JURY DUTY

My recent jury duty experience will be of particular interest to other esoteric readers. I’m registered to vote in New York City, so every few years (it’s five now); I’ve been called to serve. That entails typically spending three days sitting around waiting for attorneys to call potential jurors to be interviewed for various cases. Jurors are paid $40 per day and are expected to remain in the building from 9am to 5pm with an hour or so break for lunch. Depending on the size of the pool, jurors can be called and rejected several times over those three days.

In our Justice System, it’s every citizen’s responsibility to serve on a jury when called on. A jury consists of twelve individuals who are selected from a pool of potential jurors by a judge, defense attorney, and prosecuting attorney. There are two types of court cases, criminal and civil. Over many years, I’ve only been called for civil cases and have always been rejected because I’ve been both a plaintiff and defendant in civil law suits. If there’s any chance of bias, there’s little chance of being selected.

This time, I was called to sit in a courtroom with other potential jurors to listen to the judge and attorneys present a criminal case. The judge explained the nature of the case and asked us if we watched TV shows like CSI and Criminal Minds. Most of the jurors raised their hands. He explained that those shows are for entertainment purposes only and real forensic evidence is rarely perfect. You really can’t spot a license plate from a satellite, surveillance video is often not clear, and DNA is frequently unreliable. I’m not a big fan of TV, but most of those police dramas are way too predictable for my tastes.

After that, fourteen individuals were arbitrarily called by a court officer who picks pieces of paper with juror’s names from a wire basket that is rotated to mix them up. The jurors proceed to the juror’s box to be interrogated by the attorneys. Many potential jurors are prejudiced or prefer not to serve on a jury because some cases can drag out for weeks. It’s obvious when someone is trying to get out of serving and the judge has no problem letting them know that it’s their duty to serve. I was not chosen for the first round.

Between rounds, everyone files out of the courtroom while the judge and lawyers deliberate and choose which jurors support their arguments. Then everyone is called back and the jurors who have been chosen are allowed to leave. The remainder of the fourteen goes back into another pool to be selected for another case. I was chosen for the second round and was asked to be seated in the jury box. As a full time palmist, astrologer, and tarot reader for forty years, this was my moment of truth when I had to make a decision as to how I wanted to proceed.

I’d always been in business for myself. My only other work experience was being employed two days a week for two years in the rehab department of a forensic psychiatric hospital. I worked with over 150 murderers and violent criminals. My job was designing vocational programs, although I became the art therapist for six months when the regular therapist was caught by the rehab director in the art supply closet dispensing her own form of therapy to one of the patients. She was instantly fired. No one else was qualified for the job. I got to work directly with patients, which was crucial, as my real and secret purpose for being there was to read their hands, study their astrology, and to get to know them. If this had been a murder case, I’d be disqualified, but it wasn’t.

Most esoteric readers learn to trust their instincts and feelings.  I had a negative feeling about this particular defendant. I didn’t know if she was guilty on all counts, but she had a guilty energy about her. The judge asked us to introduce ourselves and to briefly describe what we do, our marital status, and whether we had any experience that might prejudice us. When it was my turn, I said, “I’m a practicing professional psychic”. You can see where this is going.

The prosecutor was the first to interview me. He inquired, “Do you think you can remain fair and impartial in hearing this case? “I can try” I replied. “I have a lot of friends and family who are corporate and tort lawyers” I volunteered. He moved on to the next juror.

When the defense attorney stood up, it was plain to see he didn’t want me. He asked, “What would you think if the defendant doesn’t testify?” “The defendant is testifying all the time with her eyes and body language” I replied. He countered, “Tell me. You don’t really need the evidence presented to know what’s going to happen. Do you?” “No, I don’t” I told him. I could hear a quiet gasp from the other jurors. I looked over at the defendant (who had remained deadpan throughout the procedure). A sudden look of terror appeared in her eyes. That’s when I was sure I was not going to be selected.

When we left the courtroom for deliberation, I could feel other jurors looking at me and trying to catch my attention. Some smiled as I caught their glance. One came up and enthusiastically shook my hand to tell me that I had given the most interesting response he had ever heard in his many years of jury duty. I asked to see his hands and then we spent a few minutes talking about his issues and challenges. We exchanged email addresses and have stayed in touch. The court dismissed me at the end of the day. I’ll be seventy-five next time they call me for jury duty.

5 thoughts on “JURY DUTY

  1. U certainly have the gift of honest tongue.Tho I feel some resides just inside your cheek. Nice story. Justice is supposed to be blind so long as she’s not wearing handcuffed or gloves

  2. Mark, were I you, in that situation, I think I would have tried to prolong the questioning, make them pry tidbits till you were forced to blurb up enough of the cues you noticed so as to have all the jurors disqualified. Then this short blog could have had the makings for a good short story! Precious few know how to turn a droll day into a fun/funny moment as you. Keep on… my friend !

    • Thanks Robin, I realized that day what a great jury selector I’d be. Maybe I’ll take your suggestion and write some fiction about how a single juror got into a trial by lying and turned the predictable verdict upside-down based on his knowledge of judging the characters of the other jurors.

  3. You would have made a great juror. I was called once while I was practicing and was immediately disqualified. I was then called 3 years ago, and was looking forward to serving, but when they saw my age, I was turned down without even going into the court. Uncle Morty

    • I actually have an unfair advantage over the other jurors as it’s very easy to tell when something is contrived or someone is lying. Justice is not blind. A very successful lawyer friend used to say, “Rich people are innocent until proven guilty. Poor people are guilty until proven innocent.”

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