April 20th, 2009

Last Week
By James Castwell

The alarm wakes you. You're not used to one; been years since you needed to get up, drive forty-five minutes and be anywhere. Today you did just that. You got lucky, found a parking place right in front of the imposing building and before you knew it, were through the metal detectors and on your way down the official halls of justice.

You have ben invited, make that summoned, to serve your fellow brethren on jury duty. A clerk asks how many miles you had to drive then explains that the county only pays a set distance, a few miles short of yours. Oh well, big deal. On into the big main meeting room with the others in your 'pool'. A few nervous minutes drag by and then a lady informs you all that you will watch a twenty minutes of film on what it means to be a juror. This is not like C.S.I. or Law and Order, or Boston Legal either. This is the real thing. You had always wondered how it would be to actually hold someone's future in your hands. "Yikes," you think, "this is for keeps, real marbles, no do-overs." Then it dawns on you; you have no idea what the case is. Drug bust? Stealing a horse. Child molesting. Robbery. "Good grief, it could be anything; am I prepared to do this?"

Fifty of you have been chosen to be here this day. Twelve of that number, well, thirteen actually, one is added as an alternate juror, will be filtered out and take a seat in the boxed are on the left side of the walnut paneled court room. It takes nearly an hour of interrogation of you, the good and true. The chosen ones. Finally the D.A. and the defense Atty. are satisfied and you have won or lost as you may look at it; you are one of the thirteen sitting in the jury.

You have a nice soft cushion and arms on your swivel chair. An unobstructed view of the witness box, the lady judge, the lady prosecutor and the chunky defense attorney. Oh yes, then there are the two bailiffs standing stoically by the edges and then there is the bad guy, the defendant, you have a good view of him too. They all stand, everyone of them when things get going. Going that is right after a short opening by each attorney and an hour and a half lunch break.

You start to settle in to the task. Doubts and unknowns have been cleared away now. You are in it. There is the bad guy and here we go. You must make any decisions based only on what the judge will instruct and the evidence presented. You are told this will probably run three or four days. That will take you over the weekend. You will not be sequestered; you can go home.

It does. Monday morning finds you in your familiar end chair, second row in the back. You are the last one in and the first one out. Everyone in the whole room rises when you do so. This is big stuff. Pizza is delivered for a lunch, the county bought. You are in 'deliberations'. It takes your little group just three hours or so do agree, unanimously. Once, there was a question and we had to send a short note out to the judge which she answered directly.

One last time you file into the paneled chamber, all rise and the end draws near. The foreman is instructed to read the findings and does so. The judge 'poles' the jury. She asks each one by name how you found. "Ouch," you think. "There goes your name out loud in this matter. Oh well, it was the same for all the rest too." The bailiff motions you out and you lead the procession to the back of the court room and into the special jury room with the remains of the pizza lunch still on the center table.

There seems to be a 'hum' in the air a 'buzz' going around. "What's happening here. What's going on? Something is not right." You approach the bailiff as you are about to leave the jury room and ask if something is wrong. "Yes. We don't know where he is. When he heard the question in the note read, he must have decided that you all had found him guilty. Somehow he just slipped out. He's gone. No, we have no idea where he is."

So, this is how I spent last week; at least, most of it. ~ James Castwell

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Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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