We filed in, one by one by a few hundred. 8:30am. One free internet access station remained, so I slid into the seat and set about getting my laptop connected. No go. I called the little help number. No answer. I sat. I waited. I wondered how long I would sit and wait. Roll call was called. Excuses were made. Those eager to dash back off to work filled out postponement forms. Then, against all warnings I’d been given by friends and strangers about waiting all day in a room with no television, my name was called. 9:00am. On the dot.
Potential jurors of all stripes had also been called and we took the elevator up to the 7th floor and waited outside courtroom 2B, as instructed. My butt was barely seated on the stone cold bench, when a bailiff opened the door and ushered us in. Two attorneys and a defendant stood facing us as we entered. Very formal. Very hush hush. Just like you would imagine a courtroom to be except it had carpet and was small and the court reporter seemed less reporter, more secretary with an odd typing instrument who seemed rather bored with herself and this tired little carpeted corner of the world that was hers for who knows how long. There were no glossy wood floors, no shiny paneled walls, no dramatic witness boxes raised up high for all to see. Despite the utilitarian decor, I was unable to suppress a smile. So this is what a courtroom looks like. Look at me. All fancy. In a courtroom.
Silence. We waited for the judge. More silence. Prosecuting attorney looked directly into my soul. Prosecuting attorney=yummy. Prosecuting attorney smiled. Prosecuting attorney was not wearing a wedding band. Instead of thinking "snake!" I briefly lost my mind. Surely attorneys can't all be bad. Right? Perhaps there is a world in which I could actually be with an attorney. Right? Judge entered. I regained my ability to think rationally. The world in which I live blissfully with yummy prosecutor was dashed for good.
The judge asked us to memorize the numbers on our badges because from here on out, we would be numbers to him, not names. “I will call out 14 numbers. Please get up, take your things, and make your way to the jury box. You must sit in the jury box, starting with seat #1, in the exact order in which you are called.” I was looking at my badge, hooked to my jacket, upside down and a bit sideways, reading the numbers silently to myself when I heard those same numbers being announced by the judge. Shit. That’s me. Juror #1. I was immediately taken back to my high school theater days in which we performed 12 Angry (Wo)Men. I was Juror #8. The argumentative one. The one who dramatically stabs the wooden table with the murder weapon during jury deliberations (no matter that I actually slid my hand all the way down the real knife on opening night and cut my hand so deeply that I bled all over the table during the final hour of the play…no matter). Although I’d never had jury duty before – my just-remembered acting experience informed me otherwise. I could do this! I’ve been a juror before, in another life. I will be great. I will be divine. Perhaps I will be elected the jury foreman by my jury peers and bring justice to all. Cue Law & Order music. Cue soft Streisand lights. Where is my Armani suit? My Prada intelligentsia glasses?
Then I remembered where I was, who I was and what the hell I was really supposed to be doing.
The task before me was simple: make them hate me. Find a way to seem undesirable. Get them to dismiss me, and I’d be home in no time. Client work could get done. Blog posts readied. Deadlines met. I showed up on time. I'd done my part. Civic duty blah blah and all that. Focus. I knew I had to focus.
After all 12 potential jurors and two alternates were seated in the jury box, the judge began to speak. At length. About trials in general. About this one in particular. And about the UCLA game that would be on later that night and so we needed to finish on time. He spoke about process. About duty. About the beauty of the justice system. Somewhere during all this, a few of his musings caught my attention. Specifically, these musings: Nothing you say will get you out of this. Nothing. Do not even try it. I am a judge. I myself have had to serve jury duty four times and I couldn’t get out of it. If I can’t, you can’t. Please do not waste my time by raising your hand and pretending that you have an excuse that is more important than justice.
Food for thought. Something to consider. But I pressed on. Fine. If I could not get the judge to dismiss me, I would simply wait until the lawyers started asking questions of the jury to decide who might best help them win their case and who wouldn’t. I would cleverly answer in a way inconsistent with their strategy and I’d be free.
Before any questions were asked by the attorneys, many, many questions were to be asked by the judge. The bailiff passed the laminated & double sheet-protected questions around – one to each juror. Before I had a chance to look them over, the judge cleared his throat. He looked in my direction. “Juror #1, you are under oath and must answer the following questions truthfully. Are you ready?”
Um. Are you?