But unlike the time before, in which I was dismissed at lunch time without so much as a by-your-leave, let alone a glimpse of the inside of a courtroom, this time I actually got picked to serve on a jury. And for a criminal trial at that!
But more importantly, I got to be the foreman. Or forewoman.
Actually, Madam Forewoman, to you!
Which meant I had to get all serious and studiously examine all the evidence–hereby known as Exhibit A and Exhibit B. After all, as the forewoman, it was my responsibility to get to the truth.
During the trial, I’d nod and stroke my chin, as witness after witness gave gripping accounts of the events that transpired. I’d feverishly scribble my observations in a notepad that had been given to me for the purpose of the trial and had been carefully labelled, “Juror #3.” That’s me!
Here’s a glimpse of what I wrote: “Witness #1 appears smug.” “Witness #2 has beady eyes–can he be trusted?” “The judge is a hottie.” Of course, when I learned that the bailiff would collect our notes at the trial’s end, I crossed out that last observation.
Each day, I’d wear my juror badge with pride as I paced the hallway, waiting for the bailiff to give the sign that we could reenter the courtroom, following one of our many breaks. As forewoman, it was my job to round up all the suspects–I mean, jurors–each morning to make sure we were all present and accounted for, and ready to enter the courtroom together. I permitted no funny business and gave the evil eye to any of my fellow jurors who dared utter a word about the case outside the courtroom.
Each night when I returned home from a long day of upholding the law, I’d look into the bathroom mirror and practice saying, “Guilty as charged, your Honor!” as well as, “Throw the book at her!” and “Not guilty by reason of insanity!” After all, I had to cover my bases.
During deliberation, I asked that we review the evidence, including carefully reading the documents that were at the crux of the matter. I posed a theory about the defendant’s vehicle that had been photographed several times and was included as Exhibit A. I squinted at the grainy photo to see if I could make out the defendant who, according to the prosecutor, was “allegedly” sitting in the motor vehicle at the time.
I challenged my jurors to question motive and I sent a note to the judge demanding additional information that might help us make a more informed decision. To which, the judge, in a rather snarky tone, wrote back that we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for new information and that it was up to us to form a decision based on the information that had already been giving to us. Sure. Whatever that means.
I had no choice but to put on a brave face and turn to my fellow jurors. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” I thoughtfully said while choking back a tear. “It’s now up to us. We hold the fate of that woman in our hands.”
The jurors, perhaps not understanding the gravity of the situation, looked at me askance and then rolled their eyes. Which, no doubt, was their way of putting on a brave face, too.
In the final analysis, we found the defendant guilty on both counts. But I must say, it wasn’t a clear-cut case like you find on courtroom television dramas, such as “Law and Order” and “The Good Wife.”
Guilty on both counts. And the crime?
Two misdemeanors for violating a restraining order, including leaving a voicemail on the cell phone of the person with the restraining order, and driving up to the home of said person. As part of the terms of the restraining order, neither of these actions were permitted.
Which compels me to make the following observations:
- Certain cases that shall remain nameless are a waste of time for the judicial system, public monies, and for the jurors.
- The rich seem to enjoy airing their dirty laundry and thus wasting the time of the court system.
- Lawyers should never call a witness that tells you right off the bat that they have a bad memory because they think they’re channeling their brother’s schizophrenia.
- Don’t rely on blurry photos as evidence, especially when they’re taken by a sister-in-law on her cell phone while she was standing at quite some distance.
- Make sure the defendant doesn’t come to court appearing intoxicated. Bad idea to wear furs, too, shabby ones at that. Not a good way to get the sympathy vote.
- On the other hand, may I suggest for the rest in the courtroom to wear colorful clothing to liven things up a bit? Just because the courtroom is drab and colorless doesn’t mean everyone else has to be. Unless you’re the defendant…then dress the part. Black or navy blue suits are ideal.
- Real life courtroom drama is nothing like you see on TV. There are no quirky judges. Lawyers don’t seem to prep their witnesses. I know from watching courtroom dramas that you’re supposed to give yes or no answers and not offer any additional info. So why didn’t the witnesses in the case know this as well?
Now that I’ve served a sum total of two and a half days, I won’t be called for another three years. And somehow, I can’t wait. I just love jury duty!
So, what’s been your experience with jury duty? Do tell!