Monday, January 13, 2014

Welcome to...My Life: Jury Duty

A couple of days before Christmas, it came. The jury summons.  A lovely little gift for me from the town in which we live.  Just what I always wanted.

Actually, I am one of the rare ones that enjoys jury duty.  *Stop looking at me that way.*  Ten years ago, I was summoned to jury duty at the county court.  I was selected to be a juror for the trial to be held.  Of all things, it was a bank robbery case.  I kid you not.  It was a 2-day trial and we found the defendant guilty, which was actually more difficult than I imagined it would be.  We all felt the future of this man in our hands and we really weighed our decision.  The family was, let's just say, less than pleased with the verdict.  Their displeasure resulted in the court officers kindly escorting us to our cars.

Judges in robes, officers, witnesses giving details of the bank robbery and suspect, legal terms thrown carelessly around by lawyers, menacing glares from the defendant, courtroom drama.  It really was a fantastic experience.

Something told me town court wouldn't be quite the same.

I needed to report for duty at 9:00 a.m…SHARP.  I left my house last Friday at 8:40 a.m.  It only takes me 5-10 minutes to get to the Town Hall from my home, but I had a very important stop to make before heading there.  It was absolutely essential that I stop at Dunkin Donuts and get a large French-vanilla cappuccino.  I drove through the…, paid my $3.77 and headed to my community service assignment.

Now, the Town Hall to which I had to report is really like most small village town halls - not much at all.  The parking lot is even less…especially with a semi-truck parked in the middle of it on a Friday at 8:53 a.m.

Did I mention I drive a 12-passenger bus van?  Not exactly a vehicle you can just squeeze in.  So, I drove my Gold Monstrosity out of the parking lot and all around town (which, as I mentioned, is not that big.  Thankfully.).  As I went to pull out onto Main Street, however, I saw that we were, at that exact moment (8:54 a.m.), setting a record for most traffic ever in our village's 200 year history.

What are the odds?

I finally found a parking spot in one of the municipal lots and trudged through the Upstate New York snow to the Town Hall.  With coffee in hand.  I was so looking forward to sipping that warm addictive liquid.  I was going to need it.

I arrived at the Hall, and walked to the back where the courtroom is located.  And there, on the door was a sign with big bold letters:  NO FOOD OR DRINK ALLOWED IN THE COURT ROOM.

Really? Seriously?  What would they do? Throw me in jail?!  Um…well...maybe.  There is actually a judge in there and everything.

I walked in and wandered to the back desk where other citizens were reporting for duty.  I saw a small bathroom located next to the desk with a garbage can.  I snuck in there to throw away my hot, large, French-vanilla cappuccino.  Because the garbage bag in the can was empty and because my large cup was STILL FULL, I didn't want to just toss it in the empty bag knowing it would make a terribly loud thud in the you-could-hear-a-pin-drop courtroom.  So, I reached in and very carefully let it down.  "Good-bye, dear coffee.  We were so briefly acquainted."  *sigh*  Then, as I lifted up my arm, the heavy metal lid of the garbage can came with it and 
So much for order in the court.

I got the lid settled as quickly as possible and nonchalantly walked out of the bathroom into the courtroom pretending nothing happened.  Yeah, I'm cool like that.

I turned over my paper-work and was told to sit down.  So, I found a nice empty row of chairs, made myself comfortable and began to mourn my full cup of coffee sitting at the bottom of the metal garbage can in the next room.  Then the friendly court attendant asked me to move to the other side of the aisle.  Apparently, all the potential-jurors were to sit on one side and all the criminals and family members were to sit on the other side.
30 jurors.
1 criminal.
3 family members.
If we were a ship, we would have capsized.  Of course, I got the end seat of a full row right next to a guy who smelled of cigarette smoke.  Oh, this day was getting better by the minute.

After 2 hours of orientation and listening to 12 of my peers be interrogated grilled raked over the coals questioned, 24 of us were dismissed, leaving 6 of our comrades sitting in the jury box, looking at us with sad and envious eyes.  We were given a certificate of service as we were herded out the door.  I began the walk back to my van leaving cigarette-man, the criminals, and my coffee behind.

That was just the beginning of my day.  Trust me, it didn't get much better.  But, sometimes, that's the way it goes.  I still look forward to getting called for jury duty in the future, because, in the end, it's a great way to take part in our great justice system.

I think next time, though, I'll skip the large French-vanilla cappuccino.

Welcome to…My Life!

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