Friday, September 25, 2009

The jury seat

I’ve only had jury duty once in my life. That is to say, they only called me up once . . . period. I don’t know how I got out of it for so long (well, I do - I bounced around different places to live and they could never pin me down long enough to be considered in one distinct jurisdiction).

Once I settled down, I received my notice to attend. This was when I was working at my first crappy job in Pittsburgh back in 1999. Or rather, it was a week before I quit. I went home to my apartment and picked up my mail with the little card saying, It is now your civic duty to report to the fiery depths of Hell and give your completely biased opinion in litigation matters to condemn the guilty in becoming Lucifer’s prison bitch for all eternity.

I jumped for joy.

Psst! Tell you a little secret that will totally blow away your mind and pretty much cement the ideal that I am a deranged individual. See, I LIKED jury duty.

I did, dammit! I liked it, and I’m proud to admit it!

Anyway, at this time I didn’t know if I really had to be there. I had to call the courthouse at the specific date and time to find out. Well, the day arrived. I dialed the phone number and heard the recorded message.

Anyone with their last name beginning with the letters “A” through “H” must attend . . .

Well, that was a simple process . . . or was it? I took the bus down to the county courthouse and sat in a room with close to hundred other people. It quickly became standing room only.

(I’m relying on my memory of events that happened more than 10 years ago, figuring I’m safe from any incoming lawsuits from those individuals involved directly in these proceedings. If someone else attended this courthouse recently and has a fresher experience on how the court process happens, just snicker behind your palm at my faulty memory and let me tell my story my way.)

The setting: a gigantic courtroom with one judge, several bailiffs, and a few court clerks. From the gathered victims, er, lucky lotto winners, they would pool those to fill the jury box for several different trials - both civil and criminal.

The clerks started the process of elimination, i.e. - those people who believed they could weasel their way out of being assigned on a jury by saying their sick grandmother Judy was having multiple bypass surgery in three hours and it would be against their religion to miss the operation. Oh, and they also hated everyone: babies, women, men. Hated the whole freaking human population.

Once those people who had “legitimate” excuses (and I do use this word loosely) were free to leave and commit mass crime waves along the streets, the next round of seating commenced. Yes, this was just the first go-around. These courthouse people planned to drag out the process for as long as possible.

So now we went on to the final judging (I don’t even think beauty pageant contestants went through this much of a hassle). There were four rows of ten seats. All of them filled with people. I sat at the back top row in the first seat. This meant I would be either the first one called or the last depending on where they started. At a small table on the ground floor sat the two lawyers and a friendly court clerk.

First, the clerk asked the basic questions: Does anyone work in the same field as the defendant? Are we related to either party or their lawyers? Blah-blah-blah . . .

A few people raised their hands. The clerk asked each person to take a seat by the table as she bombarded them with additional questions. With their answers given, these people left the courtroom. Then the clerk called up the remaining individuals separately.

Here was what happened when my turn came:

Clerk: “Hello, please state your name.”
Michelle: “Lizzie Borden.”
Clerk: “Where do you currently work?”
Michelle: “I was a spinister until my father and my stepmom were killed with forty whacks of an axe, with one extra for my dad.”
Clerk: “I’m so sorry to hear such tragic news. How did it happen?”
Michelle: “I can’t tell you. It might taint my ‘not guilty’ plea for the upcoming trial and then I’d have to poison you with prussic acid.”

Okay, we all know this didn’t happen. Here was what really took place:

Clerk: “Please state your full name.”
Michelle: “Michelle Lee Hickman”
Clerk: “Where do you currently work?”
Michelle: “I’m a clerical assistant at a subsidy book publisher, which means I work at a proctologist office.”

(Both lawyers looked at each other and raised eyebrows. They smiled. One of them nodded. I could almost hear their thoughts in my head. JACKPOT!)

Clerk: “Do you know the area where the incident occurred?”
Michelle: “No.”
Clerk: “Do you know the people . . . ”
Michelle: “No.”
Clerk: “Do you know anything about this . . . ”
Michelle: “No.”

(It was at this point where we all knew I was getting picked. The lawyers knew it. The clerk knew it. I knew it. We were all smiling now at the humorous circumstances since the clerk still had to fulfil her duty by asking each and every question on her paper.)

Clerk: “Would there be a problem with you attending...”
Michelle: “No.”
Clerk: “Would you have any undue bias...”
Michelle: “No.”
Clerk: “Do you have any particular standing in ruling...”
Lawyers: silently mouthed, “No,” while writing on their notepads.

(We went on autopilot by this time. The clerk was just opening her mouth and I was plugging in the same answer before she spoke. I could almost feel every other possible juror behind me pumping their fists and silently cheering over their increased odds of not getting chosen.)

The clerk thanked me for my truthful answers. I nodded my head in one of those - yeah, we’ll be seeing each other again REAL soon - motions. I sat back in my chair at the top row. The clerk informed all those seated that they would now go over their papers. They would soon decide who the lucky group of panelists would be to vote the person off the island, or win a brand-new car, or choose the door for a grand prize: a trip to watch Lucifer ready his pitchfork while his bunkmate bends over to pick up the prison soap.

Well, this wouldn’t be much of a story if I didn’t get picked. My first time called in. My first time seated for a trial. And what a crazy trial it was! I’ll tell you about it next week.
FYI: There's a new blog in town (well, he's been around before but had to change his format for privacy reasons). Check him out . . . he's a real knucklehead!


  1. I have some kind of irresistible magnetism drawing me to jury duty. I think I've been called five times (or is it six?). Anyway, one time, I went downtown and sat in the waiting room all day, before finally being sent home, having caught up on all my reading.

    The other four times (or is it five?), I not only went into the court room for the voir dire questioning, but I was seated on the jury. And twice (or was it three times?) I ended up being the foreman. Yeef. On the whole, I haven't minded it; it's definitely something worth having on one's 'list'.

    But, as someone once said, anyone with a fondness for sausage or the Law should never see either one being made. And jury duty certainly has that aspect about itself. It hasn't necessarily left me with warm feelings about ever having my fate in the hands of 'a jury of my peers'. . .

    Doggone it, Michelle; now you're gonna make me hafta post about this, sometime. . .

  2. I love it too. Have been in the pool three times before, but never chosen. :(

    Great post.

  3. I've been called for duty a couple times, only selected once so far. That experience convinced me that (1) there are alot of stupid people in the world, (2) even when people are beat over the head with the proof of their own stupidity, they don't get it, and (3) there is truth in the idea that justice is blind - unfortunately not in a good way.

    Thanks for the laugh though, and I look forward to the continuation of the tale.

  4. Desmond: Do post it! I can't think of anything more entertaining except when it comes to talking about the court process.

    Angie L.: Your day will come someday...

    Eric: I agree on all three of your counts. You'd make a good judge.

  5. Awesome post, Michelle! I also enjoyed jury duty. I learned all sorts of swell police procedures and secret words and stuff. (Plus, they gave us free food while we were deliberating. Can't beat that!
    Looking forward to reading more from you!

  6. I used to be a court reporter. I will never be picked for jury duty -- they never allow anyone who has had anything to do with the process, just as you never see doctors, lawyers, paralegals, or clerk of courts on the panel. In my experience, Wisconsin (where I lived at the time), loved teachers, truck drivers, homemakers, and retired folks. In Minnesota (where I live now), it's the same plus my husband, the machinist, who absolutely loved jury duty, too. I'm glad you enjoyed it, it actually is very important to the process!


  7. oh man, your job stories were a hoot and a half. i can't wait to read the next installement of jury duty.

  8. Catladylarew: Always go there for the free food!

    Pearl: If they offered it as a permanent job, I'd jump all over it.

    Lime: I didn't mean for it to turn into an installment. It just happened that way. Oh crap! And I still need to finish the last important part: the verdict.

  9. Can’t wait for you to elaborate on this one Michelle. I’ve served on a jury 4 times in New York City. What a menagerie! I’m sure the cast of characters you encountered in Pittsburgh were just as colorful. :o)


  10. Hey, thanks for the plug, Michelle.

    I got jury duty for the first time a few months ago. It got to the point where I WANTED to get picked. I didn't. Let's just say the nature of the crime combined with my chosen profession made it a lock that the defense was gonna boot me.

    I was bummed. I really wanted to play a part in putting the scumbag away. Oh, it turned out he WAS guilty. Imagine that.

  11. Ruth: the characters were interesting... but I don't want to give anything away just yet.

    DK: Just spreading the word...

    Sorry you didn't get picked. It's an experience everyone should have once in their lives.

  12. When I was going through my divorce, years ago, I got a jury duty notice, which I totally and completely ignored due to the fact that I was distraught and disorganized. All my friends said that I was going to be in BIG trouble. But nothing happened. I have been called since, but was dismissed.

    I enjoyed your post. You have a lot in common with CatLadyLarew. She LOVED jury duty.

  13. Nanodance: Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    My one cousin did the same thing. She completely ignored each notice and nothing ever happened, despite it saying they'll come after you if you don't attend. Makes you wonder...

  14. Thank you for your very kind comment, Michelle. I'd been carrying that story around in my head for quite a while. It felt good to get it out of my system.

  15. OMGosh I'm so far behind on reading your wonderful posts. Anyway, I can't wait to read about your jury stint. I'm sure it will some seriously entertaining stuff.

    I've never had to serve on a jury. I hope I didn't just jinx myself.

  16. Bruce: You're welcome! You posted a fantastic story!

    Theresa: I try to entertain! (You did jinx yourself - the FBI keeps tabs on my blog).


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