Monday, November 22, 2010

Jury duty is de-liberating

“When you get in there, try not to sound too reasonable. We have Thanksgiving coming up,” my wife Kara advised.

I still held the phone in my hand, shaking my head. The automated message had just confirmed that I would not be going to work tomorrow. Instead, I’d be performing my civic duty down at the courthouse, even though I’d just recently voted, which seems like it should have earned me a civic duty bye for the rest of the year.

You’d think someone with a bald spot that recently earned its own caption on Google Earth would have some experience as a juror, but this summons is the first one that has ever actually forced me to show up somewhere. Everything I know about jury duty, I learned from watching Law and Order reruns.

If there is a male assistant district attorney, I can probably expect him to be replaced after the first season with increasingly attractive females. Also, I’m not expecting too much wisecracking, since most of that will have taken place in the first thirty minutes of the episode, probably in the presence of a corpse, several commercial breaks before I get there.

“A hammer lodged in his head? This guy really got nailed.” That’s the part I’m going to miss out on.

The timing of this summons seems awfully coincidental, as if the court system realizes how much more valuable I’ll be as a juror now that I’m a parent. The past seventeen months have seen a marked improvement in my ability to detect a guilty party. For instance, when the dog trotted into the room this morning wearing a hat made of French toast, I almost immediately knew who did it.

Incidentally, a dog will only wear a hat made of French toast if it (either the dog or the toast) has been properly slathered in syrup. Otherwise, the toast just bounces off her forehead. My son Evan might not yet realize that trying to look up at a tall person’s face will make him fall over backwards every time, but he does seem to have an advanced understanding of canine haberdashery.

I’m torn between my curiosity of wanting to learn how a court case actually works in real life and my longstanding affair with not doing extra stuff. My number has been called, though, so I suppose my preferences at this point are rather moot. If being a juror is actually as big of a drag as the general consensus seems to suggest, the best I can do tomorrow is show up and hope they find me as unreasonable as the people who’ve known me longer.

My most memorable brush with the criminal justice system to date occurred at a dinner party several years ago, where the person sitting next to me was a defense attorney. The sentence preceding this one sure started with a lot of potential, didn’t it? Sorry it didn’t end with me face down on a gravel road, taser clips sticking to my back while $100 bills quietly fluttered out of the ripped-open burlap sack a few feet away.

Anyway, from her descriptions, it sounded like she’d defended some pretty unsavory people.

“Does it make you uncomfortable defending someone you think might be guilty?” I asked, doe-eyed. Woodland creatures began peeking through the window, wondering if I might lead them in a song-and-dance number as we cleaned the kitchen after dinner. A bluebird landed on my shoulder, shook its head and chuckled, then flew off.

“Oh, Honey,” the defense attorney said, putting her hand on mine and turning to me as if she were explaining the world to a four-year-old. “They’re all guilty.”

Come to think of it, that might be a good story to bring up tomorrow.

You can tell Mike Todd the truth and nothing but the truth at

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