|It's all Dansons, all the way down.|
Recently I got a jury summons.
I was out of excuses. I had no way to get out of appearing. I briefly contemplated faking my death, but realized I didn't want to be the asshole who starts one of those annoying celebrity death rumors that spreads like wildfire and makes people worry about someone who's actually fine.
|Pictured: the San Marcos Justice Center.|
Some will tell you that it's an honor to be selected to serve on a jury. A civic duty which doubles as a privilege.
|These people are wrong, and probably old.|
I was there four minutes before noticing two other dudes with ridiculous facial hair which would scare children. The nerve of these fuckers. Advantage gone.
|"Good, I'm not the only one. Hey, is that Drew Carey?"|
Now began the most prominent theme of the morning, which was sitting around waiting for people to get their shit together. This was not limited to civic employees. Indeed, despite that the jury summons goes to great pains to point out that YOU MUST BRING THIS COMPLETED FORM WITH YOU TO THE COURTHOUSE, and how SERIOUSLY, YOU MUST, DON'T FUCK THIS UP, there were nearly two dozen people standing around asking clerks for pens so they could fill out their card in the doorway of the courtroom at 8:45, the appointed time we were all supposed to be seated and ready to begin. I was at the front of a large group of these halfwits, so at least I didn't have to stand there behind them all or wade my way through them, but it left a gigantic chunk of time for me to sit in the courtroom, practicing my displeased scowl and desperately wishing I'd remembered to bring a book.
|"Your Honor, may I approach the bench and, later, eat an entire cow in one gulp?"|
|"Don't there need to be at least twelve of us?"|
|Other than imagining the more awesome things that could be happening in the courtroom at that moment.|
Then we were sent back into the hallway so we could do it all again, in a random order this time, because one of the attorneys had exercised their right to request a "shuffle." I haven't seen that much effort and time put into something that everyone involved knew was a pointless, peevish, disposable endeavor from the onset in a long time.
So we were now deep into the jury selection process, and even deeper into the most elaborate taxpayer-funded game of Musical Chairs on record. And now it was time to get down to brass tacks, as the lawyers would now deign to address us directly and separate the wheat from the chaff.
|The lucky, non-jury-serving chaff.|
Turns out the lawyers have spent some time studying us already, well before voir dire kicked in. They already had some idea who they wanted and who they didn't, and just had to ask some questions to affirm their early selections. Strangely, they had loads of questions for the dude with the Rollie Fingers mustache; evidently he looked like prime jury material for these guys, and it had me sweating whether one of the lawyers was looking for a jury that could empathize with insane facial hair decisions.
|Following the precedent of State of Texas v. Fucking Dipshit, 2003.|
First of all, we were introduced to the defendant, a heavyset young guy whose efforts to appear in court well-dressed and presentable were undercut somewhat by the giant gang tattoo spread across the entirety of the back of his shaved head.
Secondly, my attempts to look sulky and misanthropic were being severely undermined by the guy seated next to me, who looked eerily like Nigel Lythgoe and who spent the entirety of the voir dire muttering bitterly to himself about how fucking stupid all of this was, from the lawyers to the defendant to the case. There was no way I could look more unfit for duty than this guy. I looked like a model citizen by comparison, solely by not appearing to have Tourette's.
|"...bunch of bullshit... well, of course not, you fucking idiot..."|
They then proceeded to essentially try the case, in the form of carefully worded questions to test how receptive we were to the things they were planning to say in court on the big day. It'd be like my saying "I can't teach you how to drive yet, but how would you feel about the idea of pressing this pedal to go faster and this one to slow down? And, for that matter, how would you react if I said a car's direction could be re-directed, or "steered" from side to side by turning this wheel?"
It was insane. From just sitting here in jury selection I knew that this guy had been arrested for possession of a firearm while on felony probation, and that the defense planned to claim that a friend of the defendant owned the gun and had just left it at the defendant's home. I know this because of how the prosecutor asked about forty questions about gun ownership and safety, and how bizarre we'd find it if a friend came over and just took out a gun to lay on the kitchen table, and whether we'd ever go into someone's home and casually take out a gun and leave it there. I know because of how long he spent clicking away on his little Powerpoint presentation for us to carefully define what constituted "possessing" something, and illustrating how we each possess our cars without actually sitting in them at this exact moment, for example. I know because he took time to point out that the defendant had no intention to testify during the trial, on advice of his counsel, mainly to keep the prosecutor from asking the one question ("is this gun yours?") that would close the loophole of possession that the defense was planning to exploit.
I also know that the judge had told us that this case was somewhat unusual, in that normally we aren't privy to any information about the defendant prior to the exact events that brought about his arrest, but since the charge was Possession of a Firearm By a Felon, we had to be told that the defendant had a felony conviction on his record. The judge went on to tell us that this should hold no sway in our decision on this case, as the prior conviction is another crime and another case, already tried, and unrelated to this alleged offense.
And yet the prosecutor kept falling over himself to remind us of the prior felony conviction we weren't supposed to have in mind. Of course he did. He's a prosecuting attorney, and it does nothing but benefit and strengthen his case to remind us that this guy's a criminal, and criminals do criminal things, y'know? Just play the recidivist angle until we're certain that the defendant was annoyed by his arrest mainly because it was keeping him from each of the other crimes he was planning to commit before lunch.
|Which disgusted Nigel Lythgoe to no end.|
He got as far as "If you know people who are going to make those kinds of bad decisions, you need to stay away from those types of people. In other words-" before the judge jumped in with a curt "I think we get your point, please move on, counsel."
I don't know what lesson this guy thought he was going to impart, but "impress upon this kid that he shouldn't be in a situation where he'd get in legal trouble" seemed a bit late.
|"...and goddamned fucking stupid, if you ask me..."|
We were then ignored for the next fifteen or twenty minutes entirely, as the prosecutor rifled questions at the right side of the room and addressed many of them by name. These were clearly the head of the class. At one point he turned to us and said not to be offended that he didn't have any questions for us, adding, "The bright side is that you're probably gonna get to go home, and they [the right side of the room] aren't."
We responded by sitting in tomb-like silence for the remainder of voir dire, knowing how blessedly close we were to slipping out the door.
The defense attorney followed with his portion of the rigmarole, and any concerns we had that the legal teams had different ideas of what made good jurors was quickly laid to rest as he didn't so much as glance in our direction for his questioning. I'm reasonably sure we weren't legally recognized as human beings for about twenty minutes.
|As opposed to the decades some must endure.|
So, in keeping with that spirit of hurry, we were all stranded in the hallway for another half hour. Having nothing at all with me to do, I spent much of my time just staring out a nearby window, watching buzzards rip apart and eat something dead in a field nearby. Sounds grim, but the alternative was listening to the Rollie Fingers mustache guy and Nigel Lythgoe already entering into deliberations on the case, eight feet from me. I was once again reminded that, were it me up there as the defendant, I'd already be halfway to a lengthy jail sentence once the jury laid eyes on me. These guys, even the one with the most outlandish mustache in the county, couldn't get past the kid's tattoo and how it meant "he's obviously still living the life" in a gang, irrespective of the fact that tattoos are notorious for not going away even if you got them during a bad time in your life that you've long since left behind.
|We were all young once, right?|
Besides the window, I was having my own hallway adventure thanks to a pretty young girl who kept making eye contact with me and smiling. She was seated on one of the few benches available, and were it not for the fact that we were all here for jury duty which required one to be at least eighteen years old, I would never have pegged her as being an adult.
And every time I looked around at all, I found her looking at me, and quickly flashing me a friendly, inviting smile every time we made eye contact. Maybe flirting. I wasn't sure.
For one tiny moment I foolishly thought I must look good today.
Then the courtroom doors opened and the principals of the case walked out for restroom or smoke breaks. Among them was the defendant, who smiled as he walked over to this girl and they kissed and quietly exchanged encouragements.
The defendant's girlfriend was making eyes at me. A heavyset guy with a shaved head. The gal definitely has a "type." Or maybe she was just softening up a potential juror, hoping to appear sympathetic. Or, most likely, I made for better eye contact than the two dudes standing nearby loudly discussing what a criminal scumbag her boyfriend is and how he's definitely on his way to prison if they have any say in it.
"Hey, her boyfriend might be about to go to prison. She's gotta keep her options open," was my lady's take on this anecdote.
At the very least it was an activity to pass the time. This jury summons had turned into such a lengthy adventure that, even with a giant window right next to me, I was half-convinced I'd emerge from the building into a post-nuclear wasteland. I'd spent much of the morning fervently wishing for one of these old ladies with nowhere to sit to fall down solely for the entertainment value, even as I knew that she'd be immediately dismissed and thus hurt my chances of escaping jury duty ever more.
At last they called us back into the courtroom, and the judge thanked us for the 29th time for our time and patience and for showing up in the first place, even though it was quite compulsory and none of us would be here otherwise. Then they called out twelve names, and roughly nine of those people approached the jury box as if it was going to give them a rectal exam. One dude even hissed "Awww, gawd..." as his name was called.
All twelve of the jurors were picked from the right side of the room. Nigel Lythgoe, Rollie Fingers, Teach-A-Lesson and I were each spared. And the rest of us filed out at exactly noon, recognizing how the proceedings noticeably sped up once we'd been brought back into the courtroom, as if it was imperative for the jury selection to be done before adjourning for lunch. Called it!
|So You Think You Can Make Six Dollars For Four Hours of Civic Duty?, Mondays on ABC!|