They got me. After years of evasion, including several name and address changes, fake social security numbers, and 4 years of college just so that I could qualify for the student exemption, they found me. I shouldn’t have been so surprised. No one can escape from…Jury Duty! (queue evil foreboding organ music]
I spent a few hours trying to think of ways to get declared exempt, which has become increasingly difficult in the NYC court system. With my job and education, I couldn’t get the language exemption, and I’m not over 75 or whatever that age rule applies [there is no age limit for jury duty, but those over a certain age have the choice of declining]. I tried making a helmet out of foil and wearing my shoes and shirt the wrong way and taping a plastic parrot onto my shoulder, but in NYC, I realized that I would pass more for a hipster from the East Village than for my intended mentally-disabled exempt-ee. Deflated, I just sucked it up and went to Queens County Criminal Court to start what would be a long day, finding some solace in my paid reprieve from work.
The first day was long and boring…200 people spending all day in a room waiting to be assigned to a case. Once that happens, the pool of jurors for a specific case get sent to a court room to be questioned by the judge and the attorneys (in a criminal case, the attorneys would be a defense lawyer and an assistant district attorney). There were so many jurors that my turn to be questioned didn’t come until 4pm the NEXT DAY (I came early the next day and waited..and waited…). Finally, selection was over. I was the last juror picked.
[quick sidebar: during the first day of jury selection i was sitting behind an annoying woman who kept trying to make converation with everyone, except that she was rude and loud and no one wanted to talk to her. Everytime the lady in charge would excuse people who claimed that their english wasnt good enough for jury duty, this lady would slap her knees and bitch about how “these immigrants are disgusting! they come here and dont wanna learn the language. They spit on our great country and we have to clean up after them! Bla bla bla bla bla, I’m a whore, a lousy wretched whore!” At least that’s how I remember it. I shot spitballs into her hair all morning.]
Jury selection was brutal. But then the case began. And contrary to what both lawyers said to us during opening statements, the next few days actually did play out a lot like an episode of Law & Order. (I’m pitching a new idea to NBC…seeing since Law & Order has so many versions on TV already, I have begun writing a script for the latest volume – Law & Order: Pissed Off Jurors. Starring myself of course. Open auditions next week for the role of sassy Court Officer.)
The case sounded boring at first – the defendant was indicted on the charge of bail jumping, a class E felony. During trial, however, it was revealed that the defendant violated her bail not just for missing one court date, but by trying to jump ship so as to never show up at all; the defendant was brought into custody 8 months after the bench warrant for her arrest was issued. And while the exact nature of her original charges were not specified (due to the hard-fought wins of the defense during pre-trial motions to suppress that information for fear of prejudicing the jurors), it was revealed during witness testimony that there were no less than 8 counts brought against her, a number of them felonies.
The drama reached a climax when the ADA was conducting her direct examination of the former attorney of the defendant. That was a risky call because her own witness, as a former representative of the defendant, had motive to be hostile and withhold information on the grounds of attorney-client privilege. And hostile she was, though she proved no match for the ADA in the battle to see who could get the most flustered. The ADA got so hot n bothered by the countless sustained objections and the obviously fabricated ignorance of the witness that she looked as if she might, at any second, charge the box and ninja kick her in the face (I was hoping she would; I noticed that the court officer had a taser handy). Instead, she resorted to yelling over the calls from the judge to cease her improper line of questioning, and after being reprimanded by the judge for her lack of self-control, she unleashed the soliloquy of all soliloquies, explaining to the judge that we were all here to find the truth but no one could handle it, and how this was supposed to be about justice but she’s not being allowed to ask the questions she needs to ask…basically blaming the court for everything short of ozone depletion just because she couldn’t figure out how to properly phrase her questions. She even turned around and started yelling at the trial spectators, and asked the judge to throw them out because of their constant snickering (they were laughing at her). I felt really embarrassed for her, but I couldn’t help but feel excited by all the drama. As a fellow juror put it, “They put hot sauce on it today, boy!”
This is just about how it happened, more or less…
Yes. Jury duty was spicy.
I won’t dwell on the deliberation, but that part was exciting too and I took an active role in explaining to the other jurors the deductive approach we had to take in order to reach a fair verdict, as well as my personal opinions on the case. In other words, I used a stern tone and menacing glare (framed by my dark evil arab eyebrows) to render them my mental slaves and subsequently instructed them to find this chick GUILTY. It worked in swaying all but one of the holdouts who kept insisting that the judge had something against the defendant, forcing us to take another whole day to deliberate, locked up in that dreadful musty back room. I was pissed, but she would not relent, and we went back and forth.
She eventually had a change of heart. (I had a taser, too.)
The verdict? Jury duty is cool! I give it a rare “whatchu talkin ’bout Hasselhoff?” thumbs up.