Jury duty is always a welcome relief. Maybe if I was on trial that wouldn’t be the case, but since it was some other poor slob, then all seems fair in love and war. The trouble with jury duty though is if you get selected, then the next few days you’re sitting and taking in facts you probably didn’t know, and in many cases, didn’t care to know.
So when I was number 72 in the jury pool, it didn’t seem much to fret over other than to sit for the selection and voir dire.
When I sat down in assigned seat number 72, number 73 greeted me. He was, and I mean no disrespect at all, an old burned out hippie. His mostly gray hair was pulled back in a short ponytail, not a long flowing horse tail ponytail, but like a dog that had its tail bobbed but still acted like its tail was its best feature ponytail.
He wore a purple and yellow paisley shirt, thick black horned rim glasses, white slacks and no socks with his crocs. All Tiny Tim wannabe needed to be in character was to pull out a ukulele and start singing Tip Toe Through The Tulips.
Tiny immediately started talking and never let off the gas about how jury duty didn’t pay enough to cover his gas, and how busy he was with his art, and how the court system was bogged down, and if the defendant was nervous, and…..
I was so glad to hear the bailiff finally say, “All rise!” At least Tiny Tim would be quiet for a while, even though he did manage to slip in a number of under the breath comments when no one was looking. Still, that was enough to enjoy the rest of the show.
After I counted all the no shows and empty seats, I figured I was still safe at number 48. The judge began with acceptable reasons to miss jury service. One young lady with hair a mess and dark circles under her eyes said she had three small children she was responsible for. The judge smiled, wished her well and dismissed her. Number 47.
The judge began going through reasons why someone couldn’t serve on jury duty. A college student was dismissed. A hospice nurse, dismissed. A teacher on the first day of school, dismissed. Now 44.
The judge moved to medical reasons and gave examples of how someone may not be able to serve for medical reasons and gave three examples: 1) diabetes and that someone may need injections at certain times, 2) back trouble which would prevent sitting for a long time and 3) sleep apnea, which would cause someone to be groggy and suddenly fall asleep, like they had narcolepsy, I guess.
Immediately a big man wearing coveralls stood up. He proudly proclaimed he couldn’t serve because he had 1) diabetes and needed shots, 2) a bad back and couldn’t sit still long and, 3) said, “I have that sleep ‘appendectomia’ that you was talking about”.
Snickers came from across the courtroom, including both lawyers and the bailiff. The judge raised an eye brow and gave the man a ‘maybe you should be on trial instead’ look, but told him he was sorry about his physical ailments and dismissed him.
The man started walking for the door and kept talking on his way out — “Thank ya judge, but that’s not all! I gots a bad knee and Arthritis and my hearing ain’t all that good and….” As the man continued his list of complaints, the judge patiently smiled while the man walked perfectly normal out the door. Hmm, so much for the bad back and knee.
After a couple more people were dismissed for physical reasons, the judge asked if anyone was a convicted felon. Surprisingly, a big lady in a wheel chair raised her hand and said she thought she might be.
“Might be??”, Tiny Tim whispered my direction, “Oh wow! This oughta be good”.
The judge asked if she was “convicted in a court of law”, but she said it was thirty years ago and didn’t remember.
Tiny Tim leaned toward me and whispered his scoff, “Psft!”
The judge asked if she had gone to court 30 years ago and she said she’d been on trial for drug trafficking. The judge asked if she’d ever heard of deferred adjudication. To no one’s surprise, she hadn’t, so after squinting at her for a minute, the judge dismissed her “just to be on the safe side”.
The lawyers then started voir dire and began removing jurors. Like clubbing baby seals, more jurors were eliminated for what was going to be a DWI trial, and possibly, the third conviction for the 62 year old defendant.
When asked if anyone could not make a fair and rational decision because of personal experiences or beliefs, a well dressed, middle aged cowboy stood up. The judge asked if he could briefly elaborate.
With great effort to restrain his trembling hands, the cowboy said in a low, calculated voice, “Your Honor, my teenage son was killed by a drunk driver three years ago. I HATE drunk drivers!!”
The judge extended his sympathies and released the man from service. Not a noise was made as the misty eyed man walked out the courtroom trying to contain a tornado of emotions swirling inside. Even the defendant looked down at the floor as he walked by, but I wasn’t sure at the time if it was out of respect to the man, or guilt. The next day, it turned out to be guilt.
Bottom line, the number kept dropping from 72 down to 31, but the lawyers asked some of the jurors up front a lot of questions, so I still felt reasonably safe from selection.
At the last break, I tried to avoid Tiny Tim. He found me anyway. We both agreed we wouldn’t make the jury, and tongue in cheek, I assured Timbo he would NOT be selected under any circumstances. I’m not sure he understood what I meant, but he responded, “Dude, I think you’re right.”
After the lawyers secretly struck jurors they didn’t want, the judge reconvened the court to announce the jury. I swallowed hard when the first six potential jurors were passed over. In fact, numerous folks were passed over and I gulped when my name was called as the 12th, and final juror.
Tiny Tim smiled and slapped me on the back like I had just been selected for the Price Is Right instead of jury service.
Tiny Tim said good luck; the judge said come on down.
While getting up from selection seat 72 to sit down in jury seat 12, I saw Tiny ambling out the exit and made a mental note for the next jury summons to wear a purple and yellow paisley shirt, thick black horned rim glasses, white slacks and no socks with crocs. I’ll have to figure out something for the hair and ponytail, but maybe next time that will do the trick.