07 Nov I Fought the Law and I Won
Being the law-abiding (usually), upstanding (this point is debatable) citizen that I am, I have been lucky enough to have had zero experience in my life with the court system. I’m a fast learner though. The first thing I learned was that if you receive something in the mail with the words “summons” or “Worcester County Circuit Court” printed on the envelope, you should not ignore said piece of mail, or toss it aside with your Victoria’s Secret and NFL Shop catalogues and forget about it. This makes the people who send out jury summons very testy. If you ignore their attempts at communication they will follow up with correspondence threatening you with fines or jail time or death by public stoning. Which is all true except for the last part. Maybe. In my mind this is a total double standard, because if anyone else sent threatening letters because I refused to see them I feel like I could get a restraining order. That’s a Catch 22 of full circle irony. I imagine it playing out like a scene from Law and Order (hey, it’s my daydream); “Your Honor, I would like to request permission from the court to have a restraining order issued against…. the court”. Then I would turn on my heels and crowd surf out of the court house and skip into the sunset with my new found freedom. I’m pretty sure that’s how the justice system works.
The second thing I learned was that I have to call the jury system recording EVERY DAY for an entire month to see if my justice-rendering services will be needed. This makes advanced planning of meetings and happy hours and other things of momentous importance very difficult. It especially sucks when you’re on the cusp of having an emotional breakdown over a football game at 11:40 on a Sunday night, and you realize that you don’t even know if you have to make the drive to the county seat the next morning because you forgot to call the recording and then you call as a team you hate is going to possibly beat your team after three hours of vicious hard-hitting gridiron goodness and the recording says “Sucka! See you bright and early! NanerNanerNaner” and then your team pulls out a win and you’re too excited to sleep and your dog starts vomiting everywhere exactly 30 minutes before your alarm goes off the next morning. And you get up and relize you don’t even know where the courthouse is. That’s when it sucks the most.
My third lesson learned was that everyone who works for the court system has a bladder of steel. Upon my arrival at the courthouse, I was told to take the elevator down to the basement, where my fellow jurors and myself were herded into a narrow windowless room that smelled like b.o. and sadness. There we were forced to watch an orientation video that consisted of bad re-enactments and people from the 90’s sporting shoulder pads and false enthusiasm. Before we were taken up to the courtroom we were informed that we would not be allowed out to use the restroom. As someone with almost no attention span and a bladder capacity of roughly .0027 ounces, this news was earth-shattering.
I’ve heard people say that in order to get out of jury duty you should pretend to be a bigot with extreme political, personal, or religious views. Since this is not true for me and I am the worst liar on the planet, I found myself straining to come up with some other way out of this boring anti-urination misery. They asked a lot of questions that could potentially disqualify people. For the first time in my life I wished that I’d either known more local lawyers, or been a victim/perpetrator of a crime. Apparently these things can be grounds for dismissal. That is how freaked out I get when bathroom access is cut off. I would rather be a felon than be told I’m not allowed to pee.
At first I felt bad for trying to shirk my civic duty. Then I concluded that I was really doing the defendant a favor. They say that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and has the right to a trial from a fair and impartial jury of their peers. As a sleep-deprived, hungry, unmedicated and small-bladderd peer of his, I knew that I would likely not be the best candidate to fairly determine his guilt or innocence. Because I was wearing my non-fair, non-impartial crankypants (he’s accused of theft? Give him the chair!!). And would likely tune out all testimony in favor of an inner monologue about cheeseburgers or fall foliage.
They started calling out juror numbers and the prosecuting and defense lawyers would either accept or reject us as each potential juror stood when his or her number was called. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason at first – both lawyers accepted the first three people to stand without hesitation. Beginning to panic, I knew my number was coming up. I started paying attention to the body language of my peers as they were called. Many of them stood straight up with their hands folded neatly one on top of the other, like they were groomsmen or something. They weren’t making good eye contact and seemed passive. I knew I was next to be called, and every person/number called before me had been selected as a member of the jury. This was it. They called my number. I shot up aggressively, placed both hands on my hips with more attitude than was may have been necessary, stared the defense attorney square in the face, and gave him my very best I-will-shank-you death stare.
I don’t know whether it was my imposing 5’1″ stature or my overall aura of badassness, but that defense attorney found something about my presence to be undesirable and dismissed me. I felt like that spitting dinosaur from Jurassic Park who looked all small and cute before it made itself bigger by putting out the skin-flappy things on the sides of its head and spitting the venom stuff that killed the guy who played Newman on Seinfeld. I won.