Guilty, that’s how I felt heading into court; but I wasn’t going there for my trial, I was summoned for jury duty. It’s one of our most dreaded liberties, but as an unemployed bum with no excuse I felt guilty for wanting to skip out and force people with jobs to cover for me. I should be there; I don’t have better things to do with my time. So on a cloudy somber morning I went to court with my head held low, resigned to my duty in a jury.
After being shuttled over to the courthouse we were ushered into a cramped room to await further instructions. They gave out name tags and shitty coffee before eventually assigning me to a courtroom. Usually people employed are required by law to be paid normally for a week by their employer, but after that expires the court pays you a whopping $40 a day. People that were unemployed would be paid $5 dollars a day. I felt this was unfair compensation, a tin can on the side of the road could get more than $5 a day.
Once everyone’s in the courtroom the judge explains the potential case we would sit on, he expected this case to last anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks. My feelings quickly transitioned to dread, I didn’t feel guilty anymore, I wanted to go home. I thought of all the interesting things I could do with my time that I couldn’t accomplish trapped in this dreary courtroom.
The judge would dismiss anyone with a conflicting schedule, so of course everyone tried to jump boat at this point. A booked vacation, urgent work that you’re essential to, a young child that no one is available to help you parent, or you’re enrolled in school were all valid excuses for dismissal. Any legitimate excuse and you could go, but I had nothing resembling that. I was engulfed with a tidal wave of stress as the courtroom was thinned out.
The defendant and prosecution were both in the room during this entire process. Not just the lawyers, like the people that actually brought the case to court. It was awkward, but I didn’t feel bad for them, they brought me here. We started with ~40 people and only ~10 suckers remained at the end. Next the remaining people sit on the jury chairs and were interviewed.
The judge asks you a few minor questions about yourself before talking with him and the lawyers for more in depth questions. We’re asked if we have any grievances or personal connections to the case, ours involved a patient suing their doctor, that would restrict us from making an impartial ruling. This was my shot to get kicked out.
I went second. Now the first guy had no issues, none, so I figured if I brought attention to some issues I had I’d be off the hook. Half truths, I wouldn’t lie, but I tried to come off as passively bias as possible. It didn’t work. I told them I have multiple family members that are doctors, my grandpa had an unsuccessful surgery and hates doctors, and I’m actively applying to med school to become a doctor. I tried to work both sides, liking and disliking doctors, but this didn’t work.
Judge – “Thanks for telling us, next.”
The Next Guy – “Yeah my wife’s in the hospital and I hate doctors. I’m voting for the patient if you put me on this jury.”
Next Guy – “Well I sued my doctor in a previous case and won.”
Next woman is a nurse, she’s not excused.
Next guy – “I’m currently in the process of suing my doctor.”
These people have to be lying right?! How can all of these people hate doctors and be connected to the medical field like this?! The rest of the people don’t get dismissed, but because our case is only looking for 6 new jurors the lawyers are allowed to dismiss people alternatively at their own discretion to make more space for the jury. This leads to, somehow, juror #1 getting dismissed by the prosecution…what?! That guy had no bias! He was the only guy that didn’t try to get out of this! What kind of vibe did he give off?! Because I wanted to try and copy that.
We’re dismissed for lunch and to add insult to injury the cafeteria sandwiches were 4.95 plus tax. My $5 salary had no power here. There was a cockroach the size of a hot wheel and belly side up outside the courtroom, his back right leg still twitching. I was jealous, it was dying, but at least it got to leave. I had to come back in 45 minutes.
After returning from lunch and sitting back in my #2 chair, I see a new batch of people waiting to be interviewed. At this point I’m pretty hopeful I’ll get dismissed, but 10 minutes later half of these people get dismissed. I’m starting to get truly desperate. Whatever it takes, I need to get out of this. I liked the judge, but I started loathing the lawyers for not dismissing me, I glared at them and their clients. I would have accepted bribes, as long as it’s more than 5 bucks, but was offered nothing. I’m racist, how can I be impartial and fair if I’m racist?! Any women here? Good, I’m sexist as well. I could be whatever they needed me to be as long as it ended with my dismissal.
I daydreamed about rewatching Runaway Jury and using that as a blueprint to control this jury if I got stuck here. I’m cashing in all my birthday wishes. New year wishes, is that even a thing?, I’m cashing it in. I started praying, but apparently God couldn’t hear me in the courtroom. If I saw the Devil I would have considered selling my soul to get out of this, I’m sure he’s done this deal plenty of times before! My asking price is cheap too!
I’m channeling my inner juror #1 and trying to give off some weird vibes to get dismissed. There’s three more potential people to replace me remaining and at this point I’m just staring down the lawyers and shaking my head. Then it happens, the prosecution dismisses me and I couldn’t contain my joy. I believe in happy endings again. I got dismissed so late that I didn’t have to stay any longer, I was free to leave! And I will be for at least 3 more years.
It was a miserable day going into the court room, but when I left it was beautiful out, the air was a little crisper, the sun a little happier. I smiled as bright as my first day getting my braces off and practically skipped to my car blocks away. I felt like I could do anything once I got dismissed, but I didn’t. I went home and watched Judge Judy on TV, it never felt so satisfying. Also I was speeding when I drove past the courtroom; I “fought” the law and
the law I won.