I'd Like to Help You Out...
It’s not all peaches and cream when you’re dealing with a lifelong disability such as panic disorder. There are also unpleasant ramifications, such as the inability to be confined in small rooms with many people, making the serving of jury duty physically impossible. But that condition didn’t evolve with me until shortly before my retirement, around five years ago.
Like everyone else, I have been notified a dozen or more times, that I needed to report to the County Courthouse for jury duty. Like everyone else, I have reported to the proper place numerous times, only to be told that my services were not required. I have also been lucky enough to find out via phone that I did not need to show up. What I have not done is serve on a jury itself.
I actually think it would be kind of interesting. However, all of the years I taught, being summoned was a sentence worse than death, because of the hassle of making plans, writing them down for the sub, clarifying for students precisely what my expectations were, and what the consequences would be upon my return, if said instructions were not followed.
Then, if at the last second, the summons was dismissed, the sub had to be informed, and the sub plans set aside for use at a different time. Serving as a juror is almost always a major headache. It gets in the way of your routine, and causes ripples of inconvenience to encircle you. And what about the poor citizen, for whom the jury was assembled? How much chance does he/she stand if one or more of the jurors has greener pastures to graze? I can just hear the dialogue. Hurry up and find him guilty, so that I can get to the game. Or innocent. Whatever, just hurry it up. Would I want my future hanging in that guy’s balance? How can that situation be avoided?
I think the judicial system should hire full-time jurors to hear the cases. There are many advantages to this plan, the most obvious one being that county officials no longer would have to beat the paths searching for a few good people. Then there is the advantage of the jurors themselves becoming more knowledgable on the court proceedings, plus the fact that they would not have to have their minds some place else, at least no more so than anyone else on the job.
Think about it though. If you were a full-time juror, then you would have a lot of off-days, because trials are always being postponed, or cases being settled out of court, at the last minute. Then full-time jurors would get the day off, with no one being inconvenienced. I would much rather have a jury comprised of full-time jurors, than by people being summoned, at great personal discomfort, to serve on my jury. I can’t help thinking that a feeling of resentment at being there in the first place, might cloud some people’s perspective.
While teaching, if I were called for jury duty, my mind would be out in the hall, trying to find out if Billy had thrown any chairs through the window yet, or whether the instructional assistant had actually made it in this morning, as opposed to the past two. I would be worried that I forgot to mention that the attendance book had to be sent up to the office by nine, or that the designated students be released to go over to the garden to water our bed of garlic.
How beneficial can that be to the poor defendant on trial? That person deserves to at least have the attention of the twelve citizens who are about to decide his fate. Removing this responsibility from the shoulders of an unconcerned population, and placing it in the hands of people, who are paid full-time to hear these matters, makes the most sense to me. Then I wouldn’t have to send notes to the jury commissioner, like the one I sent a few weeks ago. It went like this:
To Whom it May Concern:
Thank you for thinking of me; I would be delighted to assist you in your desire to incarcerate the miscreants of our area, especially on Halloween. Unfortunately, I suffer from panic attacks. The idea of being sequestered in the midst of a group of people (strangers, or otherwise) is enough to put me in a state where I might commit some dastardly deed, and be the next to be tried.
It is unfortunate that you folks have such a poor system of filing, that you have once again misplaced my folder, with the two different substantiations of my medical problems. This might be a good time to upgrade this particular facet of your notification system. Someone is sleeping at the switch. That means you keep contacting me fruitlessly. It seems like a waste of time to me. Buddha only knows, time is money, and money does not grow on trees.
In any case I have decided that this is not my problem. I have conformed to your demand for my doctor’s verification twice. It involved two separate trips to Willits to accommodate your requests, and I am afraid I am not up to the task a third time. Strike three, I’m out. If it means you are going to come up and arrest me, then let the festivities begin. Tell them not to use the siren, because it makes the dogs go off, and tell them to bring their own water pipes.
Ultimately, even if I were able to finagle my way down to Ukiah, I am afraid that the nice judge would fail to view my need to ingest in my doctor-prescribed medication with any degree of tolerance. Or is it possible that he/she does provide a smoking lounge for those of us who need to utilize the water pipe periodically, in order to function with any degree of proficiency?
In either case, I remain respectfully, and sincerely yours,
Mark D. O’Neill
I felt bad, but not that bad. I got a permanent dispensation by return mail. I like my plan to hire full-time jurors, and in these tough economic times, we can always use more jobs. That way, folks like me, who struggle with elements of the process, will be spared the necessity of pleading for exemption, leaving the matter to the experts. Sounds like a two-fer to me.