Here's the Scoop: August 3, 2011

When duty calls
I did my duty last week. Almost.
The fact is, I reported for Jury Duty, as instructed. Then, we were all sent home when the case was settled just moments before jury selection. Apparently, that kind of thing happens a lot.
Even though so many cases are settled out of court doesn’t release anyone from their obligation of showing up and possibly being selected to serve on a jury. So, off I went to Delhi to see if I would be called upon to decide someone’s fate. Real power.

The rules of jury duty selection have changed quite a bit. It was previously fairly easy to use one’s profession (newspaper, for example) or the fact that one has 12 kids under the age of 15, as excuses not to serve. You’d think that the latter reason would make you want to escape to the sanity of a courtroom for a few days. Anyhow, I believe that the newspaper work has gotten me out of Jury Duty in the past.

This time around, I had no such option. Honestly, I never minded the idea of Jury Duty, it just seemed like an inconvenience. I don’t think the legal system regards this matter in the same way.

Time to watch TV
In fact, much to my surprise, after filling out some paperwork and listening to instructions about jury selection, we were treated to a 20-minute movie on the topic. I worried a bit when the clerk was setting up the TV system and a message on the screen said to “Insert Cassette Now.” I know we may not be on the cutting edge in Delaware County, but still.

My fears of having entered a time warp were soothed when the screen then made reference to a DVD. Yes, modern day technology. Or not.

The good news is the Jury Duty presentation featured Diane Sawyer, who I’ve had a crush on for decades. The bad news is that this film was made during one of Diane’s rare “bad hair” periods. I’m not sure when this piece was made, but I’m sure that Diane would agree that it needs updating. Her lips were still lovely, though.

Sizing up the competition
As we listened to the instructions, I took some time to look around at the rest of the prospective jurors. I knew a few of these folks, but most I had never seen. I had no idea whether these people would make good jurors. Except for one.

The woman seated next to me seemed nice enough. But she was having trouble filling out her juror form. I’m guessing that many of you have filled out these forms. They will never be confused with the SATs. The questions on these forms are on par with the difficulty of completing a scratch-off lottery ticket. The woman next to me returned to the front of the room three times to amend her form.

“I don’t mean to overstep my boundaries,” I said to her quietly after she returned to her seat yet again, “but do you think you’re capable of making a black-and-white decision about someone’s guilt or innocence?”

She stared blankly at me. I suddenly felt very sorry for the defendant — whoever he or she might have been.

For better or worse, the case never got that far. It seems, according to the judge who provided us with a brief overview, the defendant had seen the light a few minutes earlier and entered a guilty plea to the crime of which he’d been accused.

It’s public record, so I’m not giving up jury secrets by revealing this information. The defendant, who had previously been charged with another crime, had thought it would be “easy money” when he went to collect the $1,000 bail paid during his original case, if he changed the receipt to indicate that he had paid $5,000 in bail money.

The plan, ummm, didn’t work. But you can’t really blame the guy — he was guilty of being overly optimistic.
— Brian Sweeney