I was recently summoned for jury duty. I hate to be summoned, to the principal’s office, by Selective Service, or at a bar by a guy twice my size who’s waiting in the alley.
The next words that follow a summons are usually “or else.” My jury summons advised me that if I didn’t show up, I might be sanctioned by the court. I hate to be sanctioned. By anyone for any reason.
I went online to see what I was not supposed to bring with me to the courthouse since everyone would go through the standard security screening upon entering. I was fascinated to learn about all the items that the Superior Court of Arizona did not want to see on or about my person. I was specifically discouraged from bringing guns and ammunition, bicycle chains, batons, darts, handcuffs, railroad spikes, blackjacks, daggers, ice picks, horseshoes, ninja pins or throwing stars. I couldn’t even bring my own spurs! How did they expect Arizona cowboys to transport themselves to the halls of justice without spurs? They didn’t say I couldn’t bring a Yellow-Bellied Toad with me – but I didn’t have the courage to try it.
And further, I thought since we were all to be in the company of an alleged criminal about to go on trial, we should be able to arrive with all the holstered, sheathed and scabbarded weapons we could muster for self-protection. I was seriously wrong.
My drive to the courthouse that morning was spent preparing for the deliberation room once we jurists had heard the evidence. I knew I wanted to be authoritative and decisive. If we determined guilt for the defendant, I’d declare “Hang the flea-bitten varmint!” “Keelhaul the crusty squiddie!” “Roast his unholy hide!” If the poor soul were adjudged innocent, well, the drive wasn’t long enough to practice my best not- guilty chants.
I was to appear by 8:15 at the Prescott courthouse on Thursday morning. I did. Along with 84 other citizens. In groups, we were herded from the jury assembly room into the courtroom and back to the assembly room two or three times as our numbers were whittled down by disqualifying questions from the judge.
My military training, even though it was almost 50 years ago, prepared me for my day at the courthouse. Of the six and a half hours that I spent there, probably five hours were consumed with waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more. And the longer I waited, the greater my feeling that, once again, I was to be rejected by the slowly grinding wheels of our legal system. And that’s exactly what happened. Those wheels spat me out into the street with a tepid “thank you” for participating.
I’ve probably been “invited” by municipal courts a dozen times over my several decades on this particular planet. But despite all those courtrooms that said they wanted to share a day with me, none selected me to serve on an actual jury. And that’s been a disappointment. Was it something I said? Something I did?
To further argue my case, I’ve amassed a lot of courtroom experience reading legal and police mysteries. I like novelists such as Philip Margolin, John Grisham, Michael Connelly, Robert Tanenbaum and Stuart Woods. I even partnered up with Perry Mason and Matlock in trying scores of criminal cases on TV. Despite my extensive fictional credentials in jurisprudence, I’ve never been in a real-life courtroom situation.
Someday, they’ll want me on the jury. But my chronological clock says they’d better be damned quick about it!
To comment on this column, email email@example.com.