Please read Part I here. Or not.
Oh, man! I can’t believe it! I’m in a courtroom! Coughing!
We were led here by a bailiff who looks and sounds exactly like Maya Rudolph. That’s an omen of some sort. There are 18 of us, a good mix of age, race, and gender. Let’s see . . . yup, I’m the prettiest. Good! Or is it? Do they want the pretty ones? We’re sitting on benches off to the side of the jury stand. At the two tables sit two men each. Three are in suits except for a youngish guy, who is dressed casually. He must be the criminal, right?
At first we sit there, silent and terrified. Then one woman opens a book, and with audible sighs of relief, we’re all flipping through our reading material. THIS is The Quiet Room, except for one of the lawyers, who keeps going, “Hmm, hmm, hmm” in a descending scale. And the occasional Hacking Death Cough from that sweaty woman at the end.
We sit. And sit some more. Dang. I wish I’d eaten my donuts. I’m a bit congested, but I feel pretty certain that the greasy donut smell is beginning to penetrate the courtroom. So far, no one seems bothered by my coughing—still, I can’t help but fantasize that one of the lawyers will ask me if I have a cold and, upon receiving affirmation, promptly bark out, “DISMISSED!”
Finally the judge walks in and gets things started. Of the 18, 12 are (randomly, I assume) called to go sit in the official jury chairs. I’m one of them. Double dang! Will I ever get to eat my donuts? The judge explains that this case involves a workers compensation policy that the defendant claims never to have purchased. The insurance company is suing for $17,500. Now that I’m sitting across from the criminal . . . er, defendant, I can see that he looks exactly like my friend Andy. The plaintiff, on the other hand, is a boring old insurance guy. Guess what? I’ve already made up my mind!
But I’ve watched courtroom dramas, and I know jurors aren’t supposed to just leap up and say, “Your honor, I find for the defendant” so I stay put. The lawyers ask us a bunch of general questions about insurance, workers comp, our own employment situations. I’m torn. If I get picked, it could be kind of interesting. If I don’t get picked, I get to eat my donuts BUT I have to go back downstairs and wait to see if another judge needs more jurors.
Pretty quickly, 6 of us are chosen. I’m in! But 6? What kind of crazy courtroom is this? Oh, well. This jury of my peers is an interesting bunch: We have a Red Buttons lookalike who turns out to be a gymnastics instructor with steel rods in his legs, a 3d-grade teacher who looks like EVERY young, pretty 3d-grade teacher (and forces me to reevaluate who really is the prettiest of the group), a hot yet old construction worker (I’m guessing; he had that rugged, tan look), a woman with shellacked hair and a truly amazing Beadazzled denim ensemble, and a former firefighter who comes across as That Guy Who’s on Every Jury.
The trial begins. I listen carefully and try to be objective. But the defendant looks like Andy! How can I not vote for him? Andy’s lawyer is clearly superior to the plaintiff’s lawyer, who has a bad haircut and an ugly suit.
I only cough about 15 times.
After an hour, it’s finally time for lunch. Sandwiches and drinks are ordered for us to eat in our cute little jury room, and now I know how the O.J. jury felt. We’re told not to discuss the case until we’re ready to deliberate, so of course we all begin discussing the case.
“It’s clear that he never received the policy.”
“I thought he was very credible on the stand.”
“The plaintiff has no proof they ever sent the policy.”
“I can’t believe this even came to trial!”
“The insurance company has nothing.”
“The defendant looks exactly like my friend Andy.”
Phew. We’re all on the same page, even tho we have more testimony to get through. The others complain good-naturedly about our lunch, which makes me realize I’m wolfing down my turkey sandwich and chips at an unseemly rate. Someone wonders why we didn’t get any dessert, and I can feel the grease spots of my donut bag starting to seep through my purse. I have one and 3/4 donuts. Should I share? Should I just cavalierly eat my donut in front of everyone? I take a peek at the bag, and decide it just looks too disgusting to whip out. I can imagine Red Buttons saying, “What is that? Have you been dragging that greasy bag around all DAY?”
We’d been quiet and attentive and respectful before lunch, but now that we’d had a chance to talk and make fun of the plaintiff’s lawyer, we got a bit unruly. Red Buttons held out his notepad to me: “WHO CARES?” and “They’re trying to beat a dead horse!” Construction Guy, to my left, muttered, “The judge is pissed.” I can’t believe no one yelled, “Order in the court,” what with all the smirking, nudging, and eye-rolling that was going on. At one point I actually gave the thumbs-up sign to Andy.
By 3:00, even the court reporter way across the room could smell my donuts.
Finally, it’s time to deliberate. We’re told to review the materials, appoint a foreperson (Red Buttons, obviously), and mark our decision on the form provided. Five seconds later, Red Buttons pokes his head out to see if we’re supposed to wait or file back into the courtroom. Maya Rudolph comes in and whispers, “You’re done already? Wait here a few minutes!” Oops! We didn’t even try to make it look like we were deliberating.
The judge reads our verdict, and we smile triumphantly at Andy, who looks shyly pleased. The boring insurance guy is nowhere to be seen. I feel incredible! Justice has been served! By me! And it only took a few hours of my precious, precious time. My cough has disappeared, and I am on top of the world. The other jurors feel the same exhilaration. We don’t even know each others’ names, but we shared an incredible experience.
Maya Rudolph hands me the icing on the cake: $17.20, my earnings for the day. Don’t laugh! That’ll buy a lot of donuts.
(Note: Jury duty is a privilege. I make light of it here, but I do believe it’s an important service, and everyone, sick or not, should take their part. As for the case itself, trust me, based on the testimony, witnesses, and evidence, it truly was open-and-shut.)
(Another note: YES! I finally ate my donuts. Tho crumpled and relieved of most of their grease, they were delicious. They tasted like sweet, cinnamony justice.)