I received my summons for jury duty, I reacted the way I react to
everything in my life: I panicked. For years I had successfully
avoided it; like credit-card debt, I'd pay later.
Apparently not. It was time to serve. But getting summoned was
one thing; being chosen was another. "Don't worry,"
Liza assured me. "You won't get chosen." Another friend
made it sound like a date with destiny. "You never know who
you might meet." Why is that a positive thing? I could meet
a serial killer. Or a woman who carries photos of her cats in
her wallet and wants to discuss them.
The first day of jury duty felt like the
first day of school. I didn't know what to wear and I didn't know
how to get there. When I found the right building, I sat in a
large, poorly ventilated room with several hundred strangers.
An instructional video was shown about the democratic process,
but midway through, the sound went, so the video was cancelled.
One woman leant over and asked me: "How does it end?"
The hours passed. I waited. Finally my name
was called from the bingo bin of potential jurors and I was ushered
into the jury box. "Do you have any memberships?" the
judge asked. "Yes," I said. "Blockbuster."
He was thinking more along the lines of the Ku Klux Klan. A few
more amiable questions followed: which newspaper did I prefer?
Where did I live? Was I single? I began to wonder how many judges
are secretly stalkers.
He asked if I could be "fair and impartial"
and I said yes. The honest answer would have been, "Not when
it comes to dating," but I kept that to myself. Seconds later,
the court officer was naming me as Juror No 11. "Be here
on Monday at 9am," the judge said. "And please do not
discuss the case." I was free to go. I was one of the chosen
As soon as I had left the courtroom I called
Liza to discuss the case.
The man on trial was named Love Jones. He
worked at Domino's. How could they expect me not to discuss that?
"You were chosen?" is all she could say. Even my doorman
said: "I've never known anyone who was actually chosen before."
He looked concerned. Like he might need to water my plants and
put aside my mail. So I made a decision. First thing on Monday
morning, before the trial began, I'd speak to the judge and do
what every other New Yorker does: I would negotiate, and get out
"You have what?" the judge laughed.
I paused. "Panic attacks." He gave me a look. "Are
you having one right now?" I could see the defendants were
looking at me. And in that second, watching them watching me,
I felt guilty. The judge would have none of it. The trial lasted
two days, and when it came time to deliberate, I didn't think
the prosecution had proven reasonable doubt. Suddenly I was Henry
Fonda from 12 Angry Men. All of the others wanted to go home,
but I loved it. But just as I was really getting into the routine,
we reached a verdict. That's the whole point, I guess.
I really didn't want it to end.
I had somewhere to be and I had something
to do. Plus, I had an excuse for not being available.
Nobody expects you to get any work done
when you're on jury duty.