Jury Duty: It's Your Civic Duty
I am not above the law. Neither are you, sweet cheeks. And you know what the law says? As an American citizen, you have three obligations: to pay (or, at least, convincingly lie on) your taxes, to hoard as many guns as humanly possible (to defend your family, natch) and to serve jury duty when your number is pulled. And by “serve,” I mean, “not puss out and make up some comically mediocre excuse to avoid serving on jury duty.” I know it may seem like your job as assistant manager at Staples is of life-or-death importance; after all, your boss Trevor is always acting like it is. (I told you to restock the legal pads, Dennis! What the fuck is your problem?) I assure you, however, it is not. You know what is of life-or-death importance? Another human being’s life (or death, depending on how you and your fellow jurors rule).
I am what could be called an ideal juror: someone with no real obligations, familial or otherwise. My days are, for all intents and purposes, free. I don’t have to clock in at my soul-sucking retail job, watch my children, or care for my invalid father; my job and children don’t exist, and, well, I haven’t spoken to my father in years. For all I know, he could be an invalid (or worse: able-bodied). Because of this, when I received my jury-duty notice in the mail, I was filled with ineffable excitement. Everything about it delighted me. Holding the fate of another human being in my hands? Having an excuse to get up before 1 PM? And getting paid $15 a day? Be still my beating heart! Let me get this straight, I thought. The county of Los Angeles wants to let me, a complete degenerate, participate in the judicial process and give me enough scratch to buy one flavorless sandwich per day at the courthouse snack bar? SIGN ME UP.
On a Tuesday morning, at the godforsaken hour of 9 AM, I arrived, slightly hungover, at the courthouse; I was ready to justify my existence as a law-abiding citizen of The Greatest Country on Earth. I glanced around; I was surrounded by people whose existence was as expendable and meaningless as mine. I was surrounded by my peers.
The man next to me in line was the type that, if his look had to be summed up in one sentence, would be "under the incorrect assumption that he is no longer a nerd." Long black hair wrapped in a ponytail, black nail polish, fingerless gloves screen-printed with skeleton fingers, carrying a cane used for purely ornamental reasons, he held in his hand a Nook (not even a Kindle, for Christ's sake), on which he was (vocally and devoid of shame) reading The Hunger Games. By virtue of the fact that we were both serving as jurors, the man was, in a very real way, my (and the rest of society’s) peer. If this man was my peer, however, I couldn’t help but feel the need to petition counsel to seek the death penalty for the both of us. I, personally, hadn’t committed a crime; I did so by proxy. I needed to push through this overwhelming judgement, though, 'cause justice.
As a symbol of respect for the court, I tried to dress myself in a respectful manner—slacks, a nondescript polo shirt, and black loafers. My fellow jurors, however, did not share my respect.
Looks sported by my fellow jurors:
Head-to-toe Lakers paraphernalia, up to and including a Lakers lanyard
Track pants (Note: this man was immediately dismissed, and rightfully so.)
A Jay-Z concert shirt
A replica Woodstock T-shirt, no doubt purchased at Urban Outfitters
Stonewashed jeans (which, unless you’re serving as a juror in the case of Gap v. the Western World, are
We were shuffled, number by number, into the courtroom. Then the real fun began. When asked by the judge if we had any reason why we could not serve as a jurors, an inordinate amount of people raised their hands. Really?, I thought, staring at the back of the head of a woman wearing Crocs. You really have somewhere better to be than here?
The more I sat in court, and the more I heard bullshit excuse after bullshit excuse, the angrier I got. If I were the person on trial, how would I feel to hear that my civil liberties were less important than getting some dipshit’s kid to soccer practice on time? To answer my own rhetorical question, not so good.
Surely you must know about the West Memphis Three, 'cause Henry Rollins and Johnny Depp made sure you did. You may be startled to know, however, that they were not the only people who have ever been unjustly accused and convicted of a crime. During the jury selection process, when asked the question, “Do you believe that, by virtue of the fact that the man in front of you is sitting here, must he be guilty of some crime?” multiple people responded in the affirmative. Which leads me to this question: Do you have a rational bone in your body? If the answer is yes, that answer should be no. Now, let’s take that question one step further. Would you, as a rational human being, prefer to have an equally rational person serve as a juror on your case, or would you rather a San Fernando Valley housefrau who negatively judges people based on their nonwhite appearance dictate your fate? No? Then buck the fuck up and rise to your court-ordered occasion as a juror when it’s your turn to do so. Don’t bone out like a coward. Ultimately, I wasn’t selected as a juror, and I’m upset because of it. The woman wearing Crocs was.
Excerpt from the Novel ‘Family Life’
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