Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My Civic Doodie

Jury duty. The old joke is that we are not judged by a jury of our peers, but by 12 people too dumb to get out of jury duty. And judging by my surroundings, not much has changed. Essex county's courthouse is much nicer than last time, when a huge cockroach marched through the metal detector before me. That was about 3 years ago. This building is new and shiny with graft, at least our money is going to something to improve the nature of our suffering during jury duty.

Coincidentally, "12 Angry Men" was just on cable. One of the great movies, and certainly in the top 5 for movies set in a single room. Oh, how we love Henry Fonda in his role as the one man who won't sentence the boy to death, because of reasonable doubt. The rest of the jury want to go home, led by Lee J. Cobb and Jack Ward, who either want to see the kid fry or would rather be watching the game. One by one, Fonda turns them to his side or breaks them down to reveal their prejudices. What a shining beacon of American decency. How we worship him when we discuss this movie! Then we get called to jury duty and turn into Jack Ward (the coach from the Bad News Bears sequels) and would rather let someone languish in pound-me-in-the-ass prison than miss a few days of work. "Fonda, you sucker. Why didn't you get out of jury duty? Don't you know anyone, any neighbors on Golden Pond, or maybe some connections from the dozen times you played the president?

Recently someone I know was berated in the state newspaper by the judge for trying to get out of jury duty. He's a manager for a defense contractor. The judge called him unpatriotic and named the company he works for, wgho make parts for jet planes. He tried to say he was too busy, judges don't like to hear that. You're supposed to put your civic duty first, and get your $5 and cup of coffee from the magnanimous state for your trouble. It's supposed to be an honor and a privilege to be a part of the justice process, at least when you're pitching and not catching. Oddly enough one of the easiest ways out of jury duty is to be convicted of a crime. Or be a judge, then at least you get nifty robes, and I assume, more than $5 a day.

Right now I'm waiting to see the info movie on their Sony flat screens so I can go try some of the county's free coffee. And maybe a donut if I'm lucky. No wonder people get convicted so often, its only been 30 minutes and I'm ready to hang an orphan for spitting in the street. Sorry Oliver, I didn't get my coffee.

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