Monday, October 01, 2012

Speaking of the first Monday in October ...

... it is, as all well-informed Americans know, when the United States Supreme Court begins its new season. As if by coincidence, it's the day I started jury duty.

My first experience sitting on a jury, also my last, was in 1986. I lived in Fairfax County, Virginia. I would show up every Monday for four or six weeks, I don't remember, and be interviewed by two attorneys when a case came up. If there was a case, we heard it then. If not, we'd go home. If it ran past Monday, we had to come back every weekday until it was resolved. The only time that happened was with an allegation of rape, when we were in session for three days. It ended in a stalemate, and the defendant was later found guilty on a lesser charge.

Two things surprised me about jury duty.

One was that, at least in Virginia, they treat you as honored guests. The hospitality room was very comfortable, and the people who worked there, even the guys with guns, were totally polite. The other surprise was the one that put to rest what every television courtroom drama since Perry Mason tries to convey. The center of attention in a courtroom is not the lawyers, but the jury.

Oh, yes, my friends! Other than who was on trial, the twelve of us were the central players in the entire drama. And the people with whom I shared the three-day experience were the most interesting group of professionals that you could imagine. This came in very handy for something to talk about other than the trial. For three days during that one trial, we shared a bond that was unbreakable. When it was over, I never saw or heard from any of them again.

I didn't have to report today for some reason, so I went to the doctor's appointment that I was originally going to cancel. But tomorrow it's official, the Circuit Court of the County of Arlington has summoned me. We can bring a laptop, an e-reader, or an iPod, but not a cellphone or an iPad. Don't ask me to explain it. I have a netbook I keep around for just this purpose.

I'll also take a decent book (or two) to read. I can catch up on my research, at least until I am called.

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