Friday, August 1, 2008
Place: Atlanta, GA
This story is just an excuse to show off some of my sketches.
I used to get called in for jury duty every year. I have yet to be selected for a jury. In 2003, I got my summons and showed up as instructed at 8:30 AM. I brought a Perry Mason novel and a sketchpad with me to help pass the time.
My past experience had been that I spent most of the time sitting in the general waiting area, then maybe I would get corralled with other potential jurors to a courtroom for possible selection. I never got picked and I was usually released and on my way home in time for lunch.
However, in 2003, I was not allowed to leave until 6:30 PM. I was given a sticker to wear on my shirt that elevated me from common juror to superior court juror. My fellow superior court jurors and I were taken to one courtroom and asked to wait. There were fifty of us in all and we were given numbers. I was number forty-eight. I figured there was no way in hell they’d ever reach me.
The case we were being selected for involved an overweight man who had gone to the hospital to have his stomach stapled. The procedure went fine, but according to the overweight man, he was treated so badly by the hospital staff after the surgery that he suffered permanent damage to his legs. So, the overweight man was suing the hospital.
Slowly, jurors were chosen, but they just couldn’t reach the magic number or twelve, much less the alternate jurors needed. The opposing lawyers kept asking us questions to test our bias, but they just couldn’t find the jurors they wanted.
At one point, more potential jurors were brought in. At another point, the guy sitting next to me, number forty-nine, was selected.
Some time during the process the judge mentioned that the case would take two weeks or more. Would anyone not be able to do two weeks? I raised my hand along with a couple of other folks. Only I was asked to come explain why I couldn’t do my civic duty in the judge’s chambers.
I went into judge’s chambers and explained to her, the opposing lawyers, the hospital representatives and the overweight man that I self-employed television producer. If I didn’t show up for work, then my clients hired someone else to replace me. So basically I would lose my job if I didn’t show up. The judge told me to go back and wait with the other jurors.
After many more hours of questions, all the unchosen jurors were asked to sit in the hallway. I had long finished my Perry Mason novel. Perry would have solved four cases in the time it took these folks to pick a jury. I continued to sketch, but I was running out of clean pages. Finally, somebody came out and told us that we could go home. I don’t know if they got a complete jury or if the overweight man won or just how close I came to sitting on that jury, and frankly, I don’t give a damn.