Doing Your Duty

Heh, heh. I said duty.

Sorry I haven’t posted for awhile. I can only chalk part of the time away up to the fact that I had jury duty.

But I’m here to tell you, it wasn’t as bad as I though it would be.

I have always bragged, “I’d be glad to serve on a jury. In the unlikely event that I was ever involved in a jury trial, I’d sure rather have a dozen reasonable, thoughtful people like me on the jury instead of twelve people too dumb to get out of jury duty.” As the date of my service approached, I began to waffle on my sense of civic pride.

To back up a little bit, I got the jury summons about six weeks before I was due to serve. That allowed plenty of time to clear my calendar. The letter was clear in its instructions and included a parking pass, a map to the designated underground lot and a number to call the night before in case they didn’t need me. (No such luck.)

I intended to be as absolutely self-righteous as possible and take the bus to my first day of duty since the Courthouse is only a couple of blocks away from the main downtown bus stop. But apparently the MTA adjusted the schedule the #7 bus since I last rode it and I got nervous about showing up late. I’m not into contempt of court penalties

So I ran back to get my truck and drive downtown. The lot underneath the public plaza is huge, five levels deep. I’ll have to remember that next time I can’t find a spot before a Preds game. Passing through security was easy and they shuffled us into a big comfortable waiting room where I figured I’d pass a lot of time. It turns out I was wrong.

Judge Haynes welcomed the couple hundred prospective jurors and led us in the pledge of allegiance. I was feeling more patriotic by the minute. She told us that the juror pool is not drawn from the voter registration roll as is commonly assumed. It comes from the drivers license list. So if you don’t want to be eligible to serve, you can still register to vote. You just can’t drive yourself to the polls.

All the civil trials start on Monday and they are usually over by Wednesday, so we were promised air conditioning, 90 minute lunch breaks and $10.00 a day plus parking if we actually served on a jury. But with only three trials on the docket, I figured my odds were pretty good to be out of there in a day.

Wrong.

I got called in the second group of names for the prospective jury pool. Still, they called 25 names to fill 13 slots (including one alternate) so I figured I was still a coinflip away from freedom.

Wrong.

“Mr. Chamberlain, please sit in seat number 3.” Hmm, maybe I’ll get excused as part of the lawyer questioning.

Wrong.

I won’t get into the details of the case, but it was a chiropractic malpractice case and they never asked any questions that I could even make an objectionable answer up for. “Oh yes sir, your honor. I think I could judge people fairly. As long as they’re not guilty.”

But on the whole, the process was interesting and worth my time. It wasn’t like “Law and Order,” but it was better than “Matlock.” The judge and officer of the court kept excellent control of the process and my fellow jurors were a pleasure to serve with.

You aren’t supposed to talk about the details of the case at all until you start deliberations, but you are locked in the juror room for several hours a day during breaks and while the attorneys hash out objections and points of order with the judge. The small talk was fascinatingly meaningless as we danced around topics and personal histories.

Everybody wears name tags, but the type was so small that I tended to just give everybody nicknames for my own reference, kinda like regulars in the bar. I tried to guess what BikerDude thought of the slimy expert witness who he kept scowling at. NiceOldLadyWhoBroughtCookies looked like she was going to be a sympathetic juror who I worried might drag deliberations on and on. RichGuyWithTheSuitAndBriefcase always took copious notes and had “foreman” written all over him. HotChickWhoNeverTalked sat behind me. Damn.

In the end, our prospective foreman was drawn as the alternate right before we went into deliberations, so he was excused. In his absence, I was elected foreman since I fessed up to having led lots of meetings and being good at building consensus. Luckily, after three days of testimony, we were 95% of the way to a verdict for the defense when we first shut the doors. We did take the time to thoughtfully go over all the evidence and exhibits and answer any questions that the jurors brought forward.

However, I did have a bus to catch and folks had spent a long time cooped up in that room, so after awhile somebody said, “What the hell are we doing? She’s lying, right?!”

Your honor, we have a verdict…

So if you’re called to serve, don’t complain. Jury duty is a chance to serve as the collective conscience of Davidson County. I’m counting on folks like MetroBlogging Nashville readers to bail my ass out if I ever get in trouble.

Did I mention my neck hurts?

2 Comments so far

  1. newscoma (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

    Glad you did your civic duty, sir.
    And I probably know the biker dude.


  2. fishwreck (unregistered) on September 11th, 2007 @ 9:41 am

    Oh, now tell us what *really* happened.



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