History / Life / Writing

Mr. Rhoades Goes to Jackson County

Andrew Jackson

This statue of Andrew Jackson outside the Jackson County Courthouse seems just as ready to trample the little people as the President was.

The introductory video was right about one thing: I have a better understanding of the judicial system now that I have served jury duty.

I understand that I hate it.

And yes, I’m aware that it is a fundamental part of American justice…a duty of living in a free society…la dee freaking da. There was no point where I felt the golden light of Lady Liberty’s torch caressing my back as I sat in the juror’s room for three hours, packed in with 200+ other unfortunate souls. I did not reflect gladly on the ingenuity of our Founding Fathers as I sat for another six hours in a courtroom with 68 other people enduring a seemingly-endless and mindlessly repetitive screening process. And I did not count myself lucky to have been born in the Land of Plenty when the check for my day’s service was $6.14…and I had paid $10 to park.

The only time I felt even remotely grateful for the process was when my name was NOT one of the ones called to serve, since I really didn’t know how I was going to pay next month’s rent making $6 a day in a jury box. And, were it not for the rest of my experience, I would have enjoyed seeing the Downtown Jackson County Courthouse for the first time. It is as Art Deco as they come, so much so that NOT seeing someone in a fedora and smoking a cigarette was kind of jarring. Oh, and the bailiff was pretty cute. I didn’t know such a thing as “cute bailiffs” existed, since I usually picture Bull from Night Court when I think of bailiffs.

Bull from Night Court

Just in case you don't remember Night Court - this is Bull.

The lawyers, especially for the defense, were straight from central casting. The lead attorney almost had a spit-curl going on, and the other looked like he might be moonlighting as a Calvin Klein model. And despite the fact that these two were clearly from some huge firm and you could just picture them very-casually fist-bumping as they had their post-hearing cocktail, they very quickly became the heroes of the piece, simply due to their brevity. The prosecutors, both women, hammered home the idea that more is less. The lead attorney here – who seemed like a feminine version of Rob Schneider – took on the bulk of the torturous questioning. Whether the county usually assumes this role or if she was just particularly enamored with asking the same thing 20+ times was never made clear. Either way, after hearing her ask some variation of “And do you think that would make you biased in this case?” for essentially four hours, I was starting to feel very biased.

Following all that, the judge cast us out of the courtroom just before 4pm with the vague implication that we might have to wait until after five to learn which of us would have to endure another four days dangling over a fiery pit be selected as a members of the esteemed jury. And indeed, all 68 of us cooled our heels in the hallway outside the courtroom for more than an hour, giving us plenty of time to contemplate the cruel trick our county had played on us. When we were finally called back in, the proceedings were almost funereal. Those called took their seats in the juror’s box like a person would stand behind a noose. The rest of us…well…whatever sympathy we felt for them evaporated as soon as we hit the hallway. We’d won the Super Bowl and asked each other the famous question of “What are you going to do now?!” None of us were going to Disney World, though. We were going some place much better.

Secure in the knowledge that we wouldn’t be serving on any jury for at least another three years…we were going home.

And in my case, I was going home to my beautiful woman who had a hot P’Zone and a cold glass of tea waiting for me. So clearly, I was the MVP.

2 thoughts on “Mr. Rhoades Goes to Jackson County

  1. Wow. Jury duty probably isn’t great anywhere, but from my dim recollections, you guys get shafted by comparison. Here in Lane County, Oregon, we get paid more than $6 a day (I don’t remember exactly how much, I think it was around $20 when I was called around 2000 or so). It’s still not much, but it’s at least measurable. Day permits for parking are provided, as are bus passes for those who choose to take the bus.

    On the other hand, I think we’re “eligible” again after only one year. And while I wasn’t selected the one time I had to actually go in, it did take a while to go through the process (on the other two times my name came up, I didn’t have to go in — they didn’t need that many jurors to begin with. They pre-select names for each day a few weeks in advance, and then the night before the date in question, you call in to see how many potential jurors they actually need; if the number is less than your juror number, you don’t have to go.)

    • Yeah, we had a call-in the night before as well, but there was no numbering system; basically “you still have to come in” was the gist of the recorded message.

      As for the $6…that wasn’t even the most insulting part. They also paid 7 cents a mile. Which for me will amount to all of about 21 cents.

      Needless to say, you will have a seat on the yacht I’m building with that fuckin’ check.

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