My wife recently received a letter from Court of Ontario Courts.
“You, Mrs. Burn, are hereby and forthwith summoned with the highest aplomb and alacrity to present yourself, Mrs. Burn, post haste to the designated address of the Provincial Court House in Ottawa for the express purpose of determining your fitness for the possibility of serving as a heretofore appointed member of a jurisprudence exercise enabling the state to potentially lock some jerk up in jail.”
“Huh?” I asked.
“I’ve been summoned for jury duty,” my wife enthused.
For some reason, my wife has always wanted to serve on a jury. Personally, I find this baffling. After watching years of episodes of Law and Order I can attest to the fact that jurors:
a) Are people who never get to say anything during the trial.
b) Often get threatened by mobsters.
c) Have affairs with other jurors.
d) Have affairs with the DA.
e) Have affairs with the Judge, or Judgette, as the case may be.
So I fail to see the attraction in jury duty.
But I was nonetheless pleased if my wife was pleased. This was her chance to take an active part in our judicial system to make sure that some jerk gets locked up in jail.
So she marked the date on the calendar and waited for the big day to arrive. As the day approached, she kept a keen watch on the “crime beat” page of our local newspaper wondering which sensational case she would be a juror for.
The big day finally arrived, and off my wife skipped to the courthouse.
When she came home at the end of the day, I could tell by her demeanour that, in a single day, her exuberance for our justice system had been transformed into a seething loathing hatred of our justice system. Had a lawyer happened by at that moment, he would have been reduced to nothing more than his briefs.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Nothing,” was the reply. “I was held captive with three hundred other potential jurors in a court room. We were treated like cattle. No, we were treated worse than cattle. If we were a herd of cattle, we could have stampeded away. We were treated like sheep. No, we were treated worse than sheep. At least sheep can bleat their complaints. We were treated like cats” (my wife hates cats).
My wife went on to explain that from some 300 potential jurors, two juries were to be selected for two separate cases. An individual’s name is called out at random and that person presents himself before the prosecuting and defense lawyers.
The prosecuting attorney would ask the individual if he or she thought the defendant was a low-life ball of slime that would think nothing of torturing kittens for amusement before commencing to rob grandmothers of their social security checks. The correct answer was “what?” If you said “no,” then you were summarily dismissed.
If you answered “yes,” then the defense lawyer asked you if, upon further reflection, you didn’t really think that the defendant was a Bambi-like creature, caught up in the whirlwind of a society that glorifies possessions, someone whose mother was shot by a hunter, someone who was a slave to temptation, someone who was very sorry that the person they knifed is not expected to recover with all of the internal organs that they started with. The correct answer was, “Can I please go home now,” and, BOOM, you were on the jury.
In addition to this grueling procedure, each lawyer had something called a “derogatory privilege” where either one could summarily dismiss the individual on whatever whim had overtaken them.
For example, after one individual was called forward the defense lawyer said, “Your Honor, my briefs are riding up on me and I therefore wish to exercise my derogatory privilege and sentence this individual to the gallows.” Then the individual would be taken away in chains to dine on gruel, and sometimes swill, for the next ten years.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, my wife was not subjected to any of these proceedings. She sat there, an unfulfilled potential jurist whose name was never called at random, for the better part of six hours on a beautiful sunny day.
So the next time my wife receives a summons to appear for jury selection, I am sure she will act with the greatest alacrity and judiciously toss it in the recycle box.
Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.