Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Jury Fury

Some weeks ago I was sent a summons by my government to serve for jury duty. I’d only ever been called once previous and that was in my early twenties at which time I was sent home with most everyone else who was there that day.

Wednesday was my day and I was eager to hopefully help some wrongfully accused unfortunate soul…or alternatively facilitate the nailing of some guilty bastard who’d retained the services of a sleazy defense attorney. Either way I wanted to do my part to aid our criminal justice system.

And I am not a morning person. I don’t even remember the last time I arose at 7 AM – although the times recent I’ve gone to bed at 7 (or even later) are countless. Many find a jury summons to be a huge pain in the ass of an inconvenience...and most of those people were down at the courthouse with me today. I was tired just like they were. My iced coffee hadn’t kicked in. No doubt I was missing the comfort of my bed and the warmth of my mate. But none of this made me want to wiggle out of throwing down my two cents. This was all part of my civic duty.

I didn’t talk to a single person today who wanted to be there, but I did listen to a bunch of people bitch about the entire process and devise and scheme and plot about how to “get out of it”. What a bunch of assholes. This one old woman said, “Eef they ayask me eef ah beleeve in the deth penulty, you kin be shore Ahm gonna tell ‘em ah shore do! Ah herd they keeled anuther one of ‘em layast weak!” She was practically slapped on the back in agreement by everyone around her. They all chuckled and chortled and it was quite the hootenanny.

I seethed. Now it’s not a matter of whether or not I believe in the death penalty…it’s a matter of old grammy rousing the masses into ignorance and carelessness. People listen to grammies because "they know best”. The whole “listen to your elders” thing is still pretty big down here. But these were potential jurors and they weren’t interested in justice or listening: If they were going to be forced into this, they were gonna be out for blood.

It’s so easy to forget I live in Texas due to the circles in which I travel. In a situation like this, one is reminded like a lightning bolt to the head. I made it a point not to discuss my politics with any of them, although in hindsight I wish I’d unloaded on that yapping bitch. She might’ve had a coronary. See? I can be out for blood, too.

This is what I get for being a smoker. Yes, dear reader...all of this occurred in the county provided smoking room.

This is what baffled me most. These people had been graciously provided a smoking room with cable TV – an extravagance to be sure. I was amazed that such an area even existed in this day and age. I thought for sure I’d have to go outside into the courtyard, but no…instead I get to hang out with Ma and Pa Kitler and watch The Price is Right. And all they did was bitch and moan. Smokers are supposed to be the cool people, the laid back ones…but now I know better and may even have been provided the impetus to quit. They’re just a bunch of redneck yokels, dissatisfied with the fact they’ve been given an air-conditioned area (think South Texas in August!) in which to huff and puff, watch Bob Barker and "suffer" through endless Wilford Brimley commercials. Maybe it was seeing people win all those cool prizes that sent them over the edge? I do not know and never will.

What I do know is that after several groups of 32 had been chosen, the clerk came out before lunch and made an announcement: “We’re sending 50 of you home.” Half the room automatically reached for their plastic juror buttons. I was confident that I would not be one of them...just as I hadn’t been on any of the previous lists of 32. I kicked back and relaxed. I was important to this process and I could do some good for Bexar [pronounced "bear" for the uninitiated] county. I cared and wanted to be there for my fellow citizens.

Guess who was one of the nifty 50? Yup. You have no idea how pissed I was. I didn’t want to go home. I’d have happily sat there ‘til 5 o’clock, waiting to be placed into a group of 32 just to find out if I was the right person for the job. And please understand that I had no intention of hoodwinking my way onto a jury. Had I been given the opportunity to be questioned and had I realized I’d be biased toward a case, I’d have said so and gone on my merry way, knowing that I’d taken it as far as was fairly possible.

As I walked away from the line to get my certification notice, guess who I spied still sitting there, still waiting to be selected, still part of the Not-50? Not only Old Ma Himmler, but also every single person from that smoking room. One of the smokers smiled at me as I exited and his dentures practically fell out of his craw as it gaped in my direction. This extra from Deliverance smiled because he thought I was lucky.

And all I could think about was the unlucky wrongfully accused unfortunate soul who might have this man 1/12th in charge of his or her fate.