"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, January 24, 2011

This could be a disaster

Tomorrow I have jury duty. There, I've said it.

It will be my first call back to jury duty since about 1995. I remember because my son, Marcus was in a pre-school near my house and every day I spent my lunch hour rushing from my job at Raytheon in Fullerton, back to Placentia to pick him up and take him to his babysitter's house in La Mirada. Fullerton to Placentia is 7 miles. Placentia to La Mirada is about 12. La Mirada to Fullerton is 5.

I'm exhausted just reading that.

So maybe I wasn't in the best frame of mind when they called me to the jury box and started asking all those questions that sound so mundane when you're watching the At-Home Game on Court TV, but suddenly make your hair stand on end and your blood run cold when you're in front of the judge in the bright, harsh lighting of a real courtroom.

At the time, they wouldn't tell us the exact crime, but they were asking questions like, "Have you ever had any contact with gangs", "Do you think someone is responsible for his actions when he is under the influence of drugs or alcohol", and the trifecta, "Have you ever been a witness to or otherwise involved with a drive-by shooting?"

If you can't do the math here, please don't ever open a checking account. You'll never get it balanced.

This was my first potential trial. I was, and remain, a civic-minded person who wants to do her share to uphold this country's justice system. That being said:

1. I didn't want my first trial to be a gangland murder. Couldn't I start with a bar fight? Drunk driving? Anything smaller?

2. The defendant was in the courtroom. He was a young white guy, mostly unwashed and oily, wearing a very bad polyester suit. All I kept thinking was, "He looks guilty and DEAR GOD HE'S LOOKING AT US LOOK AWAY LOOK AWAY."

I was not going to make a good juror, yet the defense kept asking me questions that seemed designed to keep me. Perhaps they thought I'd be a soft touch. I tried all the usual. I told them I was an engineer. They usually don't like engineers because of our no-exceptions, black-and-white view of the universe.

Didn't work.

I told them about my son's school-to-daycare predicament. The judge said he'd allow two hours for lunch in order to accommodate me.

What a nice guy.

Then the defense attorney asked me the worst question ever: "Do you think you'd be capable of rendering a fair, unbiased judgment on this case?"

I wanted to set her straight. "Absolutely not. I think he's guilty and I haven't even heard the evidence."

Okay, even I know better than to do this in the courtroom. So all I could say was, "I don't know. I've never done this before."

"Well could you try?"

"I don't know. If I try and don't succeed, then it was all pretty useless."

This little statement led to a round between me and the judge about trying and doing and all of that Zenmaster Yoda stuff that the judge apparently hated. After about ten minutes, he told me, "You're excused." Only he said it as if I was excused With Prejudice and Don't Ever Darken My Door Again.

And that was the last time I was ever called, until this year.

So I promise to be good, but I don't know what I'll do if I get called on another gangsta trial. I'm hoping that no one will want me if they know I write murder mysteries or humor columns, but who knows?

If I get in trouble with the next judge, will you visit me in the slammer?


dino martin peters said...

Miss Gayle Carline...are you aware of this...

Best to you my friend...

Gayle Carline said...

Yes, Mr. Peters. I actually submitted my query for fun. The site is designed to be snarky and pick at every little thing, but I could get behind some of the comments. I just don't have the heart to tell them all that, based on this query, two agents requested the full manuscript. As they say, one man's meat is another man's poison!

dino martin peters said...

Miss Gayle Carline, two agents...cool...certainly our Dino works in mysterious ways...keeps lovin' our Dino....

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