I couldn’t read the rest of the letter. I just didn’t want to read about how I would have to report “way out west” where the county inconveniently put all of those courtrooms. I didn’t want to think about the ungodly hour that I had to check in. I didn’t want to read all the rules and the cute “helpful hints” on how I could make my day at court more enjoyable.
I just sucked it up and tried to convince myself that by serving on a jury I would be doing my civic duty. Then, however, when I really started to let my imagination run wild (after a few sips of Southern Comfort), I got excited thinking about being assigned to a sensational murder case that would go on for months and how I would be the lone juror who insisted that the guy was innocent and then months later some new evidence would appear exonerating that guy and then I’d write that best-selling novel about the behind the scenes deliberations and then I’d be on “The View” and then George Clooney’s agent would call me about a movie…then I woke up and threw up.
I was assigned to a Group. I think it was Group B but it might have been Group A. On an assigned day, I had to call some number where a recorded voice told me if my group had to report the next morning. The first two times I called, my group was not mentioned. My dream of a best-selling novel was fast fading. But I kept calling because if your group is called and you don’t report to the courtroom they issue a “warrant,” which didn’t sound like a good thing to have on the resume.
Finally, the recording mentioned my group so I got ready to report the next morning.
Have you ever been to that courthouse area? It’s like driving around in Paris. There are too many traffic circles, too many signs directing you to the Juvenile Court, Traffic Court, Divorce Court, Judge Judy’s Court and the Criminal Court. And the wording on the signs is so small that you simply can’t read the directions. Ultimately, I did an unmanly thing: I asked for directions from a gas station attendant. Of course, my court was “right over there,” he said with derision.
When I approached the security gate, I was told that I could not bring in my cell phone or my computer. As if I would be sitting in the jury waiting room communicating with people about a case that I knew nothing about. You see, you just sit there and sit there and sit there, and unless you get into the courtroom…you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what is going on in the courtroom. I mean, O.J. could be next door and you wouldn’t know it.
I was in a room with about 100 other people. At one point, a uniformed woman with big hair came in and we all got excited thinking she was going to escort us into the trial room. Instead, she asked us if we wanted to contribute to some kind of “Justice Fund” for criminals who were wrongly convicted by potential jurors like us. Then we went back to sitting and waiting.
Finally, around one o’clock, someone came in and said “I’m going to read a list of names. Those people must follow me into the courtroom.” Great! This is it! I will soon be dispensing justice. Out of the 100 or so folks, they called about 60. I was not one of them. So, I went back for a third reading of my newspaper.
An hour later, the same woman came in again and named an additional 25 people. Nope, not me. Thirty minutes later a bunch of folks who had been called earlier came back into the room and told us they had not been selected and they had no idea what the trial was about. I kept thinking that if I had my phone or computer, I would still have nothing to report to an outside world that was anxiously awaiting news from this imbedded juror.
Around 3:30 p.m., I managed to fall asleep with my head on the wooden table and 20 minutes later another clerk came in and announced “Ladies and Gentlemen, this concludes today’s deliberations. You are free to leave. Thank you for your service.”
Huh? My service?
Uh…what exactly did I do? How did I serve our system of justice? What about my best selling legal thriller?
A few weeks later, I got a check for $90 for my service to my country.
Is this a great country, or what?