There wasn’t any Asian or Black jurors. Although, there was a lot of old, retired, white people, one of whom was a farmer. As usual I was by far the youngest. Where the hell are all the 23, soon to be 24 year olds? I had an hour and a half to think this over.

After that we had a 15 minute recess (not the jungle gym kind, unfortunately). Mostly everyone jumped to their cell phones as we got the liberty to turn them back on again. I did the same.

When my text message recess concluded, we were all herded back into the big wooden room and asked to sit in our same seats as to not confuse anyone. Seconds later the judge began reading a list of those who could leave. “Mr. West-brook” was called off. Close enough I thought, and made my way to the exit.