Sorry I haven't yet posted anything about week one of my jury duty, which started at 8 a.m. Monday. Yes, that is early, but delays are common. The jury commissioners joked during orientation that "court time" is a lot like "airport time," and most of your service is like waiting for a plane that never comes.
So far I've been called to be in the jury pool for two different cases -- a medical malpractice case Monday and a criminal case yesterday. Eventually I was dismissed during the preliminary vetting process, but it's tough to get work done when you're busy telling lawyers (read: complete strangers) about your relationship history and whether or not you like black people.
Nothing too exciting to report, though during orientation they showed us a movie called Making a Difference: The American Juror, which loftily describes the privilege of getting to sit and judge your peers. This, they felt, was the one thing that just can't be communicated via green info pamphlet.
First, they show you a dramatic reenactment of what people used to do with someone who was caught, say, robbing chickens from a neighbor's farm. The process was called a "trial by ordeal," basically a system of justice in which the accused's reaction to mild torture proved their innocence or guilt.
In Making a Difference, people dressed as vikings bound a man, then threw him into a cold river. Because he sank, he was found innocent. Yes, the pool of 180 new jurors seemed to agree, having a jury trial is better.
Still, being judged by your peers is a double-edged sword. A king has no say in your guilt, neither does the president or mean-spirited judge or a mob wearing swords and burlap shirts. In the United States, your fate is decided by eight (civil) or 12 (criminal) peers.
They could be housewives, students, businessmen, construction workers or retirees. They can be black, white, male, female, old or young. For the most part, even the ones that come in grumbling are quick to realize the gravity of their service and try their best to give you a fair shake.
But America's a weird place. And in a weird place, randomness can work against you. Next to every educated, impartial housewife on your jury could be someone who enjoys eating lead-based paint and staying up late to order ShamWows.