I, the Jury

I am a citizen of the world. At least, I like to think so because I am very interested in global issues. Except, maybe when my favorite soap comes on, and I get distracted. (I’m talking to you, One Life to Live!)

I’m also a citizen of the United States and I can count on one hand the times my citizenship have come into play:

  • Applying for a passport and using it to travel outside the country
  • Starting a new job
  • Buying a home
  • Voting during elections
  • And receiving a jury summons

12 Angry Men: 1957 Sidney Lumet classic starring Henry Fonda.

Yes, friends I have been called to jury duty. And if you ask me, there must be a shortage of people eligible to serve.  In my town the rules of serving on a jury are as follows:  If you are called, you come in for a day. If they assign you to a jury, then you won’t be called again for at least three years. But, if you’re not asked to be on a jury, you’re excused from jury duty, though they reserve the right to call you again the following year.

Well three years ago, I served as a juror.  And now, here it is, almost three years to the day, and my number is up once again.  This is my fifth time being summoned.  Of which, I’ve actually served on two  juries.

I take jury duty very seriously.  To prepare, I polish up on my knowledge of what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America.  I bring in from my garage an old, dusty box filled with high school memorabilia, where I find my civic notes from high school and brush up on the laws of the land (assuming the laws and the process haven’t changed much in 35 years). Finally, I catch up on episodes of:

  • Perry Mason – Don’t you just love how Perry Mason always figures out who’s guilty in the last couple of minutes of each episode?
  • LA Law – Too bad there isn’t a show called “San Diego Law.” That would be too perfect.
  • The Colbert Report – Stephen Colbert is tres patriotic which in turn helps me to get in a very patriotic and judicious mood.

Hopefully, this time I’ll be assigned to an interesting trial.  It’s a crap shoot, if you ask me.  My last two trials were nothing short of dull and duller. In the first one, I had to help determine whether a man of indeterminate wealth had a right to sue the city in the amount of $250,000 for loss of property due to an easement that would expand a city road. The jury took a field trip to the homeowner’s home in order to see the location of the easement. The good news: we determined that the owner had a right to compensation. The bad news: we only awarded him $15,000, far below the amount requested in his lawsuit.

The second trial involved a woman who allegedly walked through a construction site by her apartment building, then fell and hurt her back, consequently experiencing severe pain and emotional stress.  Turns out she had been suffering from back pain for years prior to this incident.  Though members of the jury are not allowed to talk to each other during the trial, I could sense that, like me, the other jurors didn’t seem to have much sympathy for the defense.  Her lawyer no doubt sensed it too, for on Day Two of the trial, the attorneys settled out of court and we were sent home. But not before the judge came out and asked us, if we wouldn’t mind letting the lawyers know whose side we were leaning towards.  We all agreed we didn’t think the woman had a leg—or a back—to stand on. Frivolous lawsuit, if you ask me.

So maybe this time it’ll be different and I’ll get to serve on a trial involving some crime and passion.  Perhaps, the jury will be sworn to secrecy. Maybe we’ll even be sequestered in a posh hotel and get to order in, allowing us to order meals from any restaurant in the city.  Seafood? Italian? The sky’s the limit! I better take a stack of take-out menus with me, just in case.

Maybe I’ll be the lone holdout in the deliberation room.  “But, he’s innocent!” I’ll proclaim with the conviction of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ll even pound my fist on the table for extra effect. Or maybe I’ll be juror #8, the lone dissenter, as Henry Fonda was in Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men. I, too, will hold my own at all costs.

Or maybe I won’t get assigned to any jury at all.  We’ll have to wait and see.  After all, my date with destiny is still a few weeks away.