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Voyageur's Best Generally Speaking of 2005

Baby skunks

Don't bother me... I'm deliberating
Jury duty
by Cynthia Brekke  |  February 22, 2005

Most everyone won-ders when their number will be up. I’m not talking about death (although that’s even more inevitable), but jury duty. Yes, from the month of January until April 30th, I have the honor of doing my bit, doing my ‘duty’, by serving as a juror in Aitkin County. I can hear some of you snickering...

Lucky me, so I’ve been told, but if I was ever going to be picked for this service, I guess now is as good a time as any. I guess. At least now I get to find out what all the hoopla is about. Every time I tell someone I’m on jury duty, I hear the same intonation in their voices. I have a conspiracy theory: it must be something jurors practice when they’re alone... ‘Oh, lucky you!’ The way the sarcasm drips from their lips, followed by the sadistic chuckle, it has to be more than mere coincidence. Okay, it’s pure conjecture.

When the letter from the Aitkin County Court Administrator’s office first arrived, I had an instant feeling of dread. I’m not sure why. I’d already gotten a one-year reprieve from duty. I knew I was going to have to serve this year. I’ve had a whole year to ‘succumb’ to the idea, but I must admit that I was hoping they’d forget about me, but... They don’t forget.

My recent notice came. I was to report to the courthouse on Thursday, February 10, 2005, at promptly 9:00 a.m. ‘Me’ and ‘prompt’... now there’s an oxymoron. My alarm clock has developed a personality all its own. I set it for 5:00 a.m. and it goes off at 5:00 p.m., really. I have two witnesses who can testify to it. The only reliable clock I know of, besides the Atomic Clock, is my hubby. I could set my watch by him. He has a built-in alarm and just wakes up at the same time every morning.

I checked the pockets of the wool dress jacket I planned to wear. The Tic Tacs would have to stay home. My mind drifted off, like on the Expedia dot com T.V. commercials; a moment of silence in the courtroom broken by a container of orange Tic Tacs hitting the floor and rolling all over. I can picture myself in that situation. No Tic Tacs.

I was up until 12:30 a.m. deliberating. Next thing I knew, my alarm clock went off at 5:00 a.m., it must have overheard me say it was headed for the garbage can if it failed me. I pulled out of the driveway, in the crisp morning air, and made it to the courthouse a half an hour early. As I waited outside in the car, I saw other jurors arrive, some that I knew. Everyone circled the courthouse, looking for a parking spot (short supply there). Instead of the owl invasion, it was the juror invasion.

Seriously, the experience itself wasn’t bad. We trickled into the jury room, signed in and, a few minutes later, were asked to shut off and surrender our cell phones. Made sense. After a couple of movies regarding the history, importance, and the process of jury duty, we were taken to the court room where 15 people were pulled from the jury pool. I wasn’t one of the 15, so I sat and observed. It was a criminal case, so there was a defendant, the defending attorney, assistant county attorney, the judge, a bailiff, court stenographer and clerk. So far, T.V. was pretty accurate... I’d seen shows such as Matlock, Perry Mason, and Law & Order. In them, the juries are already chosen, and the viewer doesn’t usually get to see how. The process was interesting. Once the jury was seated, the judge called a 10 minute recess and those of us who were unpicked were free to leave. The judge had told all of us, in the beginning, not to feel badly if we weren’t chosen. I think I heard some heels click together in celebration as they headed for the door.

My ‘stint’ in the jury pool isn’t over, and it doesn’t really bother me that it isn’t. One of these times I’ll be seated on a jury, I suppose. It’s a little unsettling, only because it is a great responsibility, one I’m not sure I’m worthy of. I have to help decide if someone is guilty or not guilty... or in a civil case, who wins and who loses. It’s all in the jurors’ fair and impartial hands.

Well, in the meantime, I can pun around with the courtroom terms. If I don’t like something, “I OBJECT”; and if something is askew; “YOU’RE OUT OF ORDER”; or if I’ve lost or forgotten something and I’m getting the third degree, “I’M TAKING THE FIFTH ON THAT”. I can just see it now... The next time I’m ‘sequestered’ in the bathroom, practicing ‘Oh, lucky you’, and someone growls at the door, I’ll holler: “Don’t bother me... I’m deliberating!”

This article first appeared in the February 22, 2005 issue of the Voyageur Press.