Picture it. Los Angeles. Middle of the last decade. I was working for the Mouse when summoned for jury duty at the downtown courthouse. A few days later, my book nerd tendencies accidentally influenced the entire jury so they sent me home.
This is my story.
The way jury duty works in Los Angeles is you must call in at a certain time every day and they let you know if you have to report the next day or not. If you manage to get through a whole week without getting called in, you are free and clear for another year.
I only made it to Tuesday before I had to go in. I made all the arrangements with work to have a temp cover me for an undecided amount of time. It could be a day, it could be the O.J. trial reborn. It was anyone’s guess.
Once all the jurors checked in, they announced there was a case having extreme difficulties finding a jury. They had gone through 400 jurors and only managed to choose six. We were the next batch of 200.
They had us fill out a questionnaire and weeded out people from there. The rejects went back to the waiting room to try for another case. The rest sat in the courtroom and listened to them interview jurors.
It was a medical malpractice lawsuit where a child suffered injuries during delivery. The parents were suing the doctor and the hospital. This was why they were having such a hard time picking jurors. It would be an emotional case. Oh and, it would be at least eight weeks once the case started.
I answered all the questions truthfully. I thought my mom being a nurse or the fact that I worked for Disney lawyers might get me kicked off, but no such luck. I was Juror #9 for the next two months. Of course, that two months wouldn’t start until they had a jury.
The judge made it clear that they needed to have their jury set by Friday morning. A week more than enough time. When we left on Thursday, it was pretty much done. They just needed to pick one last alternative juror Friday morning.
The judge and other court officials kept telling us the same things over and over:
- You cannot discuss the case with anyone outside the courtroom
- You cannot discuss the case with the other jurors until deliberations
- From time to time, the judge will need to talk to the lawyers and we will need to talk to each other so we can hear them
- Once the case starts, then we are on until it is over
These were a random group of strangers with the only thing in common to talk about is the case. The one thing we were not allowed to talk about. We ran out of steam discussing weather and traffic after the second day of jury selection.
I Was Just Trying To Help
Friday morning, we’re all sitting in the juror’s box. The lawyers and their clients are all sitting at their tables and we are all waiting on the judge.
I turned to my fellow jurors and said something to the effect of:
“It looks like we are here for the duration. They said we can’t talk about the case, but I noticed that most of us have a book that we have been reading. What if we pick a book and make this a book club? This would give us something to do and something to talk about when needed. What do you think?”
Everyone agreed. They thought that was a great idea. A few people said we should pick a John Grisham novel or something similar. It’ll be great fun. Problem solved.
Juror #9 You Are Excused
The judge enters before we can start picking a book. The lawyer that was sitting closest to us stands up and says, “We would like to excuse Juror #9.”
The judge, who has had it at this point, says “Why?”
“Juror #9 has too much influence and managed to have the whole jury agree with her suggestion unanimously.”
“Juror #9 You Are Excused.”
I wished them all well and hoped they picked a good book and I was out the door.
Next Time You Are On A Jury…
…see if there are any readers. Worst case scenario, you form a book club.