Certain subjects immediately generate conversation. For instance, when someone starts talking about getting a speeding ticket or their jury duty experience or where they were when the Challenger exploded.
So this last week when someone brought up jury duty – I added my own tale to the storytelling.
I was called for two weeks of jury duty and the first week I was selected for a trial where some kids were charged with harassing some other kids in a bar parking lot. Having talked to some friends about their own jury duty experience, I knew once you got on a case – that was probably it.
So, I and 11 other people, listened to a few hours of witnesses testifying about the harassment and the case seemed rather clear – which I guess the harasser understood, too, because suddenly everything stopped, he pleaded guilty and we were free to go home.
I figured that was it, but at the beginning of the second week, I was once again called in and as they did the jury selection, I noticed they were fairly interested in having me sit on the jury. At the time I didn’t understand. Later I did.
We were told that the trial would be at least a week long, that we would be allowed to go home, but were not allowed to discuss what was happening. We were also told we would be taken to the scene of the crime.
As we rode the thirty miles or so to the scene, I talked with the bailiff and asked a lot of questions. I remember one question I asked was “What do you do if a jury member gets sick during the trial?” I remember her saying, “Well, we just go with the remaining eleven.” And then I remember thinking, That was a dumb thing to ask – what if I get sick? She’ll think I’m simply trying to get out of this. And then I thought, But I never get sick.
(OK, you can see where THAT’S going – by Friday night, I had a temperature of 103 and a sore throat. I refused to tell anyone.)
So, day after day we sat through testimony. Students, teachers, police officers, doctors … you name it. This was a BIG deal. One of the ladies on the jury was a homeschool mom and she brought her kids in one day for on site teaching. I know many trials are a lot longer than a week – but a week is over the average. (I read somewhere that the average is 2 days.) We were on first name basis with the stenographer – who showed us how her machine worked – by doing the Lord’s Prayer. And even though everyone oohed and aahed over it – I got it because I was the pastor’s wife!!!!! We got to know our two bailiffs who were both very nice.
In fact, it was one of the bailiffs who came in while we were in our jury room and told us that the Challenger had blown up.
Oh yeah – the big crime that we were spending tax payer money to determine?
Officer Friendly had run into a teacher (on foot, running down the hallway) when hurrying out of the school building in response to a fire drill.
Yep. That was it. No embezzlement, stealing, lying, murder, robbery, abuse. Nothing.
Just a friendly police officer finishing up a fingerprinting of a child and rushing to get her out of the building. The teacher had been checking bathrooms and was coming out the door and crashed into him as he went by. (The teacher was in her forties and said she would no longer be able to play football :))
The reason they wanted me on the jury is that as a teacher, I knew the state laws. You never tell a child to wait once a fire drill sounded — and the officer told the little girl to wait while he finished the fingerprinting. (He knew it wasn’t a real drill.) Technically, that was wrong and since that was a specific question we had to answer, we had to say that he was wrong.
In the end, she got enough to pay the medical expenses, but that was it (not all the extra she wanted.)
In the end, the friendly officer got to keep his job (I’m sure he had insurance through the department).
In the end, Ken picked me up, took me home and I collapsed in bed – resting peacefully, knowing that all was well in the world of school hallways and fire drills.
In the end – I thought the whole thing was a colossal waste of time and money. However, I did learn a lot about the judicial system.
And that’s my story.