FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Swimming in the Jury Pool

“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.

 

 

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail