February 02, 2005

Jury Rigged

Usually when I want $25, I just write another column for The Vermilion. Other days, I decide to earn it by getting randomly called to jury duty. On the pleasant Monday morning of Jan. 24, I spent the day gloriously exercising my Constitutional muscle as a prospective juror. Blind justice, indeed!

After entering the airport-like waiting room, I joined hundreds of other jury hopefuls (and not-so-hopefuls) in filling out the standard form. Hmmm....Age: 24...never been married...no children...have never been convicted of a crime...have never served on a jury...Man, am I perfect for jury duty or what? Crud...

While waiting, I rummaged for a good magazine to read, gravitating toward the Newsweek on the table. While waiting to be sworn in by the justice, I got to bone up on the latest issues of the week, such as the second presidential debate. I'll say this: if John Kerry wants to win the election, he's going to have to relax his personality and continue to hammer Bush on the issues.

When I got bored with that, I did what I always do in a room full of people: scoped out the babes! Now, keep one thing in mind: this is jury duty. Not exactly Venice Beach (or even the Mall formerly known as Acadiana). Still, I managed to find three or four really good-looking young women. But what are you going to say to them? "Come here often?" "Gee! I'm also not a felon!"?

After the 11 a.m. orientation and swear-in, we were allowed to leave for lunch and had to report back by 1:15 p.m. "Not enough time to do anything and too much time to do nothing," I thought to myself. Of course, this was no mass dismissal; we were asked to line up as the letters of our last names were called so that we could receive juror badges on our way out.

"Z-Y-X-W-V..." "U-T-S-R-Q-P..." After 30 very slow minutes of that, I geared up to grab my badge. Then, as if to taunt me, they flip-flopped: "A-B-C-D-E..." Nooo!! Several naps later I finally heard, "All right, last but not least, M-N-O!" “M”s are by far the most screwed alphabetical section. “A”s are usually at the front, except when “Z”s are cut a break and allowed to go first. But no one, and I mean no one, ever starts with “M.” But sometimes they finish with it!

After I got back from my considerably narrowed lunch break (which I spent at the nearby public library), I walked through the metal detector at the courthouse entrance. I languished behind somebody for several seconds before the security woman told me step back behind the detector: "I'm sorry," she said. "I wasn't paying attention." Yes, she actually said that!

After more waiting in the jury-pool room, the justice announced that 35 Chosen Ones would potentially decide justice for one of two cases on the docket this week. Yes, friends, I beat the odds: Juror 285 moved on up!

The next four hours were a presumably top-secret affair. Throughout the questioning process, I found myself hypnotized by the court reporter, trying to figure out how she cranks out an entire sentence with seven keystrokes. Intimidating. Now I know how people feel when I interview them with a tape recorder.

Ultimately, 10 out of the 35 made the cut. Not me. I did myself in by knowing three of the witnesses, admitting that I am more sympathetic to individuals over corporations, and basically by being myself. I think a fellow reject said it best in the elevator on the way down: "That's what you get for having an opinion."

Guilty as charged.

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