Oh, Delaware County you bunch of overachieving bureaucrats. I’ve spent my life avoiding jury duty. For a man of my proportions, I’m surprisingly elusive in certain situations and I always had jury duty’s number. Of course, when you don’t vote, skipping out on jury duty is pretty elementary business. Motor Voter? You’ve got a better chance of me signing over my organs. I have great respect for the Honda Civic, but only so much respect for my civic duty. It’s not ALL apathy. I could debate you on it, but that’s not the point of this post. The point is, Delaware County uses the DMV for its pool of jurors. That’s a foul ball. Finally changing my license over to my new address proved to be a fatal error. When I saw the summons in the mail, I thought it was an elaborate prank, but no–they had me. It may be time to move again.
The underlying theme of your entire day on jury duty is that no one wants to be there. I’ve rarely encountered a situation where every person is thinking the exact same thing. If they could have scraped up $50 for me, I would have been happy to be there, but for $9 + $.34 transportation costs, even I was feeling a bit put out. The thing is, when you arrive for your day, you’ve already lost. They give you that number to call the night before and there’s a chance you won’t be required. The feeling when you dial that number is akin to what you might feel when you are about to scratch off the final section of a lottery ticket. GET LUCKY ONE TIME! But, they cut the suspense for me. They called everyone. It was an old-fashioned round-up.
Before I get to my tension-filled voir dire session, some observations….
I’d separate the crowd into three groups of people. There are the pros, the panicked and the outwardly miserable. I was in the last category. The first two categories pair off and make fast friends. Some people just can’t sit in a room and marinate in their own displeasure. They want to make a “jury buddy.” So, they look for an old pro. They start asking questions. ”What happens next?” ”How long are we going to have to stay?” ”Did you park at a meter?” The old pros love these questions. Oh, let me take you under my wing, neophyte. I do this every year. I’m great at it. The biggest jury pro I saw there claimed, “he never got picked.” He said, “I guess I don’t have the right look.” And, he was put on the jury.
The jury assembly room had very nice televisions. Way nicer than my television. Unfortunately, they are tuned to ABC family and so now when someone asks me if I have ever seen the show, “Grounded for Life,” I cannot answer honestly and say no. This troubles me. Troubles me to my very core.
They never checked my I.D. I had to have my summons, but they took my word on my identity. So, if you really want to skip jury and don’t mind risking a felony, just hire someone. I think this is what the aristocrats used to do with military service. I’d sound a lot more intelligent if I could think of the proper name for it right now, but I can’t.
They maybe guilt you into donating your nine dollars? They give you information on various charities you can donate to, and then you have to pick either donate or CTC (cut the check, homey). And, really, what kind of person says, you know what, I need that 9-spot. I could have used the nine dollars, but I donated. Good karma for voir dire. Plus, no one likes depositing a $9 check. I’m pretty sure Bank of America ATMs audibly chuckle on any transaction under 10 beans.
When we were dismissed, the crowd ripped up into applause like it was the end of Miracle. Come on people. It was a drag, but I’m not sure it required applause. Maybe people were just cheering because they turned off ABC Family? Maybe our lives should be filled with more celebratory applause. They call your number at the Wawa counter? Hell yes, power clap.
Ok, so after morning break, which I spent phone internet-ing by the metal detectors, they said they were calling a panel of 70 jurors. This created quite the buzz. For the 2nd time in less than 24 hours, we were subject to a random act of fate. We’d all already lost the first one. There were probably 200 people in the room. So, it was a 1/3 shot. The chance of Tony Gwynn flipping a single into left field. The first person called let out an audible groan. Several other people were taunted by their new best friends after being picked. Then, juror number 23….out of North Carolina…Michael Gregory (oh cuss)….that’s me.
We filed into the courtroom like cattle. The defendant was sitting right there. He had to look at all of us for about two hours. The judge read us the charges. It was a violent criminal offense. A troubled groan from the audience, and then another when the judge estimated the trial could last up to four days. From that moment on, I was flip-flopping a bit. Part of me certainly didn’t want to be picked, but another part of me wanted to see it through. What if this guy was guilty? Could the rest of these clowns be trusted to drop the hammer? What if the opposite was true? I’m afraid the guy looked quite guilty. Perhaps this is why I wasn’t picked.
I didn’t get a private voir dire session with the judge (who appeared a bit scatter-brained, like an older Harry Stone). I was a little bothered by this. They had warned that they might ask uncomfortable questions. Questions that might make us feel strange to answer honestly. That sounded tempting. You want to dance judge? Let’s get blunt, baby. But, I got skipped over. Very few people did, and thus…the two hours.
Then they announced they had their jury. Everyone past #48 was safe and sound. They were all sitting behind me, so I can’t say if they were fist-pumping, but they probably were. Given the fact that I once took a property law class in college about a decade ago, I came to the conclusion that the prosecution was going to want women on the jury. So, I figured, at worst there would only be six men. They started calling numbers and I started doing calculations. The four people in front of me who hadn’t been dire’d, all got called. This was including the guy who, “never got picked.” Heard of a jinx, Dipsh*t? So, number 20 gets called and I’m waiting, I’m coming out of crouch. I’m going to own it when I walk up into my jury chair. I may have tried to give the DA some knucks…I don’t know. But, then the judge said, “Juror #30.” I was out. Skipped over. I suppose it was a relief. In the end the jury was all women and old guys.
Before we got sent back to assembly, for the 2nd part of our sentence and multiple episodes of Grounded for Life, the Judge told us we shouldn’t think any less of ourselves because we didn’t get picked. This produced a chuckle from the crowd. We were all elated, but now a couple of days later, I might finally know what he was talking about. Maybe next time, jury duty.