Saturday, July 08, 2006

Jury Duty - 11

When I got to the front the clerk said what number are you and I said 17 and she said 17 to the judge and the counsel assembled in a sort of familial huddle at the sidebar. I approached them, walking in the direction of the judge. Making eye contact.

"What number are you?" he said.

"17."

"And what do you have to tell me?" He eyed me in a kindly, attentive manner. The very picture of a judge.

"I once plead guilty to filing a false report," I said.

"Tell me what happened."

"I had an accident in my car and left the scene and reported it stolen."

"What was your sentence?"

"50 hours of community service."

He smiled. "Do you think this experience would impair your ability to be a fair and impartial juror in this case?" He asked the way you ask when you already know the answer and just asking is a kind of joke.

"No," I answered, smiling too.

One of the prosecutors, standing beside the judge, was examining me with wide, alert eyes. He whispered something urgently into the judge's ear then turned to me again with his wide-eyed stare. It occurred to me that only the judge was allowed to address me and with the handicap of silence the others' senses grew more keen. He was speaking to me with his eyes.

The judge said, "There is an issue in this case of perhaps false reports of some sort or other. Being filed and whatnot." Serious now. "Are you sure you would be able to be fair?"

"Yes," I said. I felt a desire to elaborate, I'm not sure why. Maybe I thought it would please him. Maybe I wanted to prolong this odd ritual, to decorate it with more words. "My feeling is that the issue I was involved in was relatively trivial, and I suspect that the issues in this case might not be as trivial, and I'm quite sure I could evaluate them fairly."

A beat of pause.

"So you think you would have no problem accepting my instruction as to the law in this case?"

"I believe I would not."

"Anything else?"

"A friend of mine is in jail for drug trafficking. And resisting arrest."

No immediate reaction from the judge. I took this as an indication I should continue. Perhaps even that he was underwhelmed and I should find a way to supplement my declaration.

"And I have some other friends who have gone to jail for drugs."

"These other friends, are they still in jail?"

His question struck me as slightly irrelevant and this intrigued me.

"I believe they are no longer in jail."

"But the one friend, he's still in jail?"

"Yes, I believe so."

"And what is your view of what happened to your friend?"

"I believe he was arrested unjustly. I believe he shouldn't be in jail."

"Why?"

"I disagree with the drug laws. I don't think anyone should go to jail for growing and selling pot."

The judge nodded without a trace of surprise or reproach. He turned to the prosecutor beside him. "There are no drug charges in this case right?"

"No your honor I don't believe there are."

Long pause. Judge eyeing me over.

"I'm going to let you sit. Thank you."

As I walked back to my seat I felt, unexpectedly, a faint elation. Like I'd done well on some level. Or, a great wheel had been creakily set in motion and I was powerless to stop it, and for this I was glad.

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