Some lotteries you don’t want to win. I’m sitting here, sore butt on a wooden end table in a room packed with everyday people just like me and you, hoping my number, twenty-seven, seventy five, doesn’t get called. It’s barely 9 and my quadruple shot of espresso Americano hasn’t kicked in. Yet.
We’re crammed like rush-hour commuters on a Manhattan subway into a Denver County administrative room on a blue sky Monday morning for the dreaded: jury duty. There’s a clerk calling out numbers—assigned to each of the 400 or so potential jurors—like we’re playing bingo.
Pretty much everybody has that “My busy daily schedule is certainly too important to be called into this civic duty” look in their eyes. If you’ve never seen that glare, trust me, it’s pretty obvious.
Trial by jury is a constitutional right, one that allows any person arrested for a crime to be judged by a pool of his or her peers. Still, few seem excited at the prospect of this particular responsibility.
As we waited in line to enter the room a little earlier, a twenty-something woman standing in front of me bemoaned showing up today. She’d actually missed her original call date a few weeks back, and had hoped
to pay a fine to get out of showing up this day. No luck.
It’s probably a good thing that the court doesn’t allow us to buy our way out of coming in. There might be a shortage on full jury pools if, say, paying a $35 fine meant you could sleep in a little while longer. I pay more each time I park illegally in Boulder and Denver.
As much as I feel the need to be in the office on this day, I get that it is my civic duty to be here. There could be an innocent man in need of an unbiased group of six or 12 county residents to help keep him free. Or perhaps society needs one of us to put a violent sex offender behind bars. I don’t really want to be the one deciding these fates, but if called I will do the right thing.
Phew, that was close. Every 30 minutes or so, the clerk announces herself on the microphone, ready to call out another batch. Now it’s a waiting game. If I can make it until noon without them calling twenty-seven, seventy-five, I can go home for the day. Or in this case, back to work.
While my fingers are crossed that I won’t be called into duty, thus inconveniencing me for another few hours, it’s pretty nice to know we have this process. I know if I were ever wrongly accused of a crime (and it would be a mistake, I swear) or in the middle of a contentious lawsuit, I’d want an open mind giving me a fair shake.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been released for the day.
Three-and-a-half hours later, the last hundred or so who hadn’t been picked were set free. The coffee was bad, the sitting arrangements fit for a caveman and the WiFi signal was password protected—Denver County
certainly could improve the conditions for potential jury members.
So yeah, the experience was a big pain in the butt, perhaps even more uncomfortable than the pine that served as my seat for the first hour or so of the day. But it’s worth it, knowing that trial by jury is a U.S. right—I’ll be ready for it when my name gets drawn again in 2009 or beyond, even if I don’t want to win this lottery.