Saturday, April 5, 2008

My Civic Responsibility, and How It Shamed Me

After postponing jury duty several times (once for Noah's birth, once for the tour, and another time for the tour extension), my time was up. I had to go in.

Back in Boston, I was called into jury duty one day, and during the wait I wrote three songs ("Normal," "Starfish" and "I'm a Moron," which were later featured on my albums) and then all the prospective jurors were sent home. I knew I couldn't hope for such a productive and legally uneventful day this time. But whereas last time, I was ready to be put on a jury and miss school, this time I needed to go home right away, as it was Wednesday and we had our Kids' Choice Awards show on Friday.

Those sadistic government folks demanded I be there at 7:30am. They hate joy. And probably ponies and puppies as well.

After several hours of boredom and guilty feelings that I was far too tired to write a song, my number was called. I had to join a panel. This required a few more hours of boredom in a hallway people cluster:

Around 2pm, this motley bunch of about thirty grumbling panelists was finally escorted into the courtroom. Every single one of us had our fingers crossed under our seats that we wouldn't be called up to the jury. Twelve people who weren't me scuttled to the front.

The case was explained to us. The defendant was accused of domestic violence towards his wife and small child. He was also charged with telling his wife not to call the police, which I didn't realize was even a crime ("Honey, I shrunk the kids. Don't tell the police." -- CRIMINAL!). The details were gruesome and the outlook was bleak for everyone involved. The kind and elderly judge ran us through a questionnaire, which basically asked if we could all be objective and not be swayed by our emotions. The twelve in the box said yes.

I thought, hell no. Dude looked guilty. Supremely guilty. Like wife-and-child-beating guilty. His head was in his hands. And his attorney was a superslimeball, while the prosecuting attorney was a warm sweetheart. This does not help my brittle impartiality.

You don't have to tell me. I realize these are superficial things. I'm aware of that. But guess who makes emotion-based decisions? *hand raises*

For one reason or another, several people in the box were let go: one person used to be a cop, one person barely understood English, another just seemed really stupid.

As each new person was called from our panel to replace the nixed ones, I tensed up and prayed they wouldn't call me. Over and over they didn't.

This continued for hours until there were only five of us left in the panel. My number was called.


I slunk up to the box and sat down. The judge asked me several questions about my background and then inquired if I had any objections that may prevent me from being impartial. I mentioned that I had a problem with the "innocent until proven guitly thing," as I had already made up my mind about who was guilty and I was going to have a very hard time being convinced otherwise. Fearing that I hadn't quite knocked it out of the park, I said that I have a real problem with domestic violence. (Of course, in retrospect, this is totally stupid. Who likes domestic violence? Who says, "I want a greek salad with red wine vinaigrette and a sprinkling of domestic violence?" or "Let's go out for dinner and a movie, and then we can come home and you can beat me?" Umm, no one. That's who. Dummy.)

The judge mercifully let me go. And while everything I said was completely true, as I walked out on my civic duty, I felt dirty.

Maybe one day I'll be called back in, when I don't have to work right away, and I can be a Righteous Crusader for Justice, slaying criminals with my brute lawfulness. Just not right now.

I avoided eye contact all the way out of the building.

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  1. I would recommend sitting on a jury at least once if you get the chance. It can be slow and boring, but it's also a very interesting experience. I once sat on a jury many years ago and was selected to be jury foreman despite being the youngest person on the jury by at least ten years. It was a very strange experience to sign my name to a document that put someone in jail.

    However, he deserved to be in jail, so I had no problem with it.

  2. Don't feel guilty...what you said was the truth and you already had your mind made up. That's why they're looking for neutral jurors. Sorry you had to go through such a long and convoluted process.

    I missed your entry about CTD and Marfans...glad you're ok!

  3. Two days after reading this entry, I got my first summons for jury duty!

  4. I just got my Jury summons on Monday. BOOOO.

    The last time I went (in 2001) I made enough money in 5-6 days of service to go see Coldplay - that was the upside.

    The downside? The super creepy dudes that were on trail for attempted murder - I remember them staring at me while the judge questioned me and made ME feel on trial... I was dismissed, long story short and I went home and cried to my mama.

  5. You bastard! How dare you walk away like that? I'm just kidding of course, as I do.

    I have often thought how charming the fact I'm not American prevents me from this hideousness.

    Cheers! Close call.