I have spent half of my week at Tulane and Broad. I have, through luck, geography, and biology, successfully avoided jury duty up until now. My luck ran out this week.
The first time I received a jury summons it was for Boone County, Missouri, and it arrived at my home in Mid-City bearing a yellow address forwarding label. I actually felt kind of bad that I wasn't able to serve and had to mail back the summons with proof of my new address in another state. Jury service, much like labor, was something I wanted to experience, and just as I felt cheated out of having a labor experience due to my scheduled C-section with Ruby, I felt kind of disappointed that I wouldn't get to report to the Boone County Courthouse. Also, much like labor, now that I have experienced both, I can confirm that they suck and I have no desire to go through either one again.
Speaking of labor, my next jury summons came when I was 36 weeks pregnant. I, still somewhat eager or at least curious, asked my OB if I could serve. He just laughed at me and filed a medical exemption.
And now, more than two years later, my name came up again. I won't say I was excited, but I was definitely willing. Several of my coworkers had jury duty this past year, and all of them said they checked in at the courthouse and messed around on Facebook or read magazines until they were dismissed at noon. Honestly, three mornings spent reading sounded pretty great to me. I stocked up on some trashy paperbacks and Kind bars and figured I'd treat it as a kind of forced vacation. Spoiler alert: That is not how it worked out.
The first morning started off fine, although I had to move to the quiet room when my neighbors started extolling the virtues of corporal punishment.
“A time out?” one said. “Please. A time out just gives him time to think about what shit he's going to pull next. Beat his ass, and he'll behave.”
“That's true,” the woman on the other side of her said, nodding emphatically. “I can't believe they're not letting that poor football player play for the whole season just for trying to be a good dad.”
Trying not to gape in disgust, I tucked my book in my purse, gathered up my jacket, and moved into the quiet room, where my peers may not have shared my permissive views on child-rearing but at least I didn't have to hear it.
I was barely into Chapter 3 – and I'm a fast reader – when my name was called. I was the very first person called that morning, and after more than two hours of voir dire, I was the very first juror seated on an armed robbery case. I really thought that between being a witness to an armed robbery 15 years ago in New Orleans and the fact that I have about a bajillion lawyers in my family, I would be struck as a juror on this case. But no. I was picked, and I was oddly flattered. Spoiler alert: I did not remain pleased to have been chosen.
All of Wednesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., was spent in trial. This wasn't a fascinating case, not the kind where anyone actually cares what the jurors have to say, and really, I think hearing about someone else's juror experience might rank only slightly higher on the interest scale than hearing about someone's dreams. So I'm not going to really get into it, at least not now and not here.
I have a lot of thoughts about it – about the trial itself, about the judicial system, about the quality of the defense and prosecution, about New Orleans, about the dubious quality of a jury of one's peers – but I haven't had enough time yet, honestly, to process them. Late into deliberations on Wednesday night, one of my fellow jurors pointed at me and said disparagingly, “You're analytical.” And I am. I was the analytical juror with an addiction to hand sanitizer, a deep suspicion of the break room food, and a desperate need for coffee. I can't deny any of that, and I am pretty sure I'd made both friends and enemies by the time we left the courthouse that night.
We reached a verdict of guilty on a lesser charge, and I had a huge ugly cry in the car on the way home because the whole thing was just so stressful. I don't even like punishing my kids (and yeah, I believe in time outs, thankyouverymuch), and I'd just voted to send someone to jail. It sucked. Usually I am the biggest cheerleader you can find for New Orleans, but honestly, last night, after the testimony we'd heard, I felt like New Orleans sucked.
The only bright sides are Ruby persistently referring to armed robbery as “hand robbery,” as in, “Mom, can you tell me again about the guy who did the hand robbery?” and Georgia patting my face and saying, “Mama, you did a good civic duty!”
I hope I did do a good civic duty. Mostly, I'm just thankful I don't have to do it again for two years. At least after 12 hours of labor, I got Georgia out of the deal. All I got out of 13 hours of jury service was a note excusing me from work – and a bad taste in my mouth.