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January 03, 2005

They Also Serve Who Sit And Read

Arrived at the county courthouse this morning just after 8:30 for jury service, which is just like jury duty except that the state tries to make you feel guilty for wanting to get out of it. I was somewhat nervous, in that the jury service notification letter--which I lost soon after receiving it--was very stern when it came to the subject of being late. Here it was 8:30, the appointed time for jury service, and the line to get in the courthouse stretched out the door.

Now, as answers go, "I was late for jury service" seems a very pallid one when one is asked by a tattooed gang banger what one is in for. It practically screams "girlfriend potential." So, in case of incarceration for being late to jury service I settled on "Littering, and creating a nuisance," as my special crime, reasoning that even the most hardened Crip has a soft spot for Arlo Guthrie. Doesn't everybody?

But as it turned out I had nothing to fear, as the line to register for jury service--on the 5th floor, just beside the courtroom wherein the SW and I got married, making me feel very romantical indeed, though it caused more than a few people to cast worried glances in the direction of my trousers--stretched out the door. I could have easily arrived at 9:15 without causing a stir, or at least, anymore of a stir.

"Man, he must really like jury duty."

When I finally found myself at the jury service registration window, I informed the lady within that I had lost my jury service notification letter, it being made of paper, and thus unimportant to me. Bits of paper are important to the wife, so I have delivered all of mine unto her for good keeping.

Of course, every now and then some bits gang agley before they make it into her possession, but just in case it was due to a failure on her part that my jury service letter went missing, I magnanimously told her that it was "ok," and "probably not her fault," before I left this morning. Best not to let her tear herself up about these things, I feel.

Various heavy sighs and eye-rolls later I was registered by the clerk, given a laminated red card reading "Juror," and directed to the waiting room. The room was characterized mainly by not having enough seats for all the potential jurors, so I found a convenient spot on the floor near a potted plant. There were a number of Bibles scattered around--they were used to swear us in, later--but no Korans or other third world holy books. One did have the option at the swearing in to "affirm" rather than swear and to not place one's hand on the Bible when the time came, but I chose the traditional ritual, figuring that a God who paid attention to such things would have reduced me to embers long ago.

A number of people did opt for the affirmation over the swearing. Most appeared to be single white ladies who probably would have chosen to live in Chapel Hill had they the money. I had spotted a Sikh gentleman in the crowd earlier, but was unable to spot him during the brief ceremony, so I cannot report on which option he chose.

After the swearing-in, or perhaps just prior to--I confess did not pay a great deal of attention to the process--we watched a video on jury service on two small televisions, each mounted 12 feet up on opposite walls. Perhaps the powers that be were worried that the jurors would attempt to change the channel on the televisions at some point, or--this being Durham--steal them outright. Below each was a sign, almost larger than the televisions themselves, informing us "Satellite Connection provided to jurors by the lawyers of Durham."

Fittingly, nothing was on either, at least not until the video began. It was hosted by Charles Kuralt, whom, as one of the few celebrities ever produced by North Carolina, was pressed into service for all sorts of state-related video productions until the shame of it all killed him back in 1997. All that's left to us now is Andy Griffith, and he's looking a bit peaked these days. There's always Clay Aiken, who will probably need the work in a few year's time anyway, but he doesn't possess the type of benign, avuncular presence projected by Kuralt and Griffith. Perhaps "fey" will be the all the rage in state-produced videos by the time we need him.

It'll be a nice change, at least.

Charles informed us at length about the North Carolina judicial system and the technology that supports it; dumb terminals and continuous-feed printers loaded with the green and white paper beloved by computer science majors of the early Eighties. The hollow "we are so screwed" chuckle that circulated through the crowd upon sight of the vaunted judicial technology was the highlight of the morning.

It was 10 o'clock before any of us were called. I wasn't one of them, though their departure did allow me to finally claim a chair of my own. I sat and read Chris Buckley's Florence of Arabia until 11, when we broke for lunch--for the next three hours.

"You need to be back here by two," the clerk informed us.

Ye gods, no wonder trials take so long. Though admittedly, I am getting a lot of reading in.

Posted by Bigwig at January 3, 2005 12:56 PM | TrackBack
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I found the jury notice today.

Posted by: SW at January 6, 2005 01:06 PM
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