Cathy Hamilton: Jury duty lacks cinematic flair


— Just as I was wondering what to do with myself now that basketball season is over, I was called for jury duty. Again.

Let me state for the record that I don't mind fulfilling my civic responsibility. I consider it an honor, a privilege and only a minor pain in the butt. I mean that literally. The chairs in the jurors' box aren't exactly Barcaloungers, you know. (Oh, but what a fabulous idea! Note for courthouse suggestion box: Replace uncomfy chairs with leather recliners, preferably the ones with cup holders in the arms. Throw in some buckwheat neck pillows and chenille lap blankets. You'll have folks knocking your door down, begging to serve!) But I digress :

Here's my objection: I have been summoned for jury duty three times in the past 15 years while my husband has not been called once. Not once! Your Honor, I implore you: Where is the justice in that?

Obviously, I've been overruled. But, so help me God, all I'm trying to do is spread the jury duty joy.

The first time I received a summons in the mail, I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. A big fan of courtroom dramas on the silver screen, I couldn't wait to have a ringside seat for all the excitement. I looked forward to fiery exchanges between witness and prosecutor, like in "A Few Good Men":

"You want answers?"

"I think I'm entitled to them."

"You want answers?"

"I want the truth!"


I got goose bumps just thinking about it. And if the DA happened to look like Tom Cruise, so much the better.

Reporting promptly at the courthouse on my designated day, I was questioned briefly by counsel from both sides. To my surprise, I was selected to be one of 12 "peers" who would decide the fate of the defendant - a man accused of knocking a "friend" down a flight of stairs and stealing hundreds in cash from his wallet as he lay on the ground, unconscious. I was thrilled!

"Oooh, this will be good," I thought, wishing I had some buttered popcorn.

Minutes later, a decidedly un-Hollywood, fledgling attorney examined her first witness, reading questions in a monotonous voice from the legal pad she clutched in both hands. At that moment, I realized that courtroom dramas were, in reality, not very dramatic.

There was plenty of drama, however, in the deliberation room. While 11 of us believed the case to be open and shut - guilty on all counts - there was a lone dissenter. Adamantly arguing that we had not resolved the "reasonable doubt" issue in his mind, he must have fancied himself Juror No. 8 in "Twelve Angry Men," I thought.

Thirty-two hours later when he finally and suddenly relented (after a long and apparently revelatory trip to the men's room), I was convinced that what the guy felt most strongly about was getting out of work for a few days.

I'm 15 years older now and more realistic - more wary - about jury duty. I dread sitting for hours on end (my foot falls asleep), and I worry there won't be enough bathroom breaks. Missed work translates into long nights at the computer.

Then there's the little matter of my short-term memory. Did you know that note taking is not allowed in the jury box? Oh sure, you can refer to the transcript at the end of the trial but - hello! - I can't get through an ordinary day without my notepad. How am I supposed to remember who said what to whom about whose objections?

Still, when I called the jurors' hot line this week, I was disappointed to learn there were no trials on the docket. Hopefully, next week will be busier, my number will be called, and I'll be privy to some real courtroom drama.

And, if it pleases the court, someone will have taken my Barcalounger suggestion to heart, and counsel for the defense will be a dead ringer for Tom Cruise.


oldsage 9 years ago

Well soon with the price of everything going up the only affordable entertainment will be getting on a jury.


oldsage 9 years ago

There are some interesting things that go no over there. A year or two ago I had some time to kill before an appointment with another person in the courthouse so I went to the county court and watched a divorce. The hubby was there with his new honey and was represented by an attorney. The man's X to be was representing herself and frankly speaking it looked to me like he "done her wrong" but now days that doesn't matter. Although his attorney had been in the area for a long time I had never seen this fellow in action before. I did not see anything that attorney did or said that the man he was representing couldn't have done himself but when it came time to decide on the division of property the man's X "took it" shall we say again for the last time. What came to mind was that old saying that "you don't need just a good lawyer, you need a lawyer that knows the Judge." It was obvious to me that if I had any legal difficulty I would want that fumbling bumbling guy to be at my table and not the opposition's.

Informative and entertaining all at the same time!

I felt sorry for the X, but I am convinced that being rid of that guy would have been worth it at twice the price, and I hope she feels that way now.

I actually wish I had more time to go over there and watch.


whoyagonnacall 9 years ago

Isn't that just like you, native... Reap all the benefits of being born in this country (rights guaranteed by the constitution) but shuck all the duties and responsibilities that come with it. You sit here and complain on high about the faults of our criminal justice system but are willing to do nothing to assist. From "my neighbor is doing...but I'm not going to say anything because it's not my job" to "I don't want to serve jury duty because it is an inconvenince, blah blah blah."

Probably the second most important duty we have in this country to protect those rights you so dearly love is that of serving jury duty. Second only to raising arms and defending our country in time of attack/war. But you wouldn't do that either, I might add, would you? Our constitution is set to protect the rights of people against wrongful criminal convictions at the whim of the government. In order to do that, you must have a group of peers to sit in judgement and not soley the government. You also have to have citizens willing to get involved from the beginning by reporting criminal behavior. The police don't have eyes everywhere, contrary to your paranoid beliefs.

I have a plan for you though, I will gladly support your wish to have a "those that will serve" list and a "those that won't serve" list IF those on the "won't serve" list also voluntarily give up the rights that coincide with the many duties & responsibities of being a citizen of this great country.

What's that you say? "No, can't give up my right to sit, b*tch, & moan." Well, sir, then get off your duff and perform your duty to help the system work.


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