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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

THE ANGRY JUROR


I had jury duty today. Essentially, it was easy and relaxing and a nice break from my otherwise very hectic schedule. If I was an employee of a big company or a school district or some public job, I'd have even loved to serve on a jury. However, in my case every day out of the office is lost income so I was a bit nervous at the possibility of having to serve on a 3 week trial. Knowing my luck, I'd be sequestered in some motel for 9 weeks.

Fortunately for me, I was excused relatively early in the process.

Every one seems to have advice about how to "get out" of jury duty. I was told everything from "tell the judge your a doctor" to "tell the judge your a racist." One guy seemed to have listened to some of this advice. Let me tell about him.

I first noticed him early in the day. He was in his mid-50's, gray haired, and he seemed very annoyed about having to serve in this way, on this day. For the entire 4 hours we were in the room, he was pacing and mumbling loudly. Apparently, he thought it was "bullshit" that we had to wait past noon only to be excused anyway. At 1:30PM, I overheard him telling some other men about his jury-dodging strategy. One or 2 hours later, I watched him try to pull it off.

And it was awesome!

About 100 of us prospective jurors were called into the court room at 2:30PM. This was a criminal case and present in the court were the judge, the prosecutor, the defense attorney and the accused. The judge thanked us for our time and then had us swear to be honest. Now here is where the angry juror's plan commenced.

"Your honor" he said with a very bold voice. "I do not swear to be honest." He was trembling imperceptibly, but I was so close to him I noticed it.

"Excuse me", the judge said. Then the judge added, "then we can have you affirm the oath." I guess "swearing" might somehow be religious while an affirmation is not and the judge was trying to assuage the man on these grounds.

"No" the angry man persisted "I will not be able to be honest." Then he added, to my utter amazement, "I just wanted to be honest with you, you honor."

My eyes were bulging out of my head: what gall! This guy was something else.

The judge seemed for a moment taken aback, but was not about to lose this argument. "Well then, sir, we just need you to sit with the court officer outside, and after these proceedings are finished, we will talk again. And then he added. "what is your name" and then the judge directed the stenographer to record it into the record.

The angry man was shaking, only now visibly. Seconds later, he as escorted out of the court room by an armed court officer.

10 minutes later, the judge excused about 50 of us for a variety of mundane reasons, no questions asked, and by 3:00PM I strolled past the angry man, who appeared to be in some kind of "jury-jail", and I received my certificate of appreciation and proof of service, and then I left the building.

I wonder what happened to this guy, the angry juror. Obviously he listened to some bad advice.

In any case, if you get called, don't sweat it. It is not painful. It is interesting. And it does make one feel good about our legal system.

And for Christ's sake, just take the oath.

The IU.