Let’s review. Your correspondent is the eleventh of thirteen jurors selected for a civil case and is seated in a fossilized chair from the Inquisition. During quiet moments, the hip screws in the juror to her right can be heard to ease out. It’s Day One. We assess our predicament.
The courtroom is presided over by a handsome judge. He is calm, clear, thorough, and altogether spiffy.
Also presiding, above him, on a ledge, is a plastic owl. A good one: no plastic rodents of any kind are observed.
The plaintiff is the only African-American man in the room. In a Portland jury composed primarily of white women in their thirties, this probably works in his favor. Unfortunately, he looks exactly like Clarence Thomas. So it might be a wash.
Right away, during opening arguments, I am experiencing a problem. Let’s go back to an earlier moment. I am awakened by an alarm clock I fired ten years ago, it’s completely dark outside, and I’m not going fishing. I make my way to the bus stop and am baffled and horrified by the number of citizens who are out and about without any assurance, other than force of solar habit, that daytime will arrive. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s sleepy as all get-out. Clearly, this is inhumane.
So now I am in the jury box for the next nine hours, and right away I am having trouble keeping my eyes open. It’s early in the case, and I’m sure I can catch up, but it is important that I look like I’m paying attention. This causes stress. My eyelids are threatening to snap shut audibly. If I close them, adopting a look of concentration, there is no guarantee I will not drool, also audibly. I am told this is confusing and alarming to spectators. So we have a situation. If you have ever found yourself falling asleep at the wheel, you will recall that even the imminent likelihood of turning yourself into paste on a bridge abutment is not sufficient to keep you awake. This is similar.
The good news is, things are lively in the jury room, during breaks. My fellow jurors seem to be unusually intelligent, interesting, and funny. We wasted no time in starting a pool as to the exact minute we’d be called back into the courtroom. Nobody guessed 1:37, and so the pool grows. You want odds? What are the odds you get thrown in with twelve other citizens from a random pool and you’re thinking you’d like to spend an evening playing Bananagrams with ALL of them? And might not even win?
You can’t count on this. I’ve been on a number of juries, and there is usually at least one member who has made his decision fifteen years ago, when that asshole did that thing that he’ll never forget or forgive. This case, and the conduct of his daily life, will all be run through that particular grinder of an incident and result in precisely the same hamburger every time. There will be another member who will skate right over Judge’s instructions and insist “I just know it, okay? I can tell.” A third will be sporting a fatal freight of aftershave.
|Blue Day. You thought I was kidding?|
This jury? Well. When the judge noted that two of us wore a lumberjack plaid one day (the odds of this, in Portland, are very high), we all decided to wear green the next. That had a diluted effect on account of the huge number of ways “green” can be interpreted, from “olive” to “forest” to “red check.” The next day we all wore black.
Now that was impressive, and duly noted from the bench. The jury box looked, depending on your point of view, like either an execution squad or a choir loft. For those with the sunnier interpretation, be it noted that a skeleton hanging from a gibbet showed up in the courtroom on the same day. Don’t mess with this jury, is what I’m saying.
We’re doing charades next week, Bianca’s bringing in donuts, and Martha brought enough gimp we should all be able to go home with a lanyard or key fob. Wednesday is Purple Day. Friday we deliberate.
I have no idea what we’ll decide. I’m confident justice will be served. This is one sharp jury. Which is why I’m looking forward to Thursday. That’s Skit Day.