12.17.2004

Unfit for civic duty (part the last)

So it's taken me a while to get around to writing this part. I don't know why - got most of the awful stuff out of the way in the last post. But this is the electrifying conclusion. I showed up at the courthouse in time for the final parts of jury selection. The judge had one more question before the attorneys had their way with the defendants: Did any of us have any previously unstated reason why they felt that they could not be an impartial juror in this case? So I raised my hand. And asked the judge if we could speak privately. (Didn't want my misgivings about the DOC to influence the rest of the jurors.) I told the judge that I'd been inside a prison not all that long ago, and that the treatment the defendant was due for if convicted would make it difficult for me to vote to convict. The judge asked me if I was aware that he would give instructions to the jury that they not consider punishment in their deliberations, that the jury's presence was solely to determine the facts of the case. I said yes, but that I'd have the same difficulties in a death penalty case. The judge seemed a little bit taken aback by this - that I'd equate an almost-certain lifetime of misery and torture with execution - but then agreed that the analogy wasn't absurd. The judge asked me if I'd rather serve on a civil case where this sort of thing wasn't that much of an issue. "If that's necessary," I said. I wanted the judge to understand that this wasn't just me trying to get out of jury duty. Anyway, he sent me over to the corner and kept me around until lunchtime, at which point jury selection was maybe half over, then released me, halfheartedly thanking me for my honesty. I went down to the jury pool room and waited for an hour and a half to make my discharge official; they take long lunches down at the Hall of Justice. Caught the subway home and thought about dinner, and sleeping in my own bed (hadn't got much the last night), and how grateful I am that I've never killed anyone or committed anything remotely resembling a felony. Or been arrested for one that I didn't commit. Or one that I did. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

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