My sister is on jury duty and it reminded me of my most memorable jury duty service. Most people hope to get on an interesting case but for me that would be too much pressure. I just wanted a nice little car wreck or contested speeding ticket and even the stress of either of those two situations would surely be unbearable for me. I don't like conflict which I know sounds strange coming from someone who has worked for law firms for nearly twenty years but I have always had a knack for mentally and emotionally separating myself from situations that make me uncomfortable. The work is just work. It's not personal.
So, there I was in the jury room on this capital murder case. Yep, the biggie. There would be no separating myself mentally or emotionally from this case. My only hope was to piss off the attorneys so much that they wouldn't want me. Usually, just saying you work in a law firm is enough to get stricken as a prospective juror because both sides think you will be biased depending on whether you do defense or plaintiff work. I was fully prepared to tell the attorneys during jury selection that not only was I biased as hell, but I was also an extremely volatile and unreasonable person. It was going to take some fancy footwork and fine acting skills but I was ready.
The attorneys came into the courtroom and began to tell us about the case. An auctioneer was followed home from an auction, shot in the driveway of his home and robbed. I remembered reading about it in the newspaper and seeing it on television. Great. That would surely get me off of this jury because I knew it would be a question the attorneys would ask the panel. Problem was, when they asked the question, everyone on the panel had either read about the murder or had seen it on the news. Damn.
The next thing the defense attorney did was quite odd. He said, "I'm going to bring the defendant out for everyone to meet. Then, I'm going to ask you if you can be unbiased in this case." Here was my big break, a simple yes or no question and I was out of there. Then, they brought out the defendant. This guy was a good six and a half feet tall and by far the scariest looking man I had ever seen. He actually glared at us one by one, daring us to convict him with his eyes.
The attorney went to each juror and asked, "Can you be unbiased in this case? Will you give this man a fair trial?" Some said yes and some said no. When he got to me, I said, "Yes. I will be unbiased," all the while knowing that I was going to send that guy so far up the river, he'd never find his way back. I know that's horrible and I know God will have a long talk with me (after my no doubt lengthy stay in purgatory) for pre-convicting this man, before hearing any testimony, based only on his appearance and his hateful eyes.
I got picked on the jury and we were taken into the jury room to wait for the case to start. We had sat there about ten minutes when the bailiff came in and said the defendant made a plea bargain and we were free to go. Someone asked what the plea was and the bailiff told us the defendant pled to 99 years with no possibility of parole. That was his plea bargain. That was the deal he made, 99 years. I have a feeling he was pretty damn guilty.