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Today I got up at the crack of dawn, all excited, because I was going to do something that I had never done in my life. (Try out for jury duty.) Yes, I was actually looking forward to being a juror. I watch more Court TV (now Tru TV), and more Forensic Files, and more real life crime shows than just about anyone I know. I love to try to solve the cases. I have found, without a doubt, that where murder is concerned, if it is not a family member who is the perpetrator, then it will surely be the maintenance man. LOL! (No kidding…just watch sometime, and see how many “maintenance types” are the killers.) Think about it..other than your family, they’re the main ones with entry to your house. Every time you invite a repair man into your home, you run the risk that he is “casing the joint” to come back later. They particularly pick on the elderly, the vulnerable, and women living alone. (Now I bet you’re afraid to get your air conditioner fixed.) Well, don’t be, but do use caution. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.

Anyway, I had all these vivid visions of me being Juror Number so and so, on some famous murder trial in our small town. (Yes, even small towns have murders.) In fact, an elderly woman from our church, was actually murdered quite a few years ago. My husband and I led the Intercessory Prayer team, and there were only about 7 of us that attended prayer meeting regularly. She was one of them. This dear, sweet older lady lived alone, near the church, and usually left church (before it got dark) to avoid being out late in the evening. She was a bit of a loner at times, but she also worked with the ladies auxiliary group at the hospital, doing volunteer work. At any rate, she was murdered (raped and strangled) and the killer has never been found. It was a terrible scenario. So I have actually had someone I knew pretty well murdered. It is a frightening and absolutely horrifying thing, and I am not making lightly of it in any way.

However, in my excitement, this morning I was full of questions for my husband, a lawyer. My biggest one was, did he think that an attorney’s wife had an even remote chance of serving on a jury. I was Juror number 4 on the summons, and I said to him, “They’ll probably say, ‘And what does your husband do for a living?’ Then I’ll say, “He’s a lawyer, and the gong will sound, and they’ll call Juror number 5.”  LOL! (I made a mental note to quickly add that my husband specialized in adoptions–just in case they thought he might be a criminal attorney.)

“How long before you know if you’re chosen?” I asked. “Oh, you’ll know immediately,” my husband answered.

“Really? How humiliating if you’re not chosen!” I squealed, adding, ” I’m so nervous. I feel like I’m trying out for American Idol (The Jury Version).”

(He told me that I was crazy, and we had a good laugh.)

The summons said that you shouldn’t dress casually…women should wear a dress or pantsuit, and men should wear a coat and tie. (I knew that wasn’t going to happen in our NW Florida beach town, where the weather was in the 90’s. But I fixed myself up to look very professional… just in case it mattered.)

When I arrived, I had to go through the metal detector. (This I had already done numerous times at airports, so it was nothing new.) But as often happens to me at airports, I got beeped.  (Thinking to myself that I was not off to a very good start, I wondered what was the problem this time.) The lady security officer said it was my shoes (which we were not required to remove), and she let me go on. (I found this strange, as there was not one bit of metal on those particular shoes.)

I gathered up my belongings from the plastic bowl, and passed through the entrance to the Courthouse Annex. (Not long ago, our small town had no security at the courthouse, but then many attorneys and judges started getting shot across the U. S., and all that changed.) As I mentioned, my husband is an attorney, so I am very grateful for security. While he focuses more on adoptions right now, there was a time when his practice was predominantly family law, and domestic situations are ripe for the unexpected, and full of hostility. Our town is changing the location of the courthouse soon, and they plan to have better security at the new location for judges, attorneys, and everyone.

So immediately I saw a sign that said, “Jury Assembly Room.” A woman checked our summons at the door, and another man from the Clerk’s office, scanned our summons as we entered the room. (So funny–It was the man who has cut my husband’s hair for years.) He and his ex-wife used to own a salon. But for many years now, he has worked in the Clerk’s office, since his divorce. He is now remarried. (But he still comes to our house to cut Rob’s hair. How’s that for Southern hospitality?)

It seems that there was a tenseness in the air, as we all found a seat. The moment we entered that room everything changed. We stood a little taller, and for the most part, became very silent. (It was sort of like being in the Principal’s office.) Others drifted in-some past the 8:30 a.m. deadline. We were then sworn in as a group, and asked about 8 questions that proved we were legally qualified to be Jurors. If anyone could not answer appropriately, they were to raise their hand after all the questions were asked.

Only one man was disqualified at that point. I heard him quietly say to the man addressing us, that he had been convicted of a felon many years ago, and his rights were never reinstated. He was quickly dismissed.

Then we were told that we would watch a short program on being a Juror, that would answer most of our questions. Once again, the tone was very solemn, and we were reminded by a man on the video, that the U. S. is one of only a handful of countries, that has a jury system. We were told that it works because of our willingness to be a part of the system. We were reminded that it was an important part of being an American. (I sat straighter in my chair, and fidgeted a little.)

We were then allowed to take a short break, and most of us went to the restroom, and then got a soda out of the vending machine.

Once we reassembled, we were told that 2 judges required juries today, and that through random selection, 26 of our group would go to the first courtroom. (Being an attorney’s wife, I recognized the names of the judges.) I was not one of the 26 called by name, and was already a little disappointed. But then he said that all of us (that were left) could go to the other judge’s courtroom, for the jury selection process. (Now we’re getting somewhere!)

He read us a note from both judges, saying that they were discussing motions, and that we would more than likely be required to wait awhile. (No one knew how long.)

We were left with the TV blaring on the Fox News channel. Everyone laughed when this unusual “monster” came on the screen. It was something that had washed up recently (I forget where), and there was speculation that it was a monster of some sort, or a dog (a very bloated one) or a raccoon (not even close) or a king-sized turtle without the shell. (I hardly think so.) The beautiful blond woman commentator just had to observe out loud, that the only thing we could see (and know) for sure, was that it was a male. (This resulted in subdued nervous laughter throughout the room.) Brother!

So we sat, and we sat, and we sat. As I mentioned, we had to be there at 8:30 a.m., and we watched as the hands on the clock kept moving, and finally a policeman (in full uniform with a gun) came and got the now notorious chosen 26, and escorted them away.

That’s okay, I thought. I’d heard through the local grapevine that our group’s judge was much more feisty and cantankerous, and I was sure that we would have the most lively courtroom experience. So I drank my coke and waited. And waited, and waited.

Two hours and ten minutes from the time we arrived, the same policeman came back in, and turned off the TV, and told us that he had good news.  (I could hardly wait.) But then he said (smiling broadly) that all of our judge’s cases had settled, and we were free to go, as we had now done our civic duty. (My heart sank.)

Most of the room cheered, or displayed a thumbs up sign. Almost everyone was grinning. (Except me.) I wanted to be a juror, and that was as far as I got. In all my years, I had never gotten a jury summons, and now I wouldn’t even have the chance to go through voir dire.  (It means to speak the truth.) I was very curious about what they would ask. I wanted to know if an attorney’s wife would ever be considered. I was looking forward to the whole process… but now it was over. As we went through the turnstile exit, I felt very disappointed.

But I was glad that I had not tried to be excused from jury duty (as so many do.) I was genuinely grateful that I still had an excitement about the jury system in our country, and that for the most part, the resposibility was taken very seriously, by those involved.

As I walked to my car, I once again stood a little taller, and felt proud to be an American–(can’t you just hear Lee Greenwood singing?), where there is a fair system of justice. (No–it’s not always perfect, but it is a good system, and for the most part, when jurors rise to the occasion, and put aside any prejudices and preconceived ideas that they might have, and listen to the judge’s admonitions and guidelines, they get it right.) I still think it is an awesome responsibility and an exciting one…

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