Jury Duty and the Boomer

Posted on October 11, 2011

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Some years ago, my next door neighbor, one of the many attorneys who outnumber real people in the DC area, casually informed me that there was a contract out on his life and that, because I still had a child at home, I should be on the lookout for anything of a suspicious nature on the street.  This might include a driver pointing a handgun out the window. 

I’ll admit I was too busy being convinced that guns were then being pointed at me from all directions to follow the exact details of the situation he outlined. But I did grasp that the attorney had been designated Guardian ad Litem for the children of a drug dealer and his attempting-to-get custody estranged wife.  The drug dealer, at that time incarcerated for doing nothing more than fulfilling his professional duties, then hired the services of a hit man to off his estranged wife, the judge, and the Guardian ad Litem.

Because no one exhibiting any suspicious activity was seen by me, and because I like to spend my time being busy thinking about things that won’t kill me, I tend to easily forget anything vaguely threatening or unpleasant.  Life went on.

Some months later, I was called up for jury duty, my first ever.  After sitting in a packed room all day and hearing the details of the case (I didn’t really listen, as I was too busy being annoyed that I had been called at all), we were told that 30 of us would be chosen to go into the courtroom and sit in the jury box.  Of those, 12 would be designated as the jury.  I was one of the 30.

In the courtroom, we were escorted into the jury box. A large board was held up with names.  We were told that if we knew anyone on the list, we should speak up and we would then be dismissed.  I was too busy thinking about all the things I should have been doing, instead.  Several people were dismissed. The pre-trial continued. Something started to permeate my out-of-courtroom thoughts.  Murder-for-hire, blah blah blah, child custody fight blah blah blah, drug dealer currently being incarcerated blah blah blah.  Things were started to sound awfully familiar, but I couldn’t place exactly why.  Then I looked again at the big board of names in front of my face.  Lo and behold, there was my next door neighbor’s name, big as life.

I panicked.  Clearly, I shouldn’t be there, but the time was up for being dismissed.  I had no idea what to do, other than to call upon the only courtroom phrase I could remember from TV dramas.  “Permission to approach the bench!” I yelled out.  The room got deathly quiet.  I didn’t speak again. “Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?” was the only other thing I could remember from TV, and I suspected that wasn’t appropriate at that moment.

Finally, the judge pointed to me and motioned me forward.  I came up and got about one half sentence into what I was sure would be my ticket out of judicial hell, when he held up his hand to stop me.  “Don’t say another word,” he said.  He motioned toward the prosecuting attorney, who came forward.  Then he motioned to the defense attorney, who also came up, bringing with him THE DEFENDANT.  Who stood RIGHT NEAR ME.  Who had recently PAID to have someone MURDER THREE PEOPLE.

“Now speak,” the judge said.  I considered how I might be able to tell my story without making the would-be killer angry at me.  Could I say that yes, I lived next door to the Guardian ad Litem but I didn’t really like him all that much and the whole murder-for-hire thing sounded sketchy anyway and the defendant really did look like a great guy and anyway, I was in the midst of packing to move about 10,000 miles out of the country and I would probably never come back to the US again?

Instead I told the truth.  The judge told me to take my seat in the jury box again.  The pre-trial continued.  Twenty minutes went by.  Mentally, I wrote my will and regretted never having slept with Steve Jacobs back in 1967.  Then I heard my name.  The judge announced that I was dismissed.  I slunk out.

The trial was big news.  The defendant was convicted.  My neighbor went on with his life, and I went on with mine.  I haven’t been called to jury duty again, but I have now memorized a lot of useful lines from TV dramas.  Just in case.

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Posted in: humor