FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Swimming in the Jury Pool

by MISSY BEATTIE

“Bet you’re glad you’re in here today instead of court,“ he said, smiling. I braked in front of the Bucheron, not recognizing him immediately. When I’d seen him at the courthouse, he was wearing jeans. At the grocery, he was business attired.

I told him I was prepared to tell the judge and attorneys that I have no confidence in the justice system.  And then I said,  “But it’s an interesting case, and I wouldn’t have objected to sitting on that jury.”

We talked for at least 20 minutes.  About the civil case. His perspective. Mine. We weren’t told much, in court—just that the plaintiff, a young man, was suing Kennedy Krieger Institute for lead-paint damage.

I’ve never gotten as far as I did last week—you know, a decider of a litigant’s future. A little over a year ago, when I received a summons, I wrote a lengthy statement about why I should be exempted—that I was convicted of trespassing at the US Mission to the United Nations in 2006 (jury trial), that witnesses lied, and that I would side with the defendant almost always. Thought that would be the end of it. Silly me. The next correspondence was notification to be at the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse at 8:00, where I sat all day in a room without being called for a trial.

This time, I was seated in that same room, watching a video, waiting. An actor said something like: “With the exception of voting, jury service is the most important responsibility.”  I thought about turning to the person next to me to declare that jury duty, like voting, is participating in corruption. But the woman behind the desk spoke into the microphone, announcing that jurors with numbers between 6,000 and I can’t remember what (mine was 6,143) should go to another building.

During this walk, I was thinking about my new protest tactic—asking random people: “Do you know who Bradley Manning is?” And: “Have you heard about the Fallujah massacre?’ That it would be interesting to voir dire the judge and attorneys.

But there I sat, staring at a young man and his attorneys.  At the respondent’s attorneys.  The judge. But mostly at the young man.  Then the judge provided a little information about this civil case before he instructed the group. He said he’d ask a question and if any of us answered in the affirmative, he wanted each to stand and state our juror number.

“Are you or any member of your family in the medical profession?”

I stood. “Number 6,143.”

“Are your or any member of your family in the legal profession?”

I stood.  Again, I said that I was “juror number 6,143.”

“Have you or any member of your family worked for a landlord?”

“Have your or any member of your family owned rental property?”

“Have you or any member of your family worked for an insurance company?”

“Have you or any member of your family sued for lead-paint damages?”

“Have your or any member of your family sued for any health damages?

“Do you believe a witness would ever lie under oath?”

I was up and down, and I hesitated when the judge asked if the plaintiff’s race would affect judgment. I thought about standing, knowing that the term “white privilege” would be unnecessary if we lived in a just society.

On and on the questions continued. And this wasn’t even voir dire.

Finally, it was.

The judge asked juror number 6,000 to approach. The lawyers huddled, talking with the juror and the judge.

I sat, watching the young plaintiff.  Then, looking at the respondent’s attorneys, the suits, representing Big Business.  I will tell you that without hearing a smidge of evidence (this, after all, was not the trial), I had formed an opinion.  Had someone told me about the case before I arrived, I would have formed an opinion.

The judge proceeded, calling number after number. He stopped with juror 6,139.

When we were dismissed, I asked one of the plaintiff’s attorneys for her card. “I’d like to call you in three weeks (yes, this was going to take a while) to learn the outcome.”

I told the man at the grocery I’d done this. He revealed that he worked for a company that rented low-income property.

“I couldn’t have served, conflict of interest, “ he said. Told me he’d have sided with the respondent.  Then he said, “And the plaintiff’s attorneys would have loved you.”

Missy Beattie can be reached at missybeat@gmail.com.

 

 

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

More articles by:
July 27, 2016
Richard Moser
The Party’s Over
John Eskow
The Loneliness of the American Leftist
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Humiliation Games: Notes on the Democratic Convention
Arun Gupta
Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Splinters Apart
M. G. Piety
Smoke and Mirrors in Philadelphia
Guillermo R. Gil
A Metaphoric Short Circuit: On Michelle Obama’s Speech at the DNC
Norman Pollack
Sanders, Our Tony Blair: A Defamation of Socialism
Claire Rater, Carol Spiegel and Jim Goodman
Consumers Can Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms
Guy D. Nave
Make America Great Again?
Sam Husseini
Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedienne
Dave Lindorff
No Crooked Sociopaths in the White House
Dan Bacher
The Hired Gun: Jerry Brown Snags Bruce Babbitt as New Point Man For Delta Tunnels
Peter Lee
Trumputin! And the DNC Leak(s)
David Macaray
Interns Are Exploited and Discriminated Against
Ann Garrison
Rwanda, the Clinton Dynasty, and the Case of Dr. Léopold Munyakazi
Brett Warnke
Storm Clouds Over Philly
Chris Zinda
Snakes of Deseret
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail