But The Coolest Part Was That On My Way Home I Saw Them Taping “Law & Order: SVU” Outside The Courthouse
Because, much like the Winter Olympics, you only get to blog about jury duty once every four years. If that’s not worthy of a running diary post, I don’t know what is.
(p.s. Haley’s comet – definitely worth a running diary post. OK, moving on . . .)
7:40 Wake up and immediately regret going out the night before. I mean immediately. I wasn’t even sure where I was yet, but I was positive that that last beer was a mistake.
7:50 Go into the shower and do that thing where you still have your eyes closed and you’re making all the movements you normally make in the shower, but you completely lack self awareness. For single people, this is usually accompanied by a regretful flashbacks of making out with someone. For me, it was regretful flashbacks of eating buffalo wings at 11:30.
8:20 Get to the subway platform and put on my headphones. Ten seconds after I turn on my iPod, the battery dies. I think, “This might be a good time to just leave New York. Skip jury duty and never come back.” Just then a train comes and I am pushed into the car by an angry businesswoman.
8:45 “Technically” I’m supposed to be at the courthouse right now, but as I walk towards the building I see a Starbucks out of the corner of my eye. In what would later prove to be one of the greatest decisions of my life, instead of arriving at jury duty on time I stop to get an iced mocha latte. In fact, I think this action went beyond “decision” – it was my body’s instinct for survival.
9:04 I arrive at the jury assembly room fashionably late and everyone is already watching the instructional video. Personally, I don’t feel the need to watch the video because I think I will be a naturally gifted juror. But then this phrase catches my attention: “If you are excused, please remember it is in no way a reflection of your integrity or intelligence.” I think “Yes it is: you’d have to be pretty dumb to not get excused.” This is what we in the literary world refer to as “foreshadowing.”
9:06 The video again captures my attention with the line “According to surveys, most people who serve on juries come away with a more favorable view of our legal system than they ever had before.” The guy next to me lets out a little laugh upon hearing that and my initial reaction is, “What an asshole.” Because it’s one thing for me to be incredulous about our legal system, but when other people are that’s just downright unpatriotic.
9:10 (Here I jotted down the note “Who wears an anklet to jury duty?” I have no idea what I was referring to.)
9:12 Why not just show episodes of “Law & Order?” I mean, everyone already knows that this is exactly how we think it works. Why not just play that up. It’s not like by watching this video everyone won’t think, ”Wow, this is disappointing” when they walk into the courtroom.
9:15 There’s a decent chance I might vomit.
9:24 A woman begins reading instructions over a loud speaker, mainly guidelines for who has to serve and who might be eligible for a postponement. Then she says, “If you are not a legal citizen, you cannot serve jury duty. Please go to the courthouse at 60 Center Street, room 139 [to be arrested].” OK, I added that last part; but come on, an illegal immigrant is going to purposely go into a court house and say, “I was just at jury duty but they said because I was an illegal alien I had to come here instead? Oh, and I also need one of those, what do you call them, visas?”
9:38 I spent my 15 minute break in the bathroom passing the buffalo wings from last night. Just an awful turn of events. It was one of those situations where as soon as you go you want to audibly say, “I’m sorry” to everyone else in the room. The guy in the stall next to me moaned. Honestly, I don’t know why they didn’t just clear out of the bathroom. The only reason I was there was because I had to be.
9:40 Feeling much better once I get back to my seat. Then I realize that I’m still at jury duty.
10:00 A public service announcement from The Daily Dump: “You don’t need to be at jury duty until 10:00. The 8:45 arrival time is purely a suggestion.”
10:10 Conversation overheard between two 20-something guys on the walk over to the court room:
Guy 1: “He met a girl last night and then called her when he got home!”
Guy 2: “NOOO! Hasn’t he ever seen Swingers?”
Guy 1: “Luckily she wasn’t home, so he’s going to wait three days before calling her again.”
Sometimes the hardest part of jury duty is owning up to the fact that these are your peers.
10:20 We sit down in the courtroom. The judge’s name is “Judge Stone,” and immediately I think of “Night Court” and Mac saying, “All rise, Judge Harold T. Stone presiding.” I loved “Night Court.” In terms of 80’s sitcoms, it was right up there with “Family Ties” and “Perfect Strangers.” Although as a kid I was always put off by the creator’s name in the credits: “Reinhold Weege.” I know that there are worse names, but imagine your girlfriend taking you home to her parents for the first time and saying, “Dad, this is my boyfriend – Reinhold Weege.” Or walking into a job interview and confidently striding up to the desk with your hand outstretched saying, “Reinhold Weege, nice to meet you!” I just can’t think of a situation where it’s not embarrassing. Also, I’m literally writing this all out on the back of the Juror’s Instruction Booklet and I just had a scary high school flashback wherein Judge Stone says, “Bailiff, please collect the piece of paper from that gentlemen; let’s see what’s so important it can’t wait until I’m done speaking.”
10:35 Judge reiterates that not being chosen is not a reflection on one’s “intelligence, integrity of value as a person.” I want to meet the person who, after being rejected for jury duty, goes home with their head hanging and has this conversation with their spouse:
Wife: “What’s wrong dear?”
Husband: “Oh, nothing.”
Wife: “Really, what is it? You’re worrying me.”
Husband: “It’s just that . . . I was rejected for jury duty. I feel like I really let you and the kids down. I just . . . I thought I was a better man than that.”
Then, at 10:50, everything changes. Of the group of 40 people in the courtroom, they read off 16 names and I am number four. I get up into the witness box and they ask me the standard questions: where I live, where I work, have I ever been the victim of a crime, etc. In theory, it’s extremely easy to get out of being on the jury at this point. As one person did, all you have to says is, “A friend of mine was mugged a few months ago and I just feel like all muggers should go to jail because that’s an awful thing to do to someone.” I rack my brain, wondering if I can relate to them the story of my friend Matt who was jumped by a group of kids back in high school. That’s kind of a crime, isn’t it? Or when my mom used to spank me with a wooden spoon? Even if it’s not child abuse, it’s a good story . . .
But then the judge explains something interesting. He says, “Before I start, let me tell you that we do not expect this case to run for more than three days. If you are not chosen for this jury, you will be sent back to the waiting room where you will be called again to be a potential juror for another case. That case might last longer than this one.” Basically he was selling me on this jury. And actually, it was a great decision – because I was picked for the jury and then promptly sent home at 11:30. So instead of sitting around for another six hours hoping to be dismissed, I get to miss work for three days and decide the fate of a man who mugged two people. I’m sorry, “who mugged two alleged people.”
Honestly though, it is sobering to be sworn in and then look the man in the eye and know that you are going to be one of the people who decides his fate. This guy could go to jail for five years because of what I think. It’s enough to make a man drunk with importance. Luckily I’m usually just plain drunk, so I don’t see this whole ordeal having any effect on me whatsoever, aside from maybe being arrested for sneaking photos of testifying witnesses to use on my blog. It’s all for you guys, don’t ever forget that.