by Christopher Bachler
I consider it an honor and a duty to serve on a jury where I may either convict a scoundrel or deliver an innocent defendant from a miscarriage of justice. But I feel no fervor for being continuously harassed by a court system which has summoned me more times than I can remember but has yet to put me on the jury.
Instead, I have been forced to sit time and again for long days in a crowded room of fatally bored people who punish me with small talk while an endless parade of inane nonsense plays on the overhanging TV. Daytime television is designed to torture, not to entertain.
But at least during my last two visits, I was summoned into the courtroom for final consideration, and I got some insight into how the process works and why I will NEVER be tapped for jury service.
Around mid-afternoon, my fellow “sheeple” and I were herded into the courtroom. During my last visit, I got to sit in the jury box. The seats are anything but comfortable and are definitely not suited for those with hemorrhoid or prostate problems.
The judge greeted us, thanked us for our service — as if we had a choice — and provided some details about the case as our eyes shifted to the defendant who was sitting at one table with his legal team. The defendant avoided eye contact, presumably so we couldn’t gaze into his tarnished soul, and pretended to be reading something (Plato or Isaac Newton, no doubt).
On this last occasion, the defendant wore a cheap suit, possibly purchased from Goodwill the night before, which could not quite conceal his multitude of neck tattoos, no matter how much he hunched his shoulders or bowed his head. If there is one thing worse than looking like a bum, it’s looking like a bum and doing a poor job of hiding it.
The defendant’s attorney, Mr. Slick, might have visited the beautician that morning. His hair was perfectly coiffed, and his mustache lined his upper lip so neatly that it might have been painted on.
His suit was perfectly fitted and betrayed no wrinkle or spill from lunch. His tie might have been more expensive than his suit, and the knot was so perfectly adjusted that I imagined his valet might have devoted an hour to fixing it that morning. I couldn’t see his sparkling gold watch close up, but I’m sure it was a Rolex, possibly “procured” by one of his clients.
In sum, Mr. Slick looked like an overpaid flimflam artist whose success at fooling naïve jurors was verified by his costly wardrobe. Attorney and client together looked like caricatures from a dull TV show, and their contrived appearances did more to hurt than help their case.
Mr. Slick surveyed the crowd like a fisherman in the Bayou, looking for suckers. Seated to his right was a woman who was dressed almost as impeccably and who appeared to be advising him. I deduced that she was a jury consultant whose job was to identify the most credulous among us.
Then Mr. Slick spotted me in that jury box. His Bermuda tan faded, and his eyes widened like the victim in a horror film. He whispered something to his consultant, and she eyed me like grim death. They studied me keenly while whispering back and forth, as if drilling for my soul.
Overhearing the whispers, the defendant looked up from his “studies” and also stared at me. Lawyer and consultant adjusted their glasses and double-checked the number in front of me. Feverish notes were made as the hit-and-run witness might jot down the license number of a fleeing truck.
I knew what they were thinking: they did not want me on that jury! No siree, Bob! Why? Because I do not fit their “profile” of a “friendly juror.” In short, I am no fool. It is the job of the jury consultant to know the difference. Like good rustlers, they can distinguish the cattle from the sheep.
It was an epiphany; I was Paul on his road to Damascus. I understood that moment that as long as overpriced, overdressed and under-principled lawyers haunt this earth, I would never be chosen for jury service.
The prosecutors sat quietly, looking as content as the cat that swallowed the canary. They exchanged no words, nor did they study the crowd.
Only chicanery has to work overtime.