Jury Duty

The summons letter sounded like it meant business. “You are hereby commanded to appear . . . then and there to serve as Juror . . . and that you in nowise fail to so appear . . .” It didn’t say what the “or else” entailed, but I was sure I didn’t want to find out.

Trying to stay out of trouble, I left home in plenty of time for the 8:30 AM call, time that was eaten up with school buses, school zones, and parking problems. I arrived with five minutes to find my place and was greeted by a pleasant and efficient staff that got me to the courtroom with three minutes to spare. I could’ve been late, as several of the other called jurors were. They began calling the roll at 8:52. After roll call, we stood as a group of approximately eighty jury candidates, raised our right hands, and swore to answer all questions truthfully.

The judge told us what a privilege it was to serve on a jury before he listed the reasons he would accept to be excused. He ran through that list and gave his commentary on it:
• A serious illness on the part of the juror or a family member who required the presence of the juror – likely to be excused, just talk to him
• The juror’s attendance would cause a serious financial loss or had a need requiring personally presence at one’s business – would be considered, talk to him
• An elderly relative or dependent child who had no one else as caregiver – talk to him, and it would be excused
• A ticket to Hawaii during the time the jury sat that was bought six months ago – he’d excused those before, talk to him
• Citizens over sixty-five years of age – by law, he had to excuse but he didn’t believe in it – “You don’t lose your brain when you turn sixty-five.”
• Those who had served within the last two years – also bound by law to accept the excuse if it was offered, but serving was a privilege.
He then allowed the jurors who wanted to bring an excuse to stand in line to “talk to him.” About ten joined the line, but most were sent back to their seats to wait for the jury selection.  The judge announced that twenty-five would be called, and the rest could go home. The clerk apologized ahead of time for any names he mispronounced and began the seating call.
Twenty-five were chosen before my name was called, and the rest of us were dismissed. As we headed back to our cars, another prospective juror walking beside me observed that most of the ten who’d stood in line to offer an excuse had been called. Coincidence?
So far, I’ve had a similar jury experience three times. I’m willing to serve if needed and agree with the judge that passing sixty-five is a poor excuse if one still has good health and the mind she came with.