This week’s fun adventure was jury duty. Unlike most people, I don’t have a problem with getting a day off from work, being allowed to read a book for a number of hours, and getting a two-hour lunch. I don’t even mind getting shuffled around to various courtrooms—it’s good once in a while to see your taxes at work in settings other than trash pickup day and public schools. And I also don’t mind that I’ve been called, ahem, three times for jury duty, and have served as a juror for two times.
But this time, I did mind. I admit to being older and less patient. And, perhaps even a teeny weeny bit less, well, impartial. Over the years, people have pissed me off, and I’m tired of being nice about it. Some people are stupid, some people suck, and there is no amount of me thinking well of them that is going to change that. All this passed through my mind as I watched for the fourth time the happy little video about jury duty. Let me break down its messages:
Jury duty is an important part of being a citizen. Yes I know; this is my fourth time. And I vote. I’m citizened up to my eyeballs, thanks.
Name selection is totally random, which is why you may have been called 14 times and your neighbor is still a jury duty virgin. Um, yeah, could we maybe try more for fair instead of random? If you wrote a proper algorithm—I’m sure a freshman at MIT would love to help out—you could take me, fully participating citizen, off the list and give someone else his or her “special opportunity” to be a citizen. How about that? I really do want to share.
Jurors gush about their experience. “It was sooo interesting. I would do it again, absolutely!” Well, guess what sucker, you most likely will be doing it again and again and again. And for me, even though I may sound like a cranky person on this blog, I’m actually a thoughtful, sensitive person. The first trial I was on was a police brutality case, and it was four days of very disturbing testimony. In the end, because the lawyer for the brutalized person wasn’t very good, we couldn’t find the police officer guilty, which we were all sure he was. Justice served my ass.
The second case wasn’t traumatizing, as much as depressing. It was contesting the arrest of a pimp, and he and the two prostitutes in the courtroom were all middle-aged, worn out people. The trial itself was a day and a half, and honesty it wasn’t that complicated. We should have reached a verdict in few hours. Most people, 11 to be exact, came around to the fact that the detective was believable and the arrest was legit. But one woman did not believe the cop and would not change her mind. And that would have been OK if she had been able to say why. After a day and a half of deliberation, we would have taken anything from her. Like his choice of tie was indicative of a liar. It still would have ended in a hung jury, but at least we could say we all stuck to our principles, and if the court case had to go back to the drawing board, so be it.
We tried. But the hold out wouldn’t say, which was kind of infuriating and made us feel like we had to try harder to get her to our side. Otherwise we felt like we were just giving up. Even a stupid reason is better than no reason. No reason feels like laziness or absence of any thought process, good, bad, or otherwise. Even those of us who believed him offered up reasons—“Is it his shifty eyes? ” ; “Is it the way he hesitated when the lawyer asked why he decided to go past his shift to patrol?” But she just sat there and repeated idiotically, “I just don’t believe him.” Because we were trying to avoid a hung jury, which would make all of our time irrelevant, we kept sending down clarification questions to the judge. I’m sure after the third one, he was like, WTF is wrong with these people?!? This isn’t Brown vs Board of Education for god’s sake! But despite our best efforts, vacant thoughts lady held her ground and we had to return no verdict. Three days amounted to nothing. Interesting experience says the video? More like a reminder to avoid our “peers.”
So on Wednesday, my fourth time being called, I decided I was done. I have prided myself on being thoughtful and fair and open-minded. I’ve worked really hard to be unbiased, but this week I was done. I might work up to being unbiased in the future, but until then, a lot of things have happened to me, and I’m tired of accepting everyone and everything. You people are on your own.
The first case was a workplace discrimination case. I know it happens, and I know it’s really hard to prove. I also know lots of people don’t sue because they are rightfully afraid of jeopardizing their career and/or job. So the fact that this woman had the courage to sue (and she was still working for the place that had discriminated against her) seemed to me like it must be true. Why else would she bother suing? Could I have reasoned with myself to be fair? Yes. Was I going to? Hell no. When the judge asked me if I had formed an opinion about the case, I said yes, and she dismissed me.
But lest you think that I got off easy, that whiled away the morning, but there was still a stack of afternoon cases to get through. I got sent back to the jury pool to wait for them. I was definitely fulfilling my duty—they just weren’t going to get more than a day out of me.
The afternoon case was a dealer getting arrested for selling crack cocaine. Dude, maybe you have the right to a trial by a jury of your peers, but I don‘t have to give up two to three days of my life to help make that happen. Let the 200 other people called today help you out. This time the judge asked me why I couldn’t be impartial, and I truthfully said that I have a drug addict living upstairs from me and he makes my life difficult. I have no sympathy for whatever happens to him. The judge thanked me for telling her and dismissed me. I do have to give a nod to the universe—clever of it to make me acknowledge that my upstairs neighbor finally came in handy for something. And that was it. It was 4 pm, and I was free to go, until I get another summons in the requisite three years when I’m “randomly” selected. Ha. I’m sure in three years, I’ll have a host of other people and situations I can be biased about. Or maybe I will have calmed down and decide I want to be Zen and unbiased. The jury is still out on that one.