Friday, January 12, 2007

we the jury

When I was in CLR (Creative Learning Room) 2nd-4th grades, one of our big projects involved holding a mock trial for Hansel and Gretel. We all took on the personalities of the courtroom. I was the Recorder. Maybe that's where it all started...this obsession with documenting life. I remember taking my job so seriously, more so than anything else we were learning about in our regular classrooms. I brought a tape recorder and recorded every word spoken. I probably took notes as well. My end product consisted of a newspaper article I typed up on my home computer. Mrs. Riley made me re-do the article because I spelled P.J.'s last name wrong. It was an honest mistake, though, as I always pronounced his name "Berquist"...I never knew it was "BerGquist." I never misspelled his name again.

On Friday I completed my first duty as a juror. Upon entering the Rolling Meadows courthouse a woman asked me if I knew where to get birth certificates. I apologized and said I was only there for jury duty. "Oh," she said. "You don't look old enough to be a juror." "Why? How old do you have to be?" Neither of us knew.
Then, as I stood in the security line, the security woman made a huge deal about the lunch I had packed myself, which she took out of my bag as she yelled, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH DIET FOOD??" Slightly embarrassed, I said quietly, "I knew someone was gonna say that..." "SOUTH BEACH THOUGH?? I MEAN LOOK AT YOU!!" "It's not because I'm on a diet," I insisted. "It's because there was nothing else to grab on the run." (note: this is something i took out of my mom's fridge. it didn't even belong to me in the first place).

As I walked into the jury waiting room, I had to blindly choose a panel number out of a bucket. Well this is fun, I thought. An element of surprise. I had flashbacks of walking to the lunhroom in 7th grade, when Blake came running out of one the math rooms yelling, "He's innocent! OJ's innocent!" and how shocked and appalled I felt even as a mere 13-year-old at the downfall of this country's legal system. As I looked at the #5 in my hand, I pictured being selected to take part in a trial involving a vicious crime and say that I had a small role in putting someone rightfully behind bars.

Turns out my third grade mock trial was more exciting. I sat in a room with about 20 other people as they showed us a video that clearly had not been updated for a few decades all about our responsibilities as a juror of Cook County. And that gave me flashbacks of how much I hated forcing myself to stay awake during instructional videos in school. For the next two hours I finished reading a book I started awhile ago called I Wish Someone Were Waiting For Me Somewhere, thinking all the while that I should look into the probability of me having restless leg syndrome.

At 11:30 not a single person or panel # had been called to trial yet, so the lady dismissed us for a two-hour lunch break. That's the longest lunch break I've ever been granted in life thus far, so I bolted, called my mom to see if she wanted to meet for lunch, called my dad to tell him to meet us for lunch, and drove a round-about way to the local Chile's. Had a bloomin' onion and a "quesadilla explosion" salad.

When I got back to the courthouse I ditched the boxed South Beach caeser wraps in the backseat and headed back up to the jury room, back to the same chair I came from two hours prior. The lady in charge said if they weren't notified by 2:30 that the trials needed any jurors, then we'd be free to go. So I took Catcher in the Rye out of my bag and started back up with the classic adolescent novel (which I never read in my adolescence...and finally decided to dive into a few weeks ago). This Holden character cracks me up. Seriously--I laugh out loud at the way he speaks.

"I said Old Jesus probably would've puked if He could see it--all those fancy costumes and all. Sally said I was a sacrilegious atheist. I probably am. The thing Jesus really would've liked would be the guy that plays the kettle drums in the orchestra."

Amen, Holden. Amen. And speaking of kettle drums, I wish the deputy sheriff would roll in a few of those right about now.
At 2:32 we were given our $17.20 check and dismissed. So I didn't aide in carting away any criminals, but I did get paid by the U.S. government to spend a few hours reading for my own enjoyment. God bless America.

[photo: taken by Dana Edelson when I worked at SNL...sitting in to test the lights for Horatio Sanz, who impersonated Aaron Neville]


Amy said...

First of all, I love that picture. So perfect. Secondly, the justice system doesn't know what they're missing by letting you slide through without utilizing your discretion. Third, I too, like we talked about, vividly recall the CLR mock trial. I too took it too seriously and I think wore my first power suit and carried my first portfolio age 8, as I filled the role of prosecuting attorney. I seem to recall making another less prepared (probably better adjusted) 8 year old cry. The world of crime and justice is rough. Toughen up or go home. :)
Thank you Ms. Riley wherever you are, clearly that's stuff we won't forget.

Abbi said...

OH MY GOSH. I hadn't though about the Mock Trial in forever! It was by far one of my favorite academic memories of all time as well as one of the best things we did in CLR. That is so hilarious that Amy was the prosecuting attorney because I'm pretty sure I was either the defense attorney or I also could have been the defendant old grandma. I don't remember crying though...I think I was actually fairly prepared for once. I LOVED doing that. That is so funny! Do you still have a copy of the tape by any chance?? That would be amazing...though doubtful. So classic that Amy was the prosecutor...that rings a bell.

Second, I believe you need to be 18 to be a juror. My sister was 19 almost 20 or just 20 when she did it last summer for a MURDER trial. She even got sequestered for a night. Apparently there was also an 18 year old girl in the jury with her.

Third, I have also believed myself to have Restless Leg Syndrome.