Yesterday, I had the fortunate experience of serving my city with Jury Duty.  This was my first time ever to be summoned and I’m not going to lie, I was really looking forward to it.  No work, excellent blog material, and maybe some drama.

I arrived on time, for once, and made my way to the waiting room, which was larger than any movie theater I’ve ever been in.  I’d say the room was maybe 1/4 full.  I decided to choose a seat on the outside perimeter where I’d have minimal exposure to my fellow samaritans.  Of course within 5 minutes of sitting down, a lady comes and sits two seats away.  My entire ROW was empty, and she chooses to sit two seats away.  Great.

After about an hour or two of reading for class (yes, class has started… major bummer), I heard my number called and so I made my way up to the criminal court.  We waited there in the hallway for a good 30 minutes, which gave me plenty of time to people watch since this was now a mix of criminals, lawyers and jurors (fyi it’s apparently pronounced jur-AR-s).  I noticed a young girl sitting on the bench with a t-shirt on that said, “Get This Monkey OFF MY BACK”.  I’m going to guess she was a criminal and not a juror.

Finally, they called for the 30 or so selected juror candidates to make our way into the courtroom.  We learned that the case we’d be potentially sitting in on was a DWI case.  It was at this moment in time that I started to sweat.  Not because I was about to be interrogated about drinking and driving, but because I had no idea how long we’d be in there and I really had to go.  I think I have a form of claustrophobia where I start to freak out when I don’t know when I’ll be able to go again.

The questioning went on for about an hour, and I was surprised at how many people either a) had a DWI or b) had a family member or friend that had gotten one.  We even had a veteran drinker in there who said he had gotten a DWI back in 1969.  I didn’t know they existed back then?  

I don’t know if it was because I looked like a good samaritan, because I looked smart, or because I had a look of desperation on my face, but somehow I made the final cut.  Along with 5 other characters.  One of which, in response to the question of whether or not he would refuse a field sobriety test if he were to be pulled over, answered “I’ve been pulled over so many times before, I’d have no problem taking the test”.  Excellent.

We broke for lunch, and in the cafeteria I got to watch the kid in our case, who was being tried for a DWI, eat his lunch.  I decided not to let any judgements about his table manners or food choice have any weight in my decision later that afternoon.  But, it did help that he had a big blob of ketchup on his plate.  Mmmm, ketchup.  I noticed him sitting with a group of other people, two of which I assumed were his brother and sister-in-law and the other couple, his parents.  It wasn’t until his uncle took the stand and informed us those were his parents and grandparents.  (Insert jaw dropping).  

During the trial, we got to watch the cop car video of the arrest.  My favorite part was when the kid was explaining to the cop that he wasn’t drunk, he said, “I’m not drunk, I just stopped and ate at Taco Bell”.  Does anyone that’s sober eat at Taco Bell?  I don’t think so, pal.

Somehow we weren’t able to find him guilty… it was because of that whole “beyond reasonable doubt” jazz.  There’s no doubt in my mind he had been drinking, but without him taking a breathalyzer or doing the field test, there’s no way we could be sure.  When the judge read the verdict of not guilty, he had the biggest sigh of relief on his face.  It was creepy, but at that same time we made eye contact.  Without words his eyes said to me, “Thank you for saving my life” and without words mine said to him “Watch yourself buddy, next time won’t be so easy”.

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