I got the original notice so long ago I’d forgotten about it. A note from the court clerk’s office calling me to jury duty. Understand, I believe in jury duty and I would love to be on a jury. But my job in law enforcement precludes most juries with the possible exception of civil.
So I filled out the clerk’s form, checked off that I’m law enforcement, mailed it in, and forgot about it.
Until I got a nasty call from the clerk’s assistant yesterday morning. She demanded to know where I was. I explained I was law enforcement. She said she didn’t care and ordered me to be in court in ten minutes.
I damn near choked on my mouthful of Eggo waffle, but I made it to court in the ten-minute window I’d been given. Turns out I got there only about twenty-minutes after everyone else.
And together we then sat for an hour and a half.
See…the attorneys were arguing in front of the Judge. Motions and such. All of which is a plaintiff or defendant’s right…except I’m not sure it should be done while 50 people sit for hours wondering what’s up. Those motions happened at the last second? Neither of the attorneys thought them up until just before jury selection, thereby forcing the potential jury to wait?
It is the arrogance that I have the problem with. The sense that the time of 50 potential jurors doesn’t mean dick squat, that those people – many of whom have taken time off from work – can wait as long as need be because, hey, they’re going to be here all day anyway so what’s it matter?
Eventually, we went to the courtroom and the Judge started. Instructions and a primer on how the legal system works, what he expects, etc. Then the attorneys started voir dire and it took me about 2.83 seconds to realize I wasn’t going to be on this jury.
The case was a personal injury accident.
That my department handled.
While I was on duty.
The main witness? The person who handled the accident?
My sergeant at the time.
I was dumbfounded. The woman who’d been such a nasty piece of work on the phone had known exactly what the case was, exactly what the witness list was, and – knowing I worked at that department – had demanded I come in anyway.
Look, I understand that there are procedures and policies, and chances are that many times, a deputy clerk cannot decide who is dismissed and who isn’t. But if that’s the case, then why tell potential jurors to fill out a form explaining why they should be dismissed? Either someone reads those questionnaires and makes a decision or those questionnaires are a waste of time.
Once I realized a bit about the case, I hoped my name was near the top of the list so that they’d call me early, I could explain the obvious conflict of interest, and get sent home.
Alas, number 49 of 50.
So it was my duty to sit for the better part of six hours, and hear the same questions repeated in infinite variations by three different lawyers and if there’d ever been a reason to smoke up a doobievich and get numb, that was it. Are you kidding me? Three lawyers? Asking the same question until your ears bled?
However, my elitism aside, there turned out to be an unexpected silver lining.
As I listened to how the questions got asked, rather than what was asked, I began to realize what had happened in this particular accident. I realized how the plaintiff’s attorney was going to go after the defendant, and how the defendant was going to ward off the blows.
That was wildly more interesting than I thought it’d be. I had expected the entire day to be boring as whale shit. I was thoroughly wrong.
But the problem with knowing just a touch of what happened is that it made me start asking questions. Defendant had been driving, plaintiffs were passengers. They were on a twisty bottom road. Came around a corner and a deer was standing in the road. Swerved to miss the deer. Crashed into a tree.
Then kicks in Mr. Cop Traffic Investigator. I’m looking at these three guys and my first thing is: why are these three hanging out? They didn’t feel ‘together,’ if that makes any sense. Usually, but not always, there is some obvious commonality to groups. Same age, same job, same hobby, same church, etc.
These guys had no apparent commonality. Different ages, different bearing, different attitude toward the Judge and jurors. All surface-level observations, admittedly, but just enough of a tell to get me wondering.
As the morning burned away, the plaintiffs’ attorney continually asked potential jurors what they thought of people who brought lawsuits for monetary damages, and what they thought of the right to choose their own doctor, and what they thought about going to a chiropractor rather than a medical doctor.
Which was an interesting pivot (we are in control of ourselves) away from his questions about the driver of a car being the “Captain” or “Commander” of the car (we are not in control of ourselves).
So my guess was that this crash took the two passengers to the insurance company’s doctor, who pronounced them fine. They then, over the objection of the insurance company, went to a chiropractic doctor, who diagnosed soft tissue injuries. They then went to a lawyer, who diagnosed probable monetary damages.
Now…I’ve handled numerous accidents where someone actually swerved to miss a deer. But I’ve also handled accidents where a deer was simply the reason give me for the crash because the truth would be more…uh…incriminating.
So I’m watching these three guys, and their limited interplay between each other, and I’m listening to the attorneys’ questions and the conclusions those point up, and thinking about that particular road and the time of the accident and by the lunch break, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it sussed out.
I’m pretty sure I know which bar they were coming from. I’m pretty sure I know which one was the drunkest.
I could be wrong about it all. Could be absolutely legitimate. They were driving, swerved around a deer, hit a tree.
Uh…yeah…don’t think so.
Ultimately, by three in the afternoon, the jury was selected and I never made it to the box. Had I, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made the cut.
See, the plaintiffs’ attorney kept asking if the potential jurors had a problem with this or that or the next thing. I would have loved the opportunity to say, “Well…I have a problem with drunk drivers,” just to see their reactions.
Just guessing, but I’m pretty sure that would have gotten me booted from the jury.
Judge might have yelled at me, too.