Thursday, July 28, 2005

Order in the court

Yesterday I weaseled my way out of jury duty. About twenty other jurors and I had to return for an unprecedented third day of potential jury selection, much to my chagrin, and at the moment when I realized I had to go back to possibly become part of a jury on a five- or six-day trial, this little immersion into civics and participatory government stopped being fun. "Ok," I thought. "That will be enough."

I thought long and hard about how to make myself unattractive to the lawyers. I decided to nourish some of my own attitudes and plump them up, teasing them out like the hair on a midwestern person: well, I do sort of think police officers are more reliable than other people.... and if someone was innocent, why wouldn't they testify on their own behalf? Sure enough, after five jurors had been selected, I was called to a jury panel. There were nineteen of us, and I presumed they were looking for nine others. I made my first volley with the prosecutor, discussing my cousin who's a cop and my trust in the profession. I didn't want to toe the line into blind faith, but I came sort of close. Another attorney asked the group if we thought the indictment was proof of any wrongdoing, and I said, "well, where there's smoke, there's fire." He didn't like this, and started talking about how we could endlessly battle in cliches...

At lunch I started to get nervous. I knew the odds weren't good, and how could I compete with the jurors who had been crime victims themselves? I briefly considered buying a laxative at the drugstore and consuming it right when I went back in, but this would have been a little rash. I think I sealed the deal, though, when the prosecutor was (in a certain interminable prosecutorial fashion) reminding us that this wasn't "Law & Order" or "CSI" - there were no scripts, no neat resolutions, just real people. Could we all agree to that? I was nodding and smiling as she droned on. "Yes, Mr. ----, I see you nodding?"

I opened my hands. "I think we can all agree that this isn't a movie," I said. One other juror laughed. I don't think the prosecutor appreciated it.

But you know what? They excused me from the jury. I was kind of a jerk, but I didn't lie or lose my integrity. (I see that now I sound like a booted reality show contestant, but whatever.) I served my duty for three days and I've fulfilled my jury requirements for the next six years. It was an interesting lesson for law school, that's for sure.

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