I The Jury
Apparently, I couldn’t postpone the inevitable any longer.
I have deferred my civic duty six times in the last two years. I blew off the first three jury subpoenas figuring I could chock their loss up to a mail snafu (well, I had moved). I ignored a few more. Then came the excuses: bad time at work (we were about to launch Overdrive, we were about to tackle the VMAs), family emergency, business trip. Finally, last week, knowing that I was heading to Syracuse, I bit the bullet and scheduled the nearest, unobstructed string of dates.
My strategy when I served four years ago was to wiggle out of each potential case. Domestic unrest? Can’t do it: divorced parents. Assault? Can’t do it: broken jaw. Drug charge? Ha.
This time, though, inspired in no small part by Abbi’s recent dismissal before the case even started and an overwhelming sense of duty, I endeavored to be called. Not in a bad way, or a deceptive way. I am under oath. So I decided to play it straight.
The first panel called was sixty names. Mine was twenty-third.
We waited in the drab gray hallways of 100 Center Street about thirty minutes before being ushered into the courtroom. Lawyers who look like they’ve never seen sun (or, for that matter, the inside of anywhere other than Today’s Man) shuffle past. I sat on the floor, clicking through my Blackberry, and flipping through Details. I smiled reading an article on Gen-X (“How We Went From Generation X To The Lost Generation”). My leg fell asleep. When the deputy finally led us inside, I limped.
The courtroom is actually pretty impressive. Which is to say, it’s big: rows of pews, vaulted ceilings, hanging fixtures (albeit fluorescent). Mis-matched bronze letters above the bench read, IN GOD WE TRUST (didn’t we start this country to separate church and state?). The New York and US flags stand off-center behind the judge. It would make me nuts.
The judge looks like Gary Hart. I like him. But doesn’t know me yet. I haven’t been called for vau deer, though I keep willing the clerk to call my name. Instead, she’s called twenty-six others, four of whom spoke no English (how did they make it this far?), and two of whom have been dismissed for other reasons.
The voir dire process is somewhat maddening. It feels like trickery, like a chess match between lawyers. Each successive question seems more inconsequential than the one prior, but then they get serious, fast: a bunch of if/then statements. The process is nerve wracking, and slightly antagonistic. Everyone is vulnerable here, leveled by the imperative to tell the truth.
And to tell you the truth, I can’t tell you any more.
I got picked for the jury.