Thursday, November 5, 2009

And Justice For All

I don’t know what it is about jury duty, but sometimes I think my name is at the top of the list. It’s been a while now, but I have been called to jury duty at least six times. I have friends and relatives, lifelong local citizens, who have never been called. But I figure, like voting, it’s my civic duty to help out. I have only been selected to be on a jury three times. The first time, I was all of 22 years old and it was a six-man jury charged with determining if damages were due a young lady who had a bruise on her leg from a minor automobile accident of which she was not at fault. She was the prototype blonde bombshell bimbo, married to a minor league baseball player, and totally looked and acted the part. Marilyn Monroe herself couldn’t have done it better. The highlight of the trial was when the judge asked her to show the jury her bruise, which turned out to be on her upper thigh. When she stretched out her curvaceous leg and hitched up her dress, every man in the courtroom’s tongue fell out. Hell yes we awarded her damages. The poor little thing. The second time was un-notable, but the third jury hit a home run. This was a felony trial that could send a man to prison for a long time. It was a twelve-man jury. The charges: breaking and entering, forcible rape, and a few more I’ve forgotten. It was a mixed-bag jury, about 1/3 black women, the rest divided between a few white women and a few white and black men. The defendant and victim were both black. The young man was the ex-husband of the victim and the father of her child. The man testified that he was out of work, but had found a job in New Jersey where he could live with his sister and that he went over to his ex’s house the evening of the crime simply to say goodbye to his son before he left the next day. The woman testified that he broke into her apartment through the back window and accosted her by tying her hands to the bed and raping her from behind. (Her demonstration of the position was notable.) He claimed that he did not break into the home, even though the bedroom window was broken out and duct tape, with his fingerprint on it, was stuck to the broken glass laying on the ground (indicating pre-meditation). She claimed that he tied her to the bed, stripped her and raped her, even though she wasn’t actually tied, but hand-cuffed, and wearing a black lace teddy with the crotch cut out when the police arrived. The police also found a duplicate pair of cuffs hanging from the mirror in her car and other bondage accessories in the apartment. Neighbors reported that she was known to frequently entertain guests. To the young man’s credit, he never missed a child support payment and always got his son when it was his turn to have him. A complication in the relationship were actions initiated by him to gain custody of the boy claiming the mother an unfit parent. He wanted to take the boy to New Jersey with him and she refused. Apart from all the other stuff, there was no doubt that the guy broke into the apartment, the police had him dead to rights. He probably wanted to forcibly take his child, but got entangled with his ex and diverted by Mr. Happy. For me, it was a real conundrum. Guilty beyond doubt on at least one charge, a felony breaking and entering, but plenty of doubt on all the others. Certainly enough doubt not to send this otherwise good father to prison for 20 years under very questionable circumstances. I was startled out of my conundrum by the slap of the gavel as the judge charged the jury, appointed me foreman, and dismissed us to deliberate. We all sat around the table and I took my place at the head wondering what I was going to say, when one of the black ladies started in. In rapid succession she was joined by all the others and the white women, all of them hot under the collar, all of them talking at once, all of them saying the same thing… “dat little tramp should be the one going to jail.” “Try to send dat boy up for 20 years, and he be the father of her baby!” “I ain’t never seen nothin’ like it!” We men just looked at each other and smiled. The women kept at it. I called the bailiff and told him we were ready. The women kept at it. The men got up and went into the courtroom. The women were still at it. As the women filed into the courtroom they were silenced by the slap of the gavel as the judge called the court to order. The judge, reminiscent of Fred Gwynne in My Cousin Vinny, looked at his watch, and quizzically looked at me. “Twenty minutes?” He remarked. I squirmed under his gaze. After a pause, he continued, “Mr. Foreman, do you have a verdict?” “Yes, your honor,” I replied. “We find the defendant innocent of all charges.”


  1. An unenviable task. Neither I nor anyone I know has ever been summoned for jury duty, thank heavens.

  2. What a great experience. I have always wanted to be called for jury duty and reading the police blotter in the local paper, it won't be long 'til I'm sent for. I always fancied myself as the one hold out, me versus 11 angry men (or women). One of my favorite movies is Runaway Jury.

  3. I enjoyed it. The experience with the rape case actually gave me faith in the system. The guy was guilty of b&e but it wasn't something he should have gone to jail for, certainly not for rape. The black ladies would never have voted to convict him and the other jurors and me were more than willing to give the brother a break.

  4. Henry Fonda has nothing on you.

    I have been called twice and selected zero times. I blamed the jeans I was wearing.

  5. I've never been called but I reckon thats cuz even tho at the age of 53 I never hadda inch of political interest 'n therefore never registered to vote...altho I recently DID register 'n voted for the first time in my life but the ONLY reason I did so was to rid The Bowels of its incumbent crackhead (literally) mayor (which actually worked by the way and oh I was SO proud of myself yet I never stepped foot inside another votin' booth again) 'n that's the truth the whole truth 'n nuthin' but the truth so help me God.

  6. nice read. thanks for the grin.
    sharp header

  7. I love that all the sisters were standing up for the man. I bet that was a hilarious and eye opening experience.

  8. Of course my first thought when I started reading this was Twelve Angry Men. It appears that I am not the only old fart reading this who remembers that fine piece of cinema. This however, would be Several angry mixed sistas and a few speakless brothas and honky dudes (just kidding C...we know you aren't speechless).

    I have been called to jury duty once, and even though it would have been inconvenient for me, I would have served. However, I wasn't picked...too libural methinks.

    My wife has the same jury Karma as you. In the 13 years we've been married, she has been called 6 times, twice when she was pregnant, and served assault and battery case. Sent his ass to jail, she was his third the same bar! No deliberation with this one either.

  9. DonnaJean... you're next!
    Punch... glad to oblige, thanks for the compliment. I thought it turned out pretty good myself, if I may say so.
    Peach... yo, da sisters had me laughing out loud. I was all set to be serious and objective, afterall, a man's life was at stake... fuck that shit! Let's git down to whuts right.
    JJ... I forgot to mention that this guy had no previous record. weighed heavily in his favor. I believe he was a young man who's willie did the talking and that the little slut suck him off and sucked him in.

  10. hey Mr. C, it seems they always want ya to serve jury duty at the worst time and they don't pay ya enough to sit all those hours, so I'd always beg off! Enjoyed your jury tail!

  11. Oft called before I broke my neck but never chosen. sounds like justice was served at least in one case.

  12. WOW.
    Great post and hilarious insight. I've never been called.
    SIX times?
    That's gotta be some sorta record...

  13. Wow that sure blows my car accident for punitive damages case out of the water.

    I did get out of it the last time I was called for a case involving a small amount of marijuana and cocaine possession.

    When asked if I thought marijuana should be legalized, I replied "Wholeheartedly."

    Thank you, and good night folks.

  14. Bella... I had to beg off once myself. They scheduled it the same day as a job interview.
    WM... I would like to know how it turned out. Did the guy get the job, the kid, etc.
    JenJen... I believe if they call you and you show up you're automatically on the "preferred" list.
    Heidi... I was once excused by the defense when asked if I supported the death penalty. "Depends" was all it took.

  15. I have never been called for jury duty; my husband was called once, but no selected.

    That was a good story!

  16. Eva... glad you went back to catch this story. It really was an experience. I was expecting the whole thing to be very solemn and formal, not!


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