And The Jury Is Out

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I had jury duty last week. It worried me.

Do you remember the first time you got summoned for jury duty? This wasn’t my first time. It was my fourth time. Actually, I wasn’t surprised by the notice. I selected the third week in February last November when I opted for my one-time deferral after receiving the original summons back then. I was a high number (meaning a lower chance of being called), but given my schedule I couldn’t risk it. So I deferred.

My position as an elected official (on the Mendon Town Board) provided me with an exemption the first time I received jury duty. They’ve since changed the law and now pretty much everyone has to serve. In the past, not only elected officials were exempted, but so was anyone with a professional certification or anyone who worked in the medical field. None of those exemptions exist anymore.

The second time I got called I actually showed up to the court house – Village Court in Honeoye Falls Village Hall. That was an odd thing since I am not a resident of the Village, and it wasn’t a Town case as those cases are heard in Town Court inside Town Hall.

The third time I got a very high number. I called in several consecutive days as instructed and was never needed.

This fourth time the number wasn’t as high, so you can see why I was worried I might actually have had to show up. It wasn’t that I couldn’t break away that week. It was the fear of having to sit on an extended trial. I have a very tight schedule and disturbing it would have repercussions (especially since a significant portion of that schedule includes filing mandatory government reports for my day job). I had no choice but to defer, knowing they’d probably assign me a low number, virtually guaranteeing I’d see my day in court.

The day finally came last Tuesday. I had a couple weeks’ notice, so that gave me a fortnight to build up my anxiety. As before, the actual week didn’t bother me. Well, really, just the first couple days of the week were clear. After that, things would begin to pile up, including an annual SEC filing that could not be late.

You could understand, then, why I didn’t get a wink of sleep Monday night. That’s how nervous I was.

Part of the nerves had to do with going downtown to the Monroe County Court Building. Sure, I didn’t like having to pay to park, but that didn’t make me anxious. Not knowing where to go did. Not knowing if they’d let me bring in my lunch (and bottle of Diet Pepsi) did. So did the whole idea of never having been this far in the process before; therefore, having to deal with the unknown.

We’re all a bit jumpy when it comes to the unknown.

So, like many of you, I strategized on the best way to get excused. I thought about emphasizing my journalism background.

I asked lots of people for their ideas. Some offered without my asking. One person said to tell them I was once an expert witness in a trial (I was) because that’s how they got excused. Another said to openly question either the veracity of the accused or the police before receiving any evidence (in my heart of hearts I couldn’t do that). Still another said to trumpet my belief in the death penalty (OK, that one might be possible, but it seems too harsh a statement to make out of the blue and, also, way too circumstantial).

These thoughts continued to percolate as I stood in line to be allowed entry.

It’s like the airport. I had to take my keys, my wallet, and my watch off. Oh, and then they told me to remove my belt. The last time I didn’t wear a belt with the pants I was wearing, they fell down. In public. During Mass. On Christmas Eve. (Thankfully at Sacred Heart in Orchard Park and not St. Catherine’s in Mendon.)

You could see why the whole thing made me anxious. Heck, I even wondered if my bottle of Diet Pepsi would explode going on the conveyor belt through the metal detector.

Well, it was a few left and right turns and we ended up in the receiving room. There we handed in our paperwork, watched a video, and listened to some official spout the usual New York State propaganda. The Court System is now run by the State, not the local municipalities. I don’t think that’s right. The propaganda certainly prejudiced my attitude. And that was before we even entered the courtroom.

Ah, the courtroom. That’s on the fourth floor. We had to take an elevator. There were about 75 people all going into the courtroom. That took several elevators. The courtroom itself was just barely big enough to hold us all. Through it all, I still couldn’t shake this “I want out” feeling.

But the judge shocked me. He wasn’t a mean, nasty, matter-of-fact, kind of judge you see on TV. No, he was a syrupy voiced almost school teacher kind of judge. He was there to teach us. Since I like to learn, he got my attention.

And I learned a lot. I was actually enjoying my “day off.” (N.B.: I don’t get days off, even when I take a day off because I still have to do the work I didn’t do that day. That means I have to do my day work at night. This complicated matters since I already have a full night-work schedule. I don’t get nights off, either, even when I take the night off to watch a movie. That means I have to do my night work the next day. You see where this is going…)

Finally, they started calling prospective jurors. I thought I’d get called first since my number was “A1.” No, they threw all the names in a box and pulled them out randomly like we were so many lottery numbers. I missed out on the first round of 21 (and their replacements). I didn’t want to get picked but I did want to get picked.

Then I noticed something new. I thought those picked would begin making excuses not to be there (you have plenty of legitimate opportunities to do that). No. Instead, they made every effort not to get kicked off the jury.

Maybe it was the Rob Lowe “Grinder” defense attorney who was quite entertaining (and did sort of look like and sound like Rob Lowe in that one-season TV show).

That made me sort of want to be picked in the next pool.

I wasn’t.

Just like any other raffle I’ve ever entered, my name wasn’t called.

The good news is that gave me some time to catch up on all that work I missed.

The bad news is I have to wait another eight years to get another chance.


  1. […] with a real live chance of your name being picked to serve? Read this week’s Carosa Commentary “And The Jury Is Out” to see what it is like both in advance of entering the courtroom and once you’re actually in […]

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