First and foremost, I’ve noticed a few new people have recently subscribed to my blog.  I don’t know where you’ve come from or how you’ve found me, but I thank you for your interest and hope that my future blog posts will not disappoint.  Welcome aboard my journey!

Now, buckle up for the wild ride I like to call: “That time I almost served on the jury of an extremely high-profile court case.”

Lately, when I see a spider (or, more likely, THINK I see a spider and it turns out it’s just a hairball), I scream.  But the rest of my body doesn’t have time to react.  There’s no heart pounding, just floor pounding.  I don’t sweat.  And I’m not in a panic, just momentary terror followed by the discovery that either I am really brave and protected myself from the wrath of a centimeters-large arachnid, or that I’ve just killed a multi-legged piece of fuzz—and killed it a lot.

But a couple of weeks ago, I found high anxiety in the most unlikely of places for a law-abiding citizen such as myself:  the Superior Court of Los Angeles.  Ah, jury duty.  That white number 10 envelope most dreaded by Americans, regardless of age, sex or socio-economic status.  When we’re in a bind, we want the law to work in our favor; when it comes to repaying that debt, we want to run and hide; we delay; we make excuses, and we try to get out of it.  It’s shameful, really, and I have no shame, because that’s exactly what I tried to do.

I marched up to the Juror Waiting Room, a letter from my doctor tucked confidently under my arm.  An employee of the court gave me directions for the building in which I’d have my medical excuse interview.  Clutching my papers tightly, my laptop case banging against my thigh, I briskly walked down the street, crossed it, found the entrance and rode the elevator up to the 12th floor.  Panting, I dutifully took a number and waited, thinking about how wonderful it would be to drive in to work late and have a short day.

But like my workday would have been, this feeling was short-lived.  I was denied being excused from jury duty on the grounds that I had not had my doctor include her medical license number on the letter.  Defeated, my laptop still banging against my thigh, my upper lip moistening and my shirt becoming itchy, I rode the elevator back down 12 floors, crossed the street and promptly got lost.  Were it not for the friendly cyclist who noticed my direction deficiency, I may not have returned to the courthouse in time, angry, and profusely sweating.

Okay, whatever, I thought.  All my friends have served.  And it’s a Friday.  There’s no way I’m getting called for a jury, and they’re going to let us all go early.  I turned on my laptop.

“Ladies and gentleman, we have a panel to call,” the voice said.  And just like that, I had to pack up my laptop and serve.

Once outside the courtroom, I—and 36 or so of my new friends—waited a very, very, very long time for someone to tell us what was going on.  And then, She emerged.  She who remains nameless told us that because of the length of the trial, we’d have to be sure to fill out hardship forms and explain in detail what, if anything would require us to be excused from the trial—financial hardship, medical hardship, childcare needs, etc.  Great, I thought.  If they wouldn’t excuse me based on my doctor’s note, would my financial status be enough to excuse me now?

I turned to my neighbor and instantly said, “This must be a murder trial.  What do you think, two weeks?”

About 20 nerve-wracking minutes later, we were invited inside the small courtroom, and the judge began to outline the case.  “This is the trial of AEG Live versus Katherine Jackson”—sounds boring, I thought—“in the wrongful death suit of Michael Jackson—“

“Oh my God,” I said.  Out loud.  In front of the judge and lawyers.  I covered my mouth in embarrassment.  But I couldn’t contain myself.  I mean, sometimes I forget I live in L.A., but Michael Jackson’s wrongful death case?  What are the odds?

Well, apparently the odds for getting called this month were pretty great because the trial was estimated to go 90 days or longer, and thankfully the court was sensitive to the fact that most people cannot leave their jobs for that length of time…so they screened hundreds of potential jurors.  Maybe even thousands.

When the hardship form graced my lap, I began scribbling like a maniac.  “Work only pays 7 days,” I wrote.  “Exorbitant medical costs for Crohn’s disease.  Crohn’s disease requires that I’m in the restroom frequently and would interrupt the trial.  If I get even a cold, I must go visit a doctor immediately.  Pre-planned vacation in May and pre-scheduled doctor’s appointments.”

There, I thought.  That should be enough.

I turned my form in and took my place outside the courtroom with my 36 or so new friends once again.  And there we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

My mouth was drying up a little.  The perspiration was beading up.  And my heart began to pound.  And I’m not talking metaphorically.  I mean, I could hear the beat in my temples; I could barely breathe.  The afore-mentioned unnamed court employee began reading the numbers of the jurors who were to be dismissed based on their hardship form responses.

Five numbers were called.  Ten.  Fifteen.

My eyes widened.  My heart beat faster.

Twenty names.

Somewhere between 20 and 25, my number was finally called, and once again I couldn’t contain myself.  “Oh thank God,” I blurted out, heading back down to the Juror Waiting Room.

That was real fear.

Now, I’ve actually gotten some flak for wanting to get out of this trial.  If I was retired or unemployed and not immediately in need of work, I probably would have done it in a heartbeat.  It would have been interesting, and some of the witnesses are famous musicians.  But I wouldn’t have wanted cameras following me around afterward.  I wouldn’t have wanted the Jackson family mad at me.  But could I have made a nice piece of chump change writing a book afterward?  Sure!

However, I am the average citizen.  I am not rich.  I have medical necessities that would have been extremely difficult to account for in a 90-plus-day continuous trial.  And though I’m in a union and probably couldn’t lose my job, my job would be forced to hire a temporary replacement, and I would miss out on at least 83 days of pay, which helps fund my condo, my dog walker, the food we eat, the insurance that helps me pay for my medication, and much, much more.  So for all those of you who criticized me, shame on you.  Put yourself in my shoes!  Could you have afforded 4 months off of work?

The next time you’re afraid to serve jury duty, just think—it could’ve been worse.  You could’ve served on the king of pop’s wrongful death trial.  You could’ve been haunted by Michael Jackson’s ghost, and if your verdict did not please him, I don’t think a simple “Beat it” would do.

 

 

 

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