Sunday, April 22, 2007

Jury Duty

Charles Here.

Last week, for the first time in my life, I was called for jury duty. As soon as I told anyone, they were quick to point out ways I could get out of it, ranging from shouting my left-leaning political views to claiming I’m radioactive. But when I told people that I was looking forward to the experience, that I thought it was important and interesting, they all gave me this look – sort of like the one you’re giving me now – a cross between stunned surprise and contemptuous pity. Then they’d shake their heads and wonder why they ever talk to me.

So, cut to the jury selection. I’m one of 50 potential jurors and they weed us out, 21 at a time, with the remainder held over just in case. I was in the second set of 21. When the judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney finished with the first batch, they had just 5 jurors selected – I thought I had a great chance of being one of the 12 ( or one of the 6 alternates).

Our group takes our seats in the jury box and the questions begin. Do any of you know any police officers? A half-dozen hands go up, mine one of them. When it gets to me I explain that I’m a mystery writer and that in the course of researching and writing (and promoting) my books, I have meet and worked with dozens of police officers, FBI agents and law enforcement officials in other countries, but that I don’t know any local cops. They all nodded and the two attorneys took notes and then we were off to more questions.

Do you know the area where the crime took place? (yes, our first house was a few blocks away), Do you have views about the legalization of marijuana that run counter to the laws? (yes, but I can set those aside and judge the case on the merits of the evidence and the laws on the books), Can you hold the police officers who testify to the same standard you would hold any one, not more or less? (yes), Is there any reason why you should not be required to be on this jury? (no, when do we get started?).

Questions over, they made their cuts. I was the last one not selected.

The judge thanked us and sent us home, saying that we had completed our civic duty and that we wouldn’t be called again “for at least six years.”

I think I was the only disappointed person in the room.

1 comment:

Vicki Delany said...

I've always wanted to serve on a jury. Never been asked. As for you Charles, they were probably afraid that you'd be taking notes for the next book.