The Second Day – Fingers Crossed for a Dismissal

Sitting with the potential juror pool, I am struck with something in the air: this particular cross-section of the Albany populace is largely unaware of how bad they smell. The barefoot woman beside me, with one naked foot up on her chair edge, is probably not helping. I am the only gentleman in a tie, in the hopeful event that I get dismissed early and have to go into work. Apparently the question of a dress code (and the far-too-lenient “casual” answer given yesterday) has been determined to consist of shorts, jeans, and T-shirts.

But back to the fumes. I think, even beyond my half-joking criticism of clothing, it is the scent of a person that I may most harshly judge. As someone who makes it a rule to smell as decently as possible, it is the most egregious act of effrontery to be confronted by someone who clearly doesn’t care or even know about the odor emanating from their person. This is especially trying when sitting in close proximity to one another. I mean, show a little respect for your fellow human beings.

Before I can make a fan out of notebook paper, we are called into the first round of jury selection, in the court room on the second floor. One smelly person is replaced by another as I file into the last row, sandwiched between two not-quite-offensive-but-certainly-not-pleasant-smelling people. I can barely make out the defendant and the lawyers. All I can smell are the two people flanking me, and it’s not good. The judge explains that this is a murder trial, and that jury selection will likely not be completed with this first round. I don’t know which is worse – being called up, or having to endure this stinky torture. I’ll get to find out soon enough, as I am the sixth or seventh person to be drawn from the wooden spinning wheel holding our names.

Okay, I tell myself as I make my way up to the front of the courtroom, it’s all okay. My shirt and tie notwithstanding (I totally should have gone for the head-dress), I still have an arsenal of jury-duty-escaping tactics, starting with a gay husband who’s a retired police officer and a family member who was once arrested. I gamely raise my hand when both issues come up, confident that both will surely be enough to get me instantly dismissed, not even thinking about the fact that they basically cancel each other out. Somehow, despite wishing against it, I have the feeling that I was meant to be on this jury, and that I will be chosen. It’s the way God has always played with me in the past, the way I put my head down in a vain effort to go unnoticed and unselected, and the way I always end up getting picked.

(When I mention, “My husband is a retired police officer” there is complete silence for what seems an interminable length of time. I initially thought it was only in my self-conscious head, but one of the lawyers later tells me that when I said it you could hear a pin drop in the courtroom. Oh Albany…)

After what seems an endless bit of poking and prodding by the judge and the lawyers, we are sent back out as they make their case for or against jurors. We have a brief break, so I walk down the street to the Hotel Albany lobby to read. The day is blustery, but it has not quite started to rain. Soon, it’s time to return, even though by this point I know we won’t begin for another half hour.

Forty-five minutes later I’m back in the jury box as they read off the selected jurors. Only five people were selected out of that first group of 21, and I allow myself a brief moment to enjoy the odds of being in the clear. And it is but a brief moment: the second name called out is mine. I will be Juror #2.

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