Tuesday, June 22, 2010
I JUST CAN'T DO IT!
It was with conflicted feelings that I opened a letter from the "powers that be" in Riverside County that advised me I was permanently excused from jury duty. It would have been nice if the county had a cut-off age for jurors, so that people like me who have certain health problems that would make sitting on a jury extremely difficult wouldn't have to plead their case on an official request form.
I didn't much like having to put down in black and white the details of why the Miralax I take daily would cause a problem in the jury box; it would have been much less embarrassing for me to merely check the box that said simply "Too old to serve." However, what I wrote did the job, and I now am among those retired from work and also retired from jury duty.
I always wanted to serve on a jury, and Lord knows I was called enough times, but for one reason or another I was never selected. My first call came when I was 21 and very pregnant with my son Sean. The next call came when I was nursing my first daughter, Erin. With those children being 14 months apart in age, you can see that I am not kidding when I say my name as a potential juror came up almost yearly.
In the early days, we had to spend 10 days sitting in the courthouse waiting for our panel to be called. Later we only had to spend the first day in the courthouse and be near a phone for the rest of the time. In the 1980s a 6 p.m. call-in system was put in place where you only reported the next day if your panel number was on a recorded message. All through the decades I could count on a yearly summons for Jury duty. Rarely did I even make it out of the jury holding room, and the few times my panel was called, I was never chosen as a juror.
After I retired and moved to Loma Linda, I was called 4 times in the five years we lived there. And here in Riverside I also have been called regularly every August. Now I will never be called again. On the one hand I feel I am shirking my duty as a law-abiding citizen, and on the other hand I feel great relief (which is a funny way to phrase it, considering the Miralax!)
Those of you who know me are aware that I do not handle violence and gore well. So the only time I ever made it to the point of being questioned by the judge for suitability as a juror, it was for a murder trial. A young male teen was on trial as one of the accomplices to a brutal murder of one of his female classmates. Three boys under the age of 17 were involved, and they beat her to death with a log, raped her after her death and then chuffed her body down a well. Her body wasn't found for several days.
Not only could I not have been an impartial juror, much as I might want to try, but having to listen to all the stories and see all the pictures would have totally done me in. When it was my turn to be questioned by the judge, here's what I told him: "Your honor, I have always wanted to sit on a jury and I would try my best to be impartial, but I don't do violence and gore well." I went on to explain that I leave the room when violence is shown on TV. I don't watch National Geographic specials when they show animals in the wild, and I have my kids screen even PG-13 movies for me. I told him that seeing gore causes me to wake up in the night and not go back to sleep. I told him I was too old to go to a shrink to find out why I am so affected by this and didn't have the money to embark on a course of therapy to desensitive myself. I courteously asked to be excused.
The courtroom full of prospective jurors laughed at my plea, which was the effect I wanted, and so did the judge. I was excused.
But the really funny part of this story is that during the two days I was sitting in the courthouse waiting, I was reading a book called "Stiff, The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" by Mary Roach. Her book is exceptionally funny and does not have the kind violence and gore that so upsets me, so there was no conflict at all between what I stated in court and what I was reading. I will say this, though: I kept that book well hidden in a tote bag while I was in that courtroom waiting to make my case before the judge! I'm not sure he would have believed me if he had eyeballed that book.