It’s every American’s duty to serve on a jury. It is our civic pride which gives us the honor to sit in judgment of another citizen. And I am here to tell you… do everything in your power to get out of it… it’s a fucking nightmare.
Here’s how it starts. You’re having a wonderful day, the sun is shining, the flowers are in bloom, a cool breeze is blowing through your garden and the postman drives up to your house. He’s got an evil grin on his face… it’s “Ha HA!!!!! This is for not tipping me last Christmas.” And he shoves the summons into your mailbox. You open it, suddenly there are clouds in the sky, your flowers are being eaten by a herd of snails and a tornado just took out your house garden…. YOU HAVE JURY DUTY.
This is how it begins. You fill out of the form and if you opt to go through early orientation via the Internet you don’t have to arrive at 7 a.m. So I sit through seven of the most mundane, boring, idiotic videos I have ever seen. “Dress code for court is business casual… no flip flops, not tank tops, please wear shoes.” Who the fuck goes to court barefoot? So after you watch the 7 videos you have to take a test. I flunked it. I had to watch the videos again… take the test again…it was the SAT’s all over again. I finally pass and am told when to call to see if I was needed on a particular day. Are you ready for this? They expect you to clear out your calendar for one week, to give you the honor of driving downtown in rush hour traffic, to sit in a room to then be told you would be picked to be on a jury. This is a dream come true… couldn’t they just attach electrodes to my testicles.
Monday at 5 p.m. I drop to my knees and ask God to get me out of Jury Duty. I call. I am not needed. Tuesday, same routine. Not needed. Wednesday… come on God, you’ve been doing great so far…. I call. THERE IS NO GOD… I need to show up Thursday at 9:30 or as I see it… at the height of rush hour.
This is what you have to know about me. When I have something to do I cannot sleep. I went to bed at 10 p.m. I slept the entire night, opened my eyes refreshed and ready to go.. I look at the clock. It’s 3:30 a.m. I lie in bed with my eyes wide open until 6:30 a.m. when I jump out and take a shower. I leave the house at 8 a.m. bumper to bumper from my front door to the first major intersection. I reprogram my GPS for the shortest route to the courthouse. It takes me through villages in Guatemala.
I finally arrive downtown where I’m instructed to park at the Disney Concert Hall. I enter the building and am sent so low in the basement Satan got the last space. I then have to walk to the courthouse. Now if this were New York City I wouldn’t think anything of it… it’s only six blocks. But this is LA. The last time I walked six blocks in LA Eisenhower was in office.
I get to the court building where I am frisked and sent through a metal detector. I head for the bank of elevators. Ten elevators… 500 people. Ding. The light goes off at elevator one. 500 people stampede to that elevator… ten get in. Ding. The light goes on at elevator six. The stampede rushes to that elevator. And that’s how it went for ½ an hour until I won the elevator lotto and an elevator arrived at a door I was standing in front of.
I arrive at my floor and check in with the court clerk. I walk into the room of 400 chairs or as I call it purgatory. You could hear a pin drop. 400 people not a sound, it was something I had never seen before… group shock. I find a seat and it’s then I start looking over the crowd. OMG… it’s a Cinco D’ Mayo festival. All around me people are speaking Spanish. And those who weren’t speaking Spanish were speaking Mandarin. America really is a melting pot. There were a few valley people there… and an assortment of freaks. A guy with a pentagram on his hat… a 400 pound guy carrying a lunch pail… the Unabomber.
And so this melting pot of humanity sits there 9 a.m. 10 a.m. 11 a.m. Noon… the quiet room has now got this low murmur going. AND THEN… “We are ready to pick our first panel.” And the names are being announced over the loud speaker: “Mario Gonzalez… Victor Consualo, Arturo Hernadez… Maria Ortez…” With every name there is a sense of relief that your name has not been called. I turned to the woman sitting next to me and said, “Now I know how Anne Frank felt.” HUGE LAUGH.
We break for lunch. However, same game at the elevators. I give up and go back to purgatory where I begin posting on Facebook… all I need is a little inspiration and I’m off and running. The posts are funny and furious. Now I’m posting photos. Now I’m Facebooking with Marsha Posner Williams. We are laughing so hard that others are looking at me like I’ve lost my mind…which I am about to.
We come back after lunch… it’s 1:30. We hear the announcement that sends shivers down our spines. “We are ready to pick our next panel.” I am not picked. 2:30 3:00 3:30.. I know we are let go at 4 pm. If I can just make it till 4 I am free for a year. At 3:45 a woman approaches the podium. “May I have your attention?” 200 people’s hearts stop. “The courts have called down and we don’t need any more panels for today.” An audible “YES” is heard through the room. They call out our names…we give back our juror badge… and we head for the elevators to wait for the elevator lotto game again. Not a word is being spoken but as we pass through the front door heading for the street a woman says to no one… “What a monumental waste of time.” To which a second woman says, “And this is the four time they’ve done this to me.” To which another woman says, “And they don’t care.” I am silent. I am the observer and reporter of human emotions. I am watching and listening. But I will tell you this. There has to be a better system than the one I just experienced. With all the technology of today, there has to be a better way to find a jury than to hold hundreds of people captive for a week…force them to do something they don’t want to do… take them out of their lives and their jobs to pass judgment on another human being. And if I were a felon and saw who the jury pool was… I would plea bargain immediately because I would NOT want any of THOSE people deciding my fate. I now see how George Zimmer walked. I now see how our prisons are filled with innocent people. This is no way to run a court system. And I wish I had a better answer… but I don’t. Sad. No?