THE MYSTERY OF JURY DUTY
My Sweet Cuz And Her Sense Of Humor!
Right on time, I received my recurring, 18 month summons to appear for jury duty and yesterday was the day. To avoid the extreme, rush-hour traffic into Phoenix, Dick demanded he take me rather than I even attempt maneuvering public transport to the area.
(He would be a welcomed companion into this trek into the unknown). As I calculate, this would be my last possible summons before I will no longer be age-appropriate and can opt out of future opportunities. YIP!
We allowed two hours for the trip to the big city and were undeterred by the parking lot of cars sitting on I-10 as we journeyed to our exit, then, to the appointed parking lot and furnished bus ride to the courthouse.
We were shocked by the estimated 400 potential jurors already checked into the assembly room upon our early arrival. My heart leaped, thinking, ‘With this crowd, I’ll never be called’, at least that was my hope.
I’ve never witnessed such a gathering of people sitting motionless, without even whispering a word or looking directly into the eye of another.
Zombies all; looking at their electronic devices (duh), reading books or just starring into space. As Dick read his book, I worked two crossword puzzles and whipped out my latest edition of Judicial Watch to ward-off evil.
The twenty-some TV screens played silent public programming until the court’s video announcements and instructions replaced the disregarded tennis match that was streaming. Soon after, the action began as lists of the various jury selections were displayed on the massive screens.
Let me just say, I’ve often rejoiced at being married to an “A” (Alpopp), but today, not so much – I didn’t want to be first, I didn’t want to sit in the front row, I didn’t want them to start at the beginning of the alphabet and I didn’t want the notoriety of seeing my name emblazoned on those dratted screens.
We sat in silence as the first four groups of fifty-some each, were called out for the various court assignments. Rick and I took a collective breath, blinked with a knowing signal of satisfaction, but said not a word; we were hoping against hope it would soon be over.
Not so fast – there is was: S ALPOPP – doom had landed after all. I collected my necessities, made plans for the lunch break and took my place in line with fifty other sheep.
From that point on, I was Number 19 and trying to make it as lucky as I could among these strangers in paradise. It was at that moment, I decided to change my persona and become the silent, mysterious woman I knew I could be – for once; not engaging in casual conversation, not making little jokes or exposing what lurked behind my naked eyes;
I just watched, waited, and followed orders like a militant. As we were about to depart, the drama began. When we took our initial step toward the courtroom, one woman rattled the crowd by voicing her fear of the tall escalator. (Oh, brother, here we go – the crazies are out and running.
She got her special treatment through a secret passage – oh, lucky girl!) We trailed up the escalator, through the halls, over the bridge, through the woods and into elevators to another building before we landed on the thirteenth floor.
(|A groaning reality to the superstitious in the crowd – I tried to ignore the nervous comments). Miss Scare-Dee-Cat arrived and took her numerical place in line – she was No. 13, oh yes, and one to remember later. We squeezed into numerical order in the courtroom and awaited the Judge, his instructions and all the questioning that would surely follow.
The interrogations became the jaw-dropping entertainment of the day. I came, wide-eyed and open to the experience, while the rest came rehearsed and prepared for a quick dismissal.
This was Central Casting at its finest; right out of Hollywood and I was about to witness some of the most dramatic recitations in the modern day, legal world. In numerical order, we each stood to recite a brief statement of our background.
Those demonstrations, alone, got my juices flowing; not in what they said, but in the mealy-mouth delivery of their life experiences. They spoke so low, the Judge kept asking them to repeat themselves and each acted as if they were afraid to come out of the shadows of themselves.
I stood and spoke so loudly everyone knew not to mess with me and sat down, chastising myself for exposing the mystery within, as I had promised. (Lesson to self: shut-up)
The Judge began the long questioning task – delving only into the questions of those who raised their numbered card number to give oblique answers to hopefully, and artfully, weasel out of jury duty:
-Anyone have a medical condition that would cause difficulty…..???
-Anyone have family members, friends, neighbors in law-enforcement, legal work……?
-Anyone ever been a victim of a crime, abuse…….
-Anyone have opposing views of marijuana….?
-Anyone ever been charged with a felony or had a family member involved in a felony……?
-Anyone have trouble following the law or making judgment as a juror….?
-And on it went on. (This guy was getting a fair trial for sure – it was Self-Elimination Day)
Oh, Those questions prompted responses by the score – cards were waving like they were in a ticker-tape parade.
Number 13, Miss Escalator 2017, had just be diagnosed with an undefined heart condition, requiring a single medication to address it and more testing ahead. It took her an hour to get to the court today and the traffic caused her much stress.
(“Hey, Lady, do you think the rest of us were hosted in a downtown hotel last night?; I think we passed you on the interstate this morning.”) Later, she told the Judge she was also under much stress in thinking this 3-day trial would cause her beauty shop great financial loss if it was closed too long, after all, she was stressed, being the shop’s owner and sole support……yak-yak. (Now I lay me down to sleep)
A lady behind me said she was Catholic and could not judge another human being – “God is our only judge|”.
(Let’s call the Pope in on this, please) Nearly everyone was related or knew someone in legal work and law-enforcement, except me.
I could not think of one person except my late Uncle, from forty-years ago, but perhaps, today, he would qualify for me. (As I sat silent – I thought – “Hey, I licked stamps for a lawyer once”).
The Judge’s follow-up questions to these flimsy excuses should have provided an embarrassing moment for some of these people, but no, they went on and on.
Number 18, sitting next to me, explained the depth of his marvelous BA degree in Law and Criminology, about eight years ago. When the Judge asked how he was using that education, the jerk reported he has been unemployed for some time now.
(I bit my lip) This is the guy who would later, pace the halls with us, explaining to this captive audience, how, why and what to expect from the Judge and this trial. He was wrong on every count. (Jail him for false testimony!)
A twenty-five year old gal who sat on my bench, three places down, previously unnoticed by anyone in the group, started quivering, as if on cue when the Judge asked if anyone had a reason for feeling they could not participate in the trial.
Her card was waving so hard, all surrounding hot flashes ceased. She said she was having an anxiety attack and began weeping. WHAT? There had been no meltdowns downstairs, on the escalator, in the elevator nor in the hallway; not until this moment. What just happened here?
Was she suddenly stressed because her pants and shirt were too tight? (and not in a good way). (I am boiling inside – but my maturity holds me back – I AM that mysterious woman after all). I passed her tissue. Gad!!!
Two women needed to pump milk, periodically, for their new babies – one had no stash for tomorrow’s feeding – her son would starve without her.
(I could not compete with that line – I nearly passed out) Hadn’t the Mother, without a sufficient supply of milk, ever heard of advanced planning or a refrigerator? (I handed them coupons for canned milk).
A father of five, spoke of his early brush with the law when a policemen asked him to turn down his car radio when he was sixteen. (A nothing-burger attempt for being excused.
Note: He’s raising children of his own teenagers now – send them all to counseling) Another had an aunt in law enforcement, in Florida, twenty years ago.
(I can’t sit here) Miss Priss’s husband had his watch stolen ten years ago. The watch was recovered and some insurance reimbursement was offered, but she could be impartial in this case. (Really? This is about drugs; not theft, lady. Free me from this madness now!)
It was almost noon when the Judge and the attorneys huddled around the bench to decided which jurors would be dismissed from service and then, read their numbers.
Half the room emptied – decidedly, the wimps were among them. Good riddance!
Wait!! I’m still here! I had no story, no embellishments, no legal entanglements, no drama, no where to go, but to lunch with Rick. On the long walk between the courtroom and assembly room, I quieted my shock by reviewing the puny excuses that apparently worked.
During the lunch break, my only comment was, “Pass me my sandwich, p-l-e-a-s-e”. I couldn’t speak to him about the proceedings, but did relay my lowered expectations in not being called to trial after all.
With about twenty-eight potential jurors remaining, my fate was almost sealed, but there would be another round of questioning after lunch.
The twenty-eight lucky losers assembled in the hall outside the courtroom – most looking down at their phones while the law professor paced, preaching his prophesy to those who refused make eye contact.
I stood silent in my new-found aura while others whispered small talk nonsense. The door opened and we were seated again in our appointed spots for more drilling; more juicy tales of woe.
I sat, flipping through my empty Rolodex of referrals, trying to conjure a previous appointment with a dirty past. I was void. I was that special sacrifice to legal doomsday.
After another hour of tall tales, we numeric specimens were relegated to the hall again for a short break that lasted far past the Judge’s prediction. That’s when a few jury potentials started finger-pointing and singling-out their choices of finalists.
One view was, that all the women would be chosen because they represented sympathy toward the sorry defendant. Others would be dismissed because of their past experiences with legal issues.
I remained silent; just listening to the theories, both musing and assessing the credibility of their ideas.
They just couldn’t decide about me because I never raised my card, nor spoke. I smiled, but the joker inside wanted to shout, “Fry him”, and scare them all.
In my faith, I know I am flawed, but a redeemed human being for eternity, however, this eye-opening experience leaves me thinking, I’m closer to perfection than I could ever imagine. Either that, or I am just too boring.
The door opened after the long, overdue session within and we were all asked to go in and sit on the benches in the back, in no particular order. Dead silence reigned.
With the defendant and attorneys standing and facing us, the Judge thanked everyone for appearing for service. What’s going on? Had there been a plea? Was it over before it started?
Were we all about to be dismissed? No! The Judge said, “As your number is read, please take the seat you are directed to, in the Jury Box”. (The mood was sobering)
Seemingly, in order, numbers were read and one by one and people moved to the hot seats. Two, Nine, Twelve, Twenty-three; on and on it went.
I dared not breathe, they skipped over nineteen, but I never exhaled for fear they were tricking us with the numbering system. Finally, after the selection of ten people, it ended. Only ten?
It is a trick! But when the Judge said, “Thank you all for your service – those whose numbers were not called are dismissed” – it was rats on a sinking ship as people started stepping on and over each other to scramble out of that room.
In the end, most of those chosen were those who had talked too much about crime and their attachments to law enforcement or experiences with same – those with the excuses.
Perhaps, the defense attorney thought they would be more passionate with the circumstances of the case. Several of those chosen were the very ones who “anointed other jury candidates” in the hallway earlier. (Yes, there were chuckles as we left)
Mysterious or not – this was my answered prayer. I had prayed that God would “get me through this” – didn’t know how; didn’t know what, but in the asking, it happened.
I praised the Lord with every rapid step back to collect Rick and tell him the news. I had not spoken but a few words all day and it all came tumbling out after the bus ride back to the car with other dismissed jurors, and all the way home.
That’s when my true self was released and revealed – a blabber mouth. What a “mysterious” day in the life of jury duty.
Steve And Vicky