The entire time I was going through jury duty the one thing I wanted to do most was share every little detail about it. Not being able to talk about any of it only made that desire more profound. Plus everyone was so damn curious about the whole affair. It was quite a torturous situation to go through. And so I expected that the minute I was free and clear of any obligations to keep things to myself I’d be chattering everyone’s ears off about my thrilling adventures and flooding this blog with intriguing posts.
Here it is more than a week later and I find that it’s just about the last thing I want to dwell on. Part of me is still somewhat burnt out by the deliberation and trying to think beyond that is mentally exhausting such that I can’t even find motivation to prattle on about the more amusing aspects of my experience.
If I had to use one word to describe my service I’d say it was distasteful. I have a new understanding of the judicial system or perhaps it’s more accurate to say my lack of faith in it has reached a new low. I always knew it was a flawed system, but it’s the one we have and I respect that to the same extent I respect any of our laws whether I personally agree with them or not. None of that has changed, but I do see how utterly powerless the defendant is even though the law is on their side. I don’t ever want to be in that situation. I feel terribly cynical about the whole thing and I am not comforted by this fact.
Court cases are also nothing like I imagined. I realize now shows like Law & Order are more “crime fantasy” than “crime fiction.” I was never much a fan of the genre to begin with but now the very thought of reading a John Grisham novel or sitting through Runaway Jury makes my stomach turn. In truth, trials are hardly dramatic or even sort of interesting; they’re long and repetitive. If you’re lucky now and again there will be a tidbit of something new mixed in with the endless repetition. Of course, that happens so infrequently that by the time you realize there was something new you probably missed most of that information. Also, it’s not really about the facts1 and more about arguing semantics. Literally there was an entire afternoon spent trying to determine whether a person ran or walked after someone else. Yes, it was exactly as thrilling as you’d expect and no, I’m not exaggerating.
Oh, yeah, it’s also really boring. I don’t mean boring like sitting in the waiting room before your doctor’s appointment. I don’t mean boring like a meeting at work that manages to accomplish nothing. This is a boredom that transcends all other types of boredom. It’s a level of boredom that truly needs a word of its own. Honestly, I used to think I knew what boring was. I thought I had even experienced boredom a fair number of times in my life prior to jury service. I couldn’t possibly have been more wrong. See, the difference between all those other things we call “boring” and jury duty is an absence of activity. In any other situation that you might be bored in there is something to do even if that thing isn’t particularly interesting. Being bored as a juror does not come with that. It is pure mind-numbing boredom and nothing more.
That wouldn’t even be so unbearable if you had some idea of how long you’d be subjected to the engaging task of sitting around and waiting. We were told to arrive by such-and-such time and hours later we would still be waiting to go into the courtroom. Better yet we would have an allotted amount of time for a break and then spend at least that same amount in the jury room once we returned. Perhaps if we knew it was actually a three hour lunch we could have accomplished something, but it was always so ambiguous.
Being a juror is also a lot like being in kindergarten. Except there wasn’t any recess and we didn’t get nap or snack times. We were assigned seats and we did have to form ourselves into a line. Also, they took attendance and that included an actual roll call on at least two separate days. And, in case I’m not stressing this enough, there was a lot of repeating things. It was especially important to reiterate all of the rules to us. I guess we could have forgotten them what with all the fun we were having watching the second hand go around the clock face for hours at a time. The addition of finger-painting and macaroni art into jury service would likely prove beneficial.
The vast majority of people will never be a trial juror. Yet somehow the unpleasant aspects of being one have managed to permeate through to the masses such that it’s a rare person indeed that you would announce your receipt of a jury summons to that wouldn’t groan in sympathy at you. They might have sat through jury selection and think they know all about how tedious it was, but more than likely they can’t tell you more than that. Well, let me put your mind at ease, you don’t want to be on a jury. It’s not fun. Uschi has a vastly different opinion, but not only did she get a snack she also slept through a majority of the boring parts.
Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get around to those thrilling, intriguing, and amusing anecdotes sometime. I don’t know when that will be. Hopefully you’ll find it worth the wait.
- The only time the facts are a specific focus is during deliberation where the evidence is used to determine what the facts are by the jury. It’s only slightly more confusing and less interesting than it sounds. ↩