Jury duty: honor or agony?
“Ask not what you can do for your country; ask if that really persistent hangnail qualifies you to deep-six the summons.” – JFK’s evil twin.
My 3-month stint in the circuit court jury pool has ended without my actually getting picked for a jury, and I’m deeply disappointed.
Googling the phrase “I hate jury duty,” I see that I and other high school civics geeks are in a distinct minority.
Because of childcare, traffic, and other considerations, many people feel unduly burdened by the time-honored tradition of being regarded as a toothless meth chemist’s “peer.” Methinks some protest too much. Just watch the juror who bellows, “The store can’t get along without me.” A year later you’ll run into him in the unemployment line, mouthing a more sheepish, “The office can’t get along without the 17-year-old Indian kid they hired to replace me.”
Some folks gripe about the very idea of being FORCED to do something, as they’re on their way to meet their personal trainer. Others think jury selection and presentation of evidence are tedious and deadly dull. Maybe the judges and attorneys could come up with some cooler questions, such as “Do you believe in rock and roll? Can music save your mortal soul? And can you teach me how to dance real slow?”
Some conscientious citizens hate the responsibility of passing judgment on others (unless you count those six motorists they gave “the finger” and condemned to the stygian depths on their way to the courthouse).
Some people have a hard time deciding whether ‘tis nobler to turn a petty thief loose on the world or give him 11 months and 29 days of free room and board. If only there were a third option, but the international Tar & Feathers cartel has made that prohibitively expensive.
Such reluctant potential jurors can come up with creative utterances for getting rejected by one side or another:
• “I wouldn’t care if he had killed my own MOTHER. I couldn’t make anyone wear those orange jumpsuits and pick up litter along the roadside. It’s a fashion abomination.”
• “Ruth Bader Ginsberg bet me $100 I couldn’t figure out a way to get this case appealed to the Supreme Court.”
• “I’ll swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; but the ritual must be consummated with a human sacrifice.”
I read one intriguing essay about copying the all-volunteer military model and replacing the current coercive jury system with a pool of professional jurors who actually WANT to decide cases. These jurors would be well-paid and pampered in many ways.
It’s worth considering, but I can see potential for corruption. Jurors will demand assistants for their assistant jurors, solicit bribes from high-powered gavel salesmen and threaten a hung jury unless a film critic can be flown in to compare and contrast the prosecution’s surveillance video and “The Blair Witch Project.”
Worse, jurors will start an escalation of pay by SPECIALIZING in areas of ignorance or fairness. “I don’t have an opinion on drive-by shootings.” “I’ve never known anyone who was involved in a fender bender.” “O.J.? Did he ever buy that white Bronco he was looking at?”
Inevitably, court systems will be bankrupted as they sponsor research to resurrect Sgt. Schultz from the “Hogan’s Heroes” TV show, in hopes of creating the nation’s ultimate jury foreman.
“I know nothing. NOTH-ing!!”
©2017 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Danny’s weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.