Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Justice League: Amateur Version

Let's review. Your correspondent is the eleventh of thirteen jurors selected for a civil case and is seated in a fossilized chair from the Inquisition. During quiet moments, the hip screws in the juror to her right can be heard to ease out. It's Day One. We assess our predicament.

The courtroom is presided over by a handsome judge. He is calm, clear, thorough, and altogether spiffy.

Also presiding, above him, on a ledge, is a plastic owl. A good one: no plastic rodents of any kind are observed.

The plaintiff is the only African-American man in the room. In a Portland jury composed primarily of white women in their thirties, this probably works in his favor. Unfortunately, he looks exactly like Clarence Thomas. So it might be a wash.

Right away, during opening arguments, I am experiencing a problem. Let's go back to an earlier moment. I am awakened by an alarm clock I fired ten years ago, it's completely dark outside, and I'm not going fishing. I make my way to the bus stop and am baffled and horrified by the number of citizens who are out and about without any assurance, other than force of solar habit, that daytime will arrive. It's cold. It's dark. It's sleepy as all get-out. Clearly, this is inhumane.

So now I am in the jury box for the next nine hours, and right away I am having trouble keeping my eyes open. It's early in the case, and I'm sure I can catch up, but it is important that I look like I'm paying attention. This causes stress. My eyelids are threatening to snap shut audibly. If I close them, adopting a look of concentration, there is no guarantee I will not drool, also audibly. I am told this is confusing and alarming to spectators. So we have a situation. If you have ever found yourself falling asleep at the wheel, you will recall that even the imminent likelihood of turning yourself into paste on a bridge abutment is not sufficient to keep you awake. This is similar.

The good news is, things are lively in the jury room, during breaks. My fellow jurors seem to be unusually intelligent, interesting, and funny. We wasted no time in starting a pool as to the exact minute we'd be called back into the courtroom. Nobody guessed 1:37, and so the pool grows. You want odds? What are the odds you get thrown in with twelve other citizens from a random pool and you're thinking you'd like to spend an evening playing Bananagrams with ALL of them? And might not even win?

You can't count on this. I've been on a number of juries, and there is usually at least one member who has made his decision fifteen years ago, when that asshole did that thing that he'll never forget or forgive. This case, and the conduct of his daily life, will all be run through that particular grinder of an incident and result in precisely the same hamburger every time. There will be another member who will skate right over Judge's instructions and insist "I just know it, okay? I can tell." A third will be sporting a fatal freight of aftershave.

Blue Day. You thought I was kidding?
This jury? Well. When the judge noted that two of us wore a lumberjack plaid one day (the odds of this, in Portland, are very high), we all decided to wear green the next. That had a diluted effect on account of the huge number of ways "green" can be interpreted, from "olive" to "forest" to "red check." The next day we all wore black.

Now that was impressive, and duly noted from the bench. The jury box looked, depending on your point of view, like either an execution squad or a choir loft. For those with the sunnier interpretation, be it noted that a skeleton hanging from a gibbet showed up in the courtroom on the same day. Don't mess with this jury, is what I'm saying.

We're doing charades next week, Bianca's bringing in donuts, and Martha brought enough gimp we should all be able to go home with a lanyard or key fob. Wednesday is Purple Day. Friday we deliberate.

I have no idea what we'll decide. I'm confident justice will be served. This is one sharp jury. Which is why I'm looking forward to Thursday. That's Skit Day.

42 comments:

  1. If everyone had this much fun on a jury I think justice would be served with a ham on rye.

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    Replies
    1. The lawyers bought us that for lunch. The judge bought pizza for dinner.

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  2. If one could count on serving in a jury with a bunch of people like this, I'm sure most people wouldn't try to finagle out of jury duty. Just because something is serious doesn't mean it can't also be fun.

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    1. We were a little worried the first time that dressing alike would make us look less than serious, but when the bailiff insisted on joining in and the judge changed his tie color, we felt better.

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  3. If I'm ever on trial, I will fly the 13 of you out here.

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    Replies
    1. I'm not entirely sure it works that way, but give it a shot.

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  4. Hearing that the jury was happy to play together was wonderful. Learning in the comments that the judge and bailiff joined in took it to a whole new level.
    Perhaps there is still some hope after all.

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    Replies
    1. I want this judge to be President.

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    2. Add his name to your next voting card, with a gold star.

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    3. I still remember the names of the judges who particularly impressed me during a jury trial, including the one who was dead-out asleep.

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  5. I have to admit we did make the best out of an otherwise trying experience! It was a pleasure serving with you Murr

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    Replies
    1. You too, Emily. Although--I would say that not one of us was really happy with the verdict. Which is weird.

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    2. While I did not go through the torturous process of deliberations, I have to say I’m disappointed Clarence Thomas got any money at all

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    3. thanks to all my fellow jurors for making the time spent outside of my usually routine not only bearable but enjoyable! I may even miss it a little bit:)

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    4. I walked downtown the other day and shot a glance toward the courthouse and had this odd little notion I was playing hooky from work.

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  6. Did you all wear tights and capes one of those days? Or at least SOME kind of spandex??

    I hope justice was served!

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    1. Oooh, justice. Not sure. I will say not one of us was totally pleased with our own verdict. There was a lot of compromise. We knew if we had a hung jury (which would've been very likely, inasmuch as four people refused to consider changing their minds), the entire trial would have been held all over again. It seemed important to come to some kind of agreement.

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    2. That seems to track with society in general--about 32% of which remains stubbornly obstinate in the face of facts. Sounds as though you got a realistic cross-section.

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    3. We were able to come to a verdict because a plausible case could be made for the four holdouts' point of view, so it's not like they were nuts or anything, though.

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  7. Eat your heart out, El Chapo jurors. No group photo for you!

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  8. I like the colour themed days a lot, if the trial goes long enough you could potentially cycle through a paint colour chart of shades. Then there's checks, spots, stripes, patchwork; you all could find yourselves in demand all over the country for cheering up trials.

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    Replies
    1. And yet we were a color-coordinated model of sobriety in the box.

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  9. I strongly suspect that the party walked in when you did, Murrbaby. Buncha lemons, lemonade. xoxo jz

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    Replies
    1. Oh! I feel a shout-out from my very longitude! Welcome to Oregon, Jules!

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  10. They say a deal is not a good deal unless both sides are somewhat unhappy.
    Not sure the same goes for justice, but wherever compromise is possible, perhaps it is necessary.

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    Replies
    1. Honestly, I think the best thing we could've done was find for the plaintiff, and award him a dollar.

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  11. Just catching up on your adventures in jury duty. I literally was laughing out loud in recognition of your dscription of falling asleep in the jury box. At my last stint in the fall of 2018 we were ALL nodding off. It was excruciating! SO hard to stay awake.

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  12. And the days where you all wore the same color! Seems you had a great jury, that's a riot.

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