The Second Day – Hopes of Dismissal Dashed

Upon hearing that I was selected to be on this jury, my mouth opened to say something, but no one else was objecting so I remained silent, if slightly stunned and disappointed. “Does living with a retired police officer mean nothing to you?! DO YOU KNOW HOW CLOSE I AM TO THE LAW???” I want to shout, but think better of it in case they ask me to name one thing Andy has ever mentioned about the police and I end up being at a complete loss. They might as well ask me what kind of car I drive. (Blue?) Instead I am filing into the Jury Room, whisked away from the rest of the people, and given a lanyard that says ‘JUROR’ on it in what might as well be big Comic Fucking Sans font.

From here on out, the jury room is where we will be confined – literally – except for lunch outside on our own in those first few days before deliberation. (Once deliberation begins we won’t be able to leave for anything.) We are not to speak to anyone else, and our tags are to indicate that no one is to speak around us either. (I’m totally wearing it to work and family events when this is over.) We are also not to discuss the case among ourselves until the actual time for deliberation comes at the end of the trial. This is an interesting conundrum for jury members, as the only thing we have in common is this damn case. As Madonna said in Truth or Dare, “It can get a little awkward.”

Luckily, this is a decent group so far (four women and myself), and we hit it off from the beginning. Before we can go any further, it’s time to break for lunch, and then the second selection round will begin. The weather has turned even more sour, with rain mixing in with the high winds. The promise of storms, made in the breezy night before, has come to fruition.

When we return to the jury room (escorted as always by our faithful steward/matron), we line up when we are called in. “Jurors Entering” one of the officers shouts, and the room is filled with standing people, including the judge. Apparently once we are sworn in as jurors, it is the custom of the court to rise when we enter the room. (This is another thing I’m going to try to implement at home and work when the trial is over. It’s so nice when people rise when you enter the room.)

During the prolonged jury selection process, I can focus on the little details and not think much about the defendant yet. I see the judge’s oral fixation on the pen in his mouth, and I am amused by the overzealous friendliness of our steward, who feels the need to alert us to her every bowel movement should we wonder why she is not stationed directly outside the jury room door at all times. These are whimsical observations, perhaps delaying the inevitable confrontation of what we are about to see and do.

During this second selection round, one of the prospective jurors is asked if she has served on a jury before. She replies in the affirmative and is questioned how it went. “It was a life-changing experience,” she says declaratively. The lawyer says she may be scaring the other jurors, but she quickly clarifies, “In a good way.” I am not convinced, and her words stay with me as I watch the defendant for the first time.

In this round, the lawyers hint at a video – one that captures the actual stabbing – but at this initial stage it is too early to mean much, and as they gloss over it, I do as well. I’m still struggling with the whole abstract idea of jury duty, with its requisite delays and stalls, hurry-up-and-waits, and reconciling that with something more serious. It is not until this moment that I notice the families in the front rows. This is when jury duty stops being a frivolous pain-in-the-ass exercise. The fates of two young men – one dead, and one standing before me – will find some sort of resolution in this room – and the enormity of that – the severity and gravity of that – is suddenly presented in all of its unforgiving light.

We file out when the second round of questioning is complete, returning to find that only four out of the 21 have been selected. There will be at least one more round of jury selection tomorrow, perhaps two. While others are disappointed that we’re not much closer to starting, I am thankful for the slight reprieve. I am not quite ready to do this.

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