I’ve been called for jury duty! What should I wear?
Oh imaginary reader existing only in my mind. I stressed about this, truly. I was all, “do I wear a suit? Skinny cords with a tunic? Business Casual? WHAT?” My jury summons, however, specifically told me not to wear see-through garments, so I figured that jeans—NICE ones—were a safe bet. After all, I reasoned, who wants to be the overdressed douche in a suit, which just screams “I think I’m better than this! And THAT’S precisely why I will get selected for a jury out of sheer spite!” As it turned out, jeans were perfect. I realized that when I got on line with a number of Overdressed Suit Douches Checking their Watches with Over-exaggerated Air of Indignation, and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, The Mullet People, Largely Clad in Floral Sweatsuits. While I won’t say that I blended in, I was neither overdressed nor underdressed.
What should I bring with me?
Well, that depends. If you’re me: A MacBook (free wifi in the courthouse!), change for the vending machines, an iPhone (smuggled in in my wallet and buried deep in my bag—cameraphones aren't allowed in most courthouses), and a light yet entertaining book (Little Earthquakes, in case you were curious...PERFECT for this type of extended sitting around). If you’re my courthouse compadres: Soft-core porn. Apparently, there is this author named “Zane” who is QUITE popular with my fellow jurors. After seeing, like, 23 people reading Zane-authored books, I sneaked a peek inside one, and I kind of put two and two together.
What happens once you’ve been signed in? Do you get called for a case right away?
HA! There is a hell of a lot of sitting around. Some people are lucky, and get chosen as potential jurors for a trial right away, but my first day of jury duty was last Monday, and that entire first day, I literally sat in the room from 9-4, until I was released for the day. That’s why bringing a laptop (or, you know, porn, as the case may be) is key. Seeing as I had no Zane books, this was pretty much what I look liked all during most of my time there:
Well, the people who work there are nice, right?
The security people and the bailiffs are lovely. You know who isn’t, though? The guy charged with overseeing the potential jurors in the main room. Look, I’m SURE this guy deals with people all day telling him just how important they are and why they need to get off jury duty nownownow. THAT SAID? It is his job, and if it sucks so much, choose a different line of work. No one needs to hear you say “I run this room. Unless you’re bleeding profusely, don’t even approach my desk to talk to me." All that does is make me hate you and make up a sad little life for you, one where you go home every night to a shrewish woman named Mildred who wordlessly tosses you a half-frozen Salisbury steak TV dinner as she shuffles off in her drab, shapeless housecoat to watch Wheel of Fortune and you go down to the basement to play with your model train set, the only source of joy in your life. YOU MADE ME THINK THIS, ASSHOLE.
What happens if you get chosen for a case?
If you’re me, you’re probably kind of overjoyed, seeing as it’s your second day of sitting around doing nothing. You bid an almost tearful adieu to your new jury duty friend, and hustle on over to join the rest of the jury…panel? Is that the proper term? Whatever, let’s just say that it is. You then proceed to a very Law & Order-looking courtroom with around 40 other prospective jurors, chosen at random. It then gets even MORE Law &Order-y, what with the “all rise! Honorable Judge Blah Blah presiding!” Judge Blah Blah had awesome, AWESOME Blagojevich-like hair.
Did you want to pet Judge Blah Blah's hair? Remember, you're under oath.
HELL, yeah. Not made of steel, here.
So what was your case about?
I have no idea whether or not I can really talk about the case per se, but…hmm. Well, remember that Notorious B.I.G. song? The one about how you have to either sling crack rock or have a wicked jump shot? THIS CASE WAS NOT ABOUT WICKED JUMP SHOTS WINK WINK NOD NOD MEANINGFUL LOOK. And it was most certainly not about alleged wicked jump shots in the vicinity of a school. Allegedly involving an undercover cop. No sirree. ALLEGEDLY.
Wait! But how do they actually select the jurors from your group?
Sixteen people are selected at random from the group to go sit in the jury box, and voir dire gets underway, whereby the judge and attorneys for both sides commenced interviewing these prospective jurors.
I’ve been told that in some states/municipalities, the remaining juror pool is not permitted to witness the voir dire of the selected potential jurors, but we got to stick around. Which is awesome, because “voir dire” is Latin for “let the cavalcade of hilarious excuses commence.”
Excuses, you say? What kind of excuses?
- Prejudiced against police because of parking ticket.
- Distrust of police because brother played music too loud, and cops therefore deported him (I’M PRETTY SURE THERE WAS MORE TO IT THAN THAT.)
- Pentacostal faith forbids judging people. (Any Pentacostals out there? Is that true? I’m finding conflicting information online.)
- Difficulty speaking/understanding English (Judge: How long have you lived here? Man: Um, 27 years. Judge: Sit yourself back down, sir.)
- The statement “I am not very smart and don’t like listening to people talk a lot.”
- Assorted racist statements, guaranteed to be offensive to everyone.
- Acute ass pain. Let me repeat that for you: ACUTE ASS PAIN. Someone actually stood up and said this, people.
Would you have tried to get off of serving as part of the jury?
We were all sworn in at the start, and as much as I would have rolled my eyes incessantly had I been picked, I would have been a good, honest (potential) juror. I would, however, have made my feelings on the crack penalties in this country (i.e., unnecessarily harsh) clearly known to both sides during voir dire. Consequently, even if I had been selected to be one of the 32 panelists interviewed over the course of Monday and Wednesday, I don’t know if I would have made the cut. In the end, as much as I whined about jury duty, after seeing the process, I wouldn't have minded being a part of it.
Oh, you think you’re pretty special, don’t you?
Yes, but only in comparison to the guy who was smoking outside the courthouse while pushing a baby carriage with an infant inside. Did I mention the mini-boom box he had blasting from atop the carriage? Because it was, you know, there.
Congratulations, people! You now know everything I know about jury duty!