In 2013, I served on jury duty. A case of reckless driving with multiple charges and undercurrents of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, plain-clothes police teams, and a car chase. I didn’t mind the time and effort it took to be an engaged, committed juror. After all, I thought, if I was on trial I’d want a conscientious group of my peers, applying fair judgement, and undertaking their civic responsibility with gravitas, if not cheer.
I just received another summons for jury duty. This time, Grand Jury. I returned a brief survey back to the court: Am I a felon? No. A U. S. citizen? Yes. Do I reside full-time in my jurisdiction? Yes. Will my employer pay me during my time on jury duty? Uh. I’m a self-employed writer. I will pay myself the small stipend that comes with this civic duty.
A call to the clerk at the deferral office alerted me to my sentence. Yes, I could defer for two weeks but after that I should report, Monday-Friday at 8:30 a.m. for a month.
“Every day?” I asked incredulously.
“Yes,” she said pleasantly and with a hint of understanding of the hardship.
I conferred with friends and colleagues about discharge strategies.
“Act crazy,” one friend told me. “Talk real loud when they ask you questions, then stop in mid-sentence and ask: ‘where am I’?”
“I had a doctor’s note,” a member of my writing group offered, “for a condition (a, multi-syllable ailment with the suffix ‘Itis’) where I have to pee every half hour.”
“Tell them you believe in the death penalty, legalizing marijuana, public caning, Black Lives Matter; say you’re a Libertarian, a socialist, a member of the Tea Party. Just confuse them.”
I also received a variety of suggestions about escape wardrobe:
Grateful Dead t-shirt. A Burka. Layers of flowing clothing and various gem stones on my fingers—with a long earrings and a headscarf. Ah. I thought. The Gypsy strategy.
The most decisive (and illegal) advice came from my hair stylist. “Girl, just don’t go. Say, I didn’t receive a summons; mail gets lost all the time; I don’t know where it went, but it didn’t come here,” she cued up my defense.
But, I’m too chicken to try any of those things.
Plus there’s something in me that really wants to serve on a Grand Jury. I’m intrigued by the processes of our justice system. And, as a writer, a court environment is an observational treasure trove. So, my plan is to tough it out and serve with pragmatism. Be very present to my surroundings—the people, the locales, the dynamics; use the experience as a research tool. Listen for authentic language, observe the characteristics of human interaction, and be alert to new descriptors.
I’ll try to blog regularly about this experience. Stay tuned.