I Am A Civil Servant! On A Jury! For $10 A Day!

You guys!  I know this is going to make me sound like a big old nerd but I got called for Jury Duty and holy moly, I was excited.  I’ve always wanted to be called and for years wondered what was wrong with me that I never got picked.  Everyone I know has been picked and they all lamented about having to go and there I sat, wanting desperately to be called.  You can see why I was doubly irritated that I never got picked before.  Well now that has all changed!  I am now an experienced servant of the court! 

The week before my duty, I received a parking pass and the worst map of the city I have ever seen.  Probably the map part is not entirely fair because we all know how handy with directions I am, but still, even after working downtown for two years, I had the most difficult time finding the parking spaces and the court building.  (Madre and Daddy-O, this should please you.  I have never had to visit that court building for even a traffic violation.  I know I’m your favorite.)  After being lost for approximately fifteen minutes, I found my way into the proper building and went through the scanner and the pat down.  You can yell at me all you want, but I never even thought about my pretty pink pocketknife and my pretty pink cuticle cutters being in my bag.  Sure enough, they were confiscated.  I know it is my fault but the guy who took them was kind of a turd about it and I’m totally glad that when he rifled through my small bag of girlie supplies he got embarrassed and I hope he cuts his finger open on that pocketknife because I know he took it home.  Anyway. 

I piled into the room with the other jurors and after a time, I was called for a courtroom. Then I was lucky enough to get pulled as one of the first fourteen contestants and then was even luckier enough to make it all the way through the final cut.  For the first time in my life, I was on a jury!  I looked around in wonder at all the members of the court, the equipment, the defendant.  I loved it.  I loved answering the questions for the attorneys.  I loved listening to the judge. I loved the swearing in part.  I loved hearing “All Rise!” when we walked in to our seats.  Ah, the formality of it!  My biggest disappointment, though, was that nary a single member of the court had on a seersucker suit or a bowtie.  I realize it isn’t July yet, when seersucker suits abound (Right?  Please tell me I’m right.), but aside from men’s golf wear, attorney wear is next in line for radical deviations from the norm and I was sorely disappointed in the legal teams’ choice of attire. 

I’ll answer the question before it gets asked – the case involved the sale of a controlled substance, the sale of that substance within a thousand feet of a school, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  Nothing too dramatic really, but fascinating to me nonetheless despite my never hearing a shout of “Objection!” nor any sparring between the legal teams.  I was sold on the entire process until a couple of things happened. 

Firstly, the defendant stood up to enter his plea of not guilty.  He was a big man and he looked angry although that might have just been his look.  Here’s what got me, though.  He was overweight.  He was wearing a baby pink shirt and nice dress pants and he was overweight.  He said, “Not guilty” and stood there in his nice clothes and put all his hopes in us, the jury.  Secondly, they brought his uncle in to testify against him.  He walked in wearing an orange jumpsuit and leg chains and his voice cracked with nearly every statement he made.  It cracked while he admitted to his many, many crimes.  It cracked when he accused the defendant of the actual sale of the drugs.  Truth or lie, it was sad and it hurt. Both of these men displayed their humanity to us, the jury, and that humanity just slayed me.  The belly in the pink shirt. The voice that cracked.  The breakdown of a family, right in front of my eyes. 

Y’all, I totally got overwhelmed with this.  I got teary-eyed in the jury box over this whole mess.  I was so gung ho about the process that I forgot about the man.  This was a man’s life and he put his fate, at least a chunk of it, into my hands, into our hands.  Twelve people got to decide what happened to him, and when we adjourned for deliberations, I realized that I no longer wanted to be a part of the process.  I no longer had any starry-eyed notions about the courtroom.  Make no mistake, I feel that both of these men are guilty of the crimes accused against them, and that both of them willfully chose to commit those crimes.  I have no doubt that finding our defendant guilty of at least something was the correct and just thing to do, but my heart cracked and broke and bled for these broken men and I didn’t want to be the one responsible for them.

It would surprise me not even a little to hear that neither of them had known an earthly father.  It would surprise me not even a little to know that they grew up in poverty.  I have no doubt that the chances they received were far fewer and less glamorous than those most of us receive.  They have given themselves over to this sordid life and I wonder if they can see past it to find any glory at all. 

I dried my tears quickly in the jury box and gave my civic duty an honest effort.  We all did.  But these men stayed with me.  Reginald, our defendant, was found guilty on lesser charges and will be sentenced soon.  Michael, the uncle, is awaiting trial and things probably won’t go well for him.  That part is alright with me.  What isn’t alright is that I’m afraid they will stay there, in the battered broken life they have chosen, and that they will never look for or find their way out of it.  I have prayed for them a lot, but as time passes, I find that I think of them less often.  I think that is the way it falls sometimes.  People are brought in to your life for a season, great or small, and then they move on.  But for a while, they had my full attention and I hope in some small way, I was a part of doing something good for them.  God knows they need it.