Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bingo Wheel of Justice

I parked my car in the convention center parking lot and practically sprinted the few blocks. I was late. I tossed my bag on the belt of the x-ray machine and stepped through the metal detector. It beeped. I was asked to lift my pant legs to expose my unshaven legs and the fact that there wasn’t a pistol strapped to either ankle. My fleece jacket was too big on me; I could have had an Uzi under it. The guard told me to relax, I wasn’t too late. It was 8:10. I was supposed to be there at 8. I am chronically 10 minutes late for everything.

I followed the signs, showed my ID and checked in. On the day that license picture was taken I wore a tube top so that I would appear naked in the picture. My bare shoulders were exposed, the woman behind the counter didn’t notice.

The coffee station held no appeal, as I’ve never acquired the taste. I stood at the back of the room for a few moments checking out the people. We were all randomly chosen to be there that day. Fifty something of us. Like a nerd I sat in the very front, on the aisle, and glued my eyes to the handbook that the woman at the counter gave me that would explain what my job will be for the next six months, if they pick me.

We watched the instructional video. The man answered our questions. The very same man I argued with the day before because I am too busy at work right now to not be there in every single waking moment. Then we climbed the stairs to the courtroom. My mouth hung open as I took in the gleaming woodwork (original from when the courthouse was built 101 years ago, apparently) and the gigantic stained glass skylight in the center of the ceiling. I leaned forward in my seat and hung on the judge’s every word.

The man behind the desk, near the bench, spun the wheel. The names on the tiny slips of paper in the chamber tossed as he cranked the handle. I sat on the edge of my pew, straining to hear my name called. He called five names, none of which were mine. I sat back and waited as the five people stood in line. They each took their turn at the microphone stating their name and their occupation. Then they had to tell the judge whether anyone they knew was currently involved in a criminal trial, and whether there was anything that might prevent them from serving on a jury.

Bingo wheel man pulled another five slips of paper and called the names again. None of them were mine, again. I was starting to panic. They called 10 names. They needed 23 people. They were already almost half way through and my name hadn’t been called. One of this group knew someone involved in a criminal trial and had to approach the bench. The judge flipped a switch near her microphone and the speakers were filled with static. The prospective jurors, out of morbid curiosity, leaned in and strained to hear what was said. None of us could hear and we simultaneously flopped back in our seats. The woman who approached the bench was dismissed. Bingo wheel man drew six names. Again, none were mine. Two of those people had to approach, one was dismissed.

My name was called in the next group. I fidgeted in line, excited. I stepped up to the mike and stated my name, my job, and said that I hadn’t known anyone involved in a criminal trial and had no issues with serving on a jury. I had been upgraded to the cushy seats closer to the bench.

We were directed into the deliberation room, where I and 22 other people would meet every other Wednesday for the next six months to serve on a federal grand jury. Every other week I will hear witness testimony and consider whether there is enough evidence for people accused of a crime to stand trial.

And I am beyond thrilled.



Blogger Ginny said...

Whoa!!! I am so jealous!! Every time I think of you, I will have the Law & Order theme in my head.

October 17, 2009 at 10:17 PM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

Clang clang!

October 18, 2009 at 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Taoist Biker said...

Some people hate hate HATE jury duty. I've done it twice and have kind of enjoyed it each time. I feel a big weight of responsibility for both the verdicts I was a part of, but still the whole process was quite enjoyable.

October 19, 2009 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger la isla d'lisa said...

Me? Jealous.

October 22, 2009 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

It's funny, Isla, I hear so many people say that jury duty sucks. How could it possibly suck? I'll get to see our justice system in action and be a part of it. I am climbing the walls, I cannot wait.

The first day I have to go is 10/28. I am ITCHING to go!

October 22, 2009 at 1:36 PM  

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