Jury duty stalks me like an obsessed lover. No sooner has the legal period between calls elapsed than they call me again. It never fails. Some people are never called for jury duty. I wish I knew what saint I must invoke to get on THAT list. So far, nothing has worked, including moving from one county to another. They found me at my new address, and I got the summons. Different courts, same routine.
I am a Law and Order junkie. I watch old episodes of it, over and over. I know the plots. I know Lennie Briscoe’s life story. I can answer most of the trivia questions that my cable company asks on commercial breaks. In the Law and Order world, courtrooms are scenes of high drama. Attorneys shout “Objection!” at the slightest provocation and insult the judges. They do borderline illegal things to get evidence accepted. Nobody is bored, including the jury. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Real jury duty is something else. If you report in person, you are put in a big room with uncomfortable chairs, where your attendance is noted and where you sit and wait … and wait … and wait. You’d better have a book, a Kindle, a knitting project, an iPhone or something to keep you occupied, because chances are you will spend a good part of the day bored half out of your brain and wondering if this is what Purgatory is like.
If you are chosen for a jury, don’t expect drama. Most likely, you will end up having to listen to both sides of a lawsuit. If you end up on a criminal case, the defendant will probably be someone who was caught with a bag of marijuana or some other penny ante stuff.
So far, I have only made it into a courtroom once. I was Juror No. 7 in a civil case. The only drama in that courtroom came from me, when my cell phone rang in the middle of the proceedings. I tried to pretend it wasn’t my phone, which was hard, because everyone was staring at me. I pulled the offending gadget out of my purse and tried to shut it off. The phone continued to ring, even though I was frantically pressing the off button. The judge, a middle-aged guy with a voice that could be heard all the way to Pennsylvania, yelled at me. It took some seconds, but I finally managed to hang up.
The phone rang AGAIN! My caller had re-dialed when I hung up on him. Again, I couldn’t shut the phone off. Again, the judge barked at me. Finally, I succeeded in quieting the ring and shutting the phone off completely. I would have crawled away to die, but stepping over six other jurors to get out would have caused more unwelcome attention. I had to be content with sitting still and trying to melt into the jury box.
If I ever did get on a jury in a Law and Order type case, a few things would give me pause.
First, all the male prosecuting attorneys on Law and Order are handsome and sexy. I have seen male lawyers, and even known a few of them. None of them looked like Michael Moriarty or Sam Waterston. I have known a couple of female lawyers, too, and they didn’t look like any of Jack McCoy’s assistants. The presence of gorgeous, hot prosecuting attorneys would throw a veil of unreality over any trial.
Judges on Law and Order are always telling juries to disregard something that a witness or one of the attorneys has said or done. I don’t know about anyone else, but if someone tells me to disregard something I just heard or saw, that thing is going to stick in my mind and grow until it explodes. It’s like having someone tell you not to think about shoes. You won’t be able to NOT think about shoes and it will drive you nuts. This is not very good courtroom strategy, unless one of the attorneys WANTS the jurors to compulsively think about whatever they are supposed to disregard. That’s sneaky, but effective.
If I were on a Law and Order jury, I wouldn’t flirt with the defendant. That is not a recommended way to liven things up, and a guy who is being tried for a multiple murder might not turn out to be an ideal boyfriend. The woman juror in that episode should have figured that out before getting herself in trouble, but she chose to check her brains at the courtroom door. Love is blind.
So here I am, watching and waiting for the next jury summons to arrive in the mail – and it will.