Much like Joseph Barcia here at The Grit, I also just finished up jury duty.
Go ahead and read his piece. I’ll wait.
I had a much shorter experience. I reported this Tuesday along with about 50 other folks in my county. Unlike everyone else, I wore a tie. I suspect this is why I was kicked off a jury.
It’s not false modesty when I say I dress casual. I like my jeans. I like my t-shirts. I do not like to dress formal, especially in the summer. Closed collar and necktie do not get along with summer in the South. I can’t make it work like Atticus Finch. I look more like Boss Hogg.
Still. It’s a courtroom. It’s the legal arena of our community. Leave the camo button-up at home. Same goes for the Harley-Davison t-shirt. I’m not talking about the womenfolk; I cannot speak about their styles. But my fellow men people need to step up. If I’m going to interact with a judge guarded by two armed bailiffs, I’m going to wear a tie.
But, as far as I can tell, it was the tie that got me excused from the jury.
(TRIVIA: About seven years ago, I was in this courtroom with my local community theatre. We performed a courtroom play here, using the attorney tables and the bench. We seated a jury from audience members each night, and they decided the guilt of the defendant. Their decision changed the ending of the play. I played the DA. It was the first time my parents saw me with a real job.)
After we answered a roll call, we watched a video explaining the legal process. Actually, we watched it twice because a straggler juror sashayed in halfway through the video. As soon as it finished playing the first time, the lead bailiff explained that everyone had to watch it, it was the law, and he cranked it up again. (Almost literally. The video was on a VHS tape.) Those of us who brought books or crossword puzzles used them to kill time until the video ended again.
We lined up in groups of about thirty to swear on Bibles simultaneously. Two of us preferred another method of swearing in and did so. I could have done the same, but I don’t object to the use of the Bible. It’s like the word “God” on our coins. It’s ubiquitous to the point of losing all sanctity.
I was chosen as juror number nine for the first case, a legal dispute over a will. Once seated, we were asked to tell a little about ourselves to the judge, and we answered in order of juror selection. One juror volunteered he knew many of the parties in the case and was excused quickly. The prosecutor asked some questions in general and to specific members regarding our willingness to be objective. The first excused juror’s replacement commented that he would be uncomfortable hearing an estate case based on his personal experience. It was no surprise when the defending attorney excused him. But then he excused me as well, and that was a surprise.
I tried to be responsive to the questions without being overly demonstrative. I didn’t want to seem excited about the jury service, even though I was. I had a job to do, and I intended to handle it with as much solemnity as was practical. Still, I got yoinked, and I was disappointed.
The judge instructed us two rejects to call the courthouse phone number the next evening to see if our services were required. As I left, I quietly joked with the other that my tie disqualified me. And it truly may have only because it stood out. I don’t know. Maybe I should show up on Thursday in my pajamas, I said. But all the cases were settled before then, and my jury duty is all done did.
I was on a jury in South Carolina more than a decade ago. It was a simple assault case, and the defendant acted as his own attorney. He did himself no favors. So I’ve had my full jury experience, and in a county as small as mine, it’s likely I’ll have another before this decade is done.
Next time I’ll wear an ascot. I probably won’t even be let in the door.