While sitting on the panel for jury selection today, there was a power failure, and they had to evacuate the entire courthouse. The huge delay wasn’t merely a case of getting the power back on, but all the time needed to get the jurors, court employees and lawyers back in and through the metal detectors. All in all, it was probably over an hour.
The “worst” part though was when our prospective jurors would gather in little groups, and everyone was wondering how things were going and who would be lucky enough to be dismiseed, they all would say to me, “Oh, you are definitely getting selected. Absolutely. No question. You’re the only one I’m sure of. You seem so fair. I know you're going to be chosen Oh, yes, I'm certain. Yes, I agree.” All I could say was, what did I do wrong? And alas…yes, I was selected on the jury. The trial is supposed to be two weeks, though the judge said he thought it should be shorter. So, I am now officially Mr. Juror.
After the main 12 jurors were selected (and commiserating at having to serve…), the court then had to pick the two alternates. They called five more people, and after a just few question the lawyers dismissed four of them! Four! The jurors who were already selected were sort of humorously grumbling at that. We’d been there for hours and hours and hours, answering tons of questions, and here are four out of five new people tossed off, just like that, within about 10-15 minutes. I decided to throw caution to the wind and add some levity, and shouted out to the judge (who’s a great guy…), “Can I change my answers?!!!” Happily, the courtroom burst into laughter, including (most-especially happily) the judge.
There’s a court clerk who, when she first met us in the hallway, said that because of budget cutbacks, she has to do this additional job and added that she’s not very good at it. She’s quite nice and very thoughtful, and – she’s right, she’s not good at all at this other job she’s now got to do. Awkward, lost sometimes and stumbling. But the odd thing is, this new job that she admitted to be lousy at…and I swear I’m not exaggerating… is basically calling roll! Really. But she’s pleasant, we like her, so it’s sort of adorable. But I have no idea what’s so hard about it.
The trial starts tomorrow in full. Today, we got the plaintif’s opening statement. And now, by order of the judge, I have to go into silent mode. More later.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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