Today’s short and bittersweet jury duty process shook me to my roots.
It started off innocuous enough. Get to the courthouse on time, check in, sit and wait in a large wood panelled room that was built some time in the late 60s. With little to no information provided we waited. People slowly trickled in well past the posted time of “9am” but that didn’t seem to matter.
At some point around 9:30 we were provided with a start time. “The judge will be in at 10am.” followed by a collective sigh. Nobody really wanted to be here. But, a las, it is our civic duty.
As time rolled on, in seemingly slow motion, the court clerk did a mic test and other menial tasks to prepare the court.
Finally at around 10:15 the important people shuffle in through a door to the left followed by the defacto “all rise.”
The charges are read and a plea is submitted. “Not guilty,” — If it were the other way, this story is over. Potential jurors go home. However, not the situation, this case is going the distance now.
Thus begins the juror elimination round. The judge reads out some basic instructions followed by a few questions, in my informal summation:
Anyone know the defendant, the lawyers, or me? No, cool.
Anyone know any of these witnesses? (Reads a huge list) No, cool.
Does anyone have a personal reason why they may be unable to view this case with an open mind? A few people stir. A few hands pop up. People are directed to the right side of the court. A short line up builds. My insides start shaking like a scared little child. Apparently I’ve have something to say to this question.
I shuffle over to the line of about ten people and wait. One souls friend was killed recently, he was dismissed. Another had some strange story, I missed most of it for my internal fears, dismissed. A young lady in front of me tells the court her uncle was killed in a similar way. Dismissed.
I can only assume by now that what I am about to say is a valid answer. Unbeknownst to me I was about to tell a room full of strangers something that hardly any of my closest friends even know.
Sucking back the internal fears, focused solely on the judge, I leaned into the mic and said “In 1988 my father was shot.” The judge peered over to me about to say something else, I leaned back in and said “he was murdered.”
“You are dismissed” she said without hesitation.
I quickly exited the courtroom as fast as I could without running, while the court was still reading my juror number and confirmation of dismissal. In the hall way the lady before me was also making her exit. We chatted a bit down the six flights of escalators.
“I wasn’t really prepared for those memories to be surfaced like that.” She noted.
“Same.” still shaking on the inside. “Definitely not what I ever expected.” I said with a deep sigh.
She too experienced the inner trembles of having to say a terrible truth in front of a room full of strangers.
“Have a nice day” we said. I guess.
We found the exit and went our separate ways in the greyness of the cold wet morning.
All joking aside from “how do I get out of Jury duty?” I had no idea that I already held an unwanted card up my sleeve. I had no idea. It’s inexplicably strange that I’m actually quite happy that I got out of this. But the circumstances and process were an absolutely terrible and unexpected experience.
The reality is though, the question asked and my answer given would in fact impede my ability to view this case with an open mind.
The irony is I didn’t have to do that, the case is set to last a fairly long time and I had a simpler, legit out. But hey, sometimes the hard ones come up first.
So now they know, and now you know.