Monday, July 25, 2005

Do you solemnly swear

Jury duty! Taking civics to a whole new level - Extreme Citizenship! I got there bright and early, althought the whole day consisted of moving around different rooms and waiting in them. I didn't get picked for a jury, but I must return tomorrow. I almost got picked for a case today (well, not really - I wasn't called after three rounds of jury selection, although I was in the broader pool) but no dice. It would have been interesting, too - a seemingly straight-forward criminal case with just a slight amount of tabloid potential.

I am afraid to say too much about today, because I learned all about juries and the history of Western-style justice and the dangers I risk in sharing too much information thanks to a twenty-minute video the clerk made us all watch. It had surprisingly high production values for government work and began with a dramatic reenactment of the trial systems of yore. At first I thought they were kicking things off with a MOnty Python clip, but I was mistaken. I did laugh, though, when the narrators turned out to be Diane Sawyer and Ed Bradley (others did too). For some reason it was funny to hear things like this:

"In medieval England, suspected criminals were bound at the hands and feet and thrown into the river. If the suspect floated, it meant he was guilty. If he sunk, he was considered innocent... Hi there - I'm Ed Bradley of Sixty Minutes."

I didn't make any jury friends but it was an interesting cross-section of Manhattan: doctors, artists, TV people, journalists, lawyers, teachers. MD, JD, PhD, GED. When 18 potential jurors were seated in the jury box, they had to give a narrative statement explaining where they lived, their occupation, education, experience with the criminal justice system, etc. It was interesting to hear people summarize their lives so succinctly. I tried to practice my piece from my seat in the gallery. Don't try to be funny, just be direct. Mention the fiancee, but the not the cousin who's a police chief. Should you say you're going to law school? Questionable. Anyways, after a fairly monotonous day today (reading Morningside Heights, the Virginia Quarterly Review and stray sections of the day's Times) hopefully tomorrow will run smoothly or excitingly. I've reached the point where I'd almost rather not be selected for a trial than serve on one. We shall see. I'm still waiting for some Grishamesque excitement.

Over the weekend, my parents came into town, following an unprecedented two-hour blaze of cleaning, powered by pure Lysol, sweat, and gristle. I hung out with Russell. I briefly saw part of the improv marathon at UCB. And I ended my job in a haze of Persecco and sentimentality. Thankfully I was too tipsy to really consider what was going on.

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