My unfortunate stint with the Minnesota judicial system sometimes makes me think of 30 Rock‘s Jenna Maroney, who was in a movie that sounded like rurr jurrr, and nobody really knew what it was until they saw “Rural Juror” in print.
Unfortunate name, sort of like my recent unfortunate stint with the Minnesota judicial system.
And while I’m not very rurrr, I was indeed a jurrr, at least for 2 glorious days.
For the latter part of my adult life (meaning the past 50 years, give or take) my friends or relatives would be called for jury duty, and they’d sort of whine and complain about the inconvenience of it all. “Let me at it,” I would think. “I’ll show them how to jury!”
But I was never called. Why why why?, I would wonder, when I was perfectly capable of performing this function. (Niggling worry: Did they think I wasn’t?) I had achieved some credibility in my life: I am a tax paying citizen, somewhat educated, a home owner, a holder of a valid driver’s license, I watched “Judge Judy” every single day (both episodes) and I knew the law as seen on TV. Best of all, I really wanted to be there. I wanted it!
So imagine my thrill at receiving a summons late in January, informing me that it was MY turn in the jury box, and to show up at 8 AM on a cold February morning. And so I did. So, so eagerly. I probably got there early.
I was the only one who didn't look like this.
Alas, so did 23 other homeowners/taxpayers/drivers, most of them not very willing to be there. They had families, they had jobs, they had things to do. We sat in a large jury room waiting for something to happen. They fussed and fumed. They looked at their watches and they played with their cell phones. But not me! I had a cup of hot coffee and made sure my mind was clear enough to do a fabulous job of my civic duty. At last!
About 90 minutes later, the 24 of us were escorted into an actual courtroom with a judge, two attorneys, a court reporter, a clerk, and a weepy elderly woman who was obviously GUILTY the defendant.
12 of us were called into the jury box and asked a lot of questions by each attorney. Five of us were dismissed.
And then there were seven.
And I was one of ‘em!
I was gonna be a juror.
Our judge didn't have to wear the wig. And he was way more handsome.
Lunch was called, and we had an hour to entertain ourselves as we saw fit. While many people walked downtown for lunch, I decided to use the court house vending room and read the book I’d brought along. (J. D. Salinger’s “Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters,” which I’d read in high school but probably missed the exquisite humor of it at the time.) I spent $3.25 on some chemically-treated “coffee” and a small bag of Ritz Crackers which may have been there since the Manson trial.
The courthouse vending room is in the basement, I think, or should be. It was dank and dark and narrow, and the trash cans were painted the precise purple color of the walls, and by the time you figured out where they were, you were greeted with a sign that read “No Trash Please.” What the hell?
Best part of the vending machine room? Nobody else was there. I did hear the elevator door open while I was awaiting my coffee to be “brewed,” and when I turned around, there stood the defendant. It was the closest I’d ever come to making that Homer Simpson noise. We said not a word.
After lunch we met with a bailiff (“our bailiff,” I fondly thought of him) and we heard the case, which was criminal in nature. (No speeders, druggies, petty thieves or other witless fops for us: we were in the Big Time.) We heard the defendant’s side of the case. We heard the plaintiff’s side of the case. We were sent home for the day.
The next day I was so ready. We were seated in the jury box, hearing cross-examinations and watching body language, and then we were ready to go back to the jury room to be sequestered to deliberate. I learned all the words! I couldn’t wait to sequester or deliberate. I was so ready.
Our story takes a turn.
And then came those fateful words. “As you can see, we have seven jurors today, and we really only need six for this trial. We always keep an alternate juror in case someone gets sick or is unable to make it to court.”
Oh, HELL no! Don't pick me. Don't pick me!
My heart sunk.
“At this time, MISS JACKSON, you are excused from further duty on this jury. You may leave the courtroom.”
Oh, the bitter disappointment of the alternate juror. I wanted to weep. As it was, I had to stand up in the middle of this drama, gather my wretched dignity as I stumbled past six of my peers, the chosen ones, and prepared to be thrown out. “Goodbye,” people stage whispered. “Nice to know ya.”
I probably should get a copy of this.
Adding insult to injury, “our” bailiff gave me the bum’s rush to the door.
So that was that. The extent of my civic duty. I would no longer be a part of the system.
I asked the bailiff if I would ever know the outcome of the trial, and he advised that I could call the clerk of courts the following week to inquire.
The wind had gone out of my sails. I never did make that call.
* * *
Here are the words to the 30 Rock‘s Rural Juror song. Let’s everybody sing!
The Irma Luhrman-Merman murder
Turned the bird’s word lurid
The whir and the purr of a twirler girl
She would the world were demurer
The insurer’s allure
For valor were pure Kari Wuhrer
One fervid whirl over her turgid error
I will never forget you
I’ll always be glad I met you
I will never forget you
I’ll always be glad I met you
Rural juror (x2)
These were the best days of my flerm.
* * *
My usual PS:
Don’t forget to sign up for this month’s raffle for a small box of leftover auction treasures. (A gal can’t keep everything, can she?) Although each piece is from auction purchases, I also try to tailor the winnings to the recipient. What have you got to lose? There may be valuable things you can keep, or pass along to others, or fling out your car window as your cruise Highway 61 at 100 MPH. Like someone I know recently did.
Just send me an Email (email@example.com) or leave a note here, and you’re in like Flynn. You can win more than once, too. Take a chance. I did!