Some choices require analysis and deep thought. Others are a piece of cake.
My first experience with jury duty
When preparing to write this story, I asked my friends how many times they had been called to jury duty. Most of them said that they’d served multiple times; some said as many as ten times over the years.
As for me, I’d only been asked to report one time before.
We were living in Texas at the time and the case, I recall, involved a drunk and disorderly charge. The District Attorney was asking the jury pool various questions about their views on police procedures and the justice system in general. Then she asked this question.
“Does anyone have any objection to an officer arresting someone for public intoxication?”
I raised my hand and asked the DA how the officer determines if the person is intoxicated.
She told me that officers were trained for this kind of situation and it was up to the individual officer to make the determination.
This answer didn’t satisfy me. “So they don’t use a breathalyzer or anything?”
I could see the DA was getting impatient with me. “The police department can’t do a breathalyzer on everyone they suspect of public intoxication. It’s up to the officer to determine if the subject is drunk.” She stared at me, waiting for an acknowledgement that this answer was satisfactory.
I raised my hand again. “But, can’t they make a mistake? What if someone has CP or something, you might think they are drunk. Or if they have a seizure of some kind, the officer might think they are drugs. What kind of training do the police get to prevent them from arresting a sick person, or someone having an episode. Tossing them in jail could be catastrophic for someone having a medical event.”
“You can’t test for drugs using a breathalyzer.”
“But you can using a blood test,”
And with that, I was dismissed from the jury pool.
Now, you might be thinking that I viewed this as a win. I got to go home early, after all. But, the whole situation left a bad taste in my mouth. I had no objection to serving on the jury. In fact, since I had never done it before, I was kind of looking forward to the experience. And, I sincerely felt the subjective way the police were determining intoxication wasn’t fair.
An easy decision
So, I was wary when I received a notice in the mail that I was selected for jury duty, this time in the state of Georgia.
I had an appointment for oral surgery scheduled later in the week to fix a tooth that was killing me. But, I didn’t think anything of that since jury duty was Monday and I wasn’t seeing my dentist until Thursday.
That Monday, I reported to the courthouse and was directed to a room with other prospective jurors. The trial was for a drug case.
One of the first questions the District Attorney asked the jury pool was whether anyone, either themselves or someone they knew, had experiences with illegal drugs. While the judge said that people could answer this question in private if they thought the answer would be embarrassing, I was shocked that folks revealed very personal information right in front of everyone. These potential jurors, after all, could be their neighbors or their kid’s teacher, or the clerk at the grocery store. Anyway…
The DA said “If you are selected for this jury, the case would be heard on Thursday. Would anyone be unable to serve on that day?”
Now I had to make a quick decision. It would probably be possible to move my surgery to another day. But, who knows when the next appointment would be available? And, I was in pain. I wasn’t willing to wait so I raised my hand, explained my situation, and the judge dismissed me.
As I was leaving, the bailiff said “Bet you’d rather be here than in that dentist chair.”
I replied “I don’t know which is worse.”
He was not amused.
After a few shots of anesthetic with a big needle, I couldn’t feel a thing in my mouth. A couple pain-free hours later, the oral surgery was done; a success.
As for the guy who was on trial, I have no idea what happened to him. I tried checking the court records online, but couldn’t find anything. I just hope it worked out. Like I said, I didn’t sit on the jury, so I don’t know the facts of the case. But, a few details that were revealed during the jury selection.
While jury selection was happening, the defendant was sitting in the courtroom. I looked at him several times and he appeared broken. Maybe it was drugs, maybe it was getting caught up in the justice system.
I don’t know what this guy needed to make himself whole again. But, I’m pretty sure a stint in jail wasn’t going to help.
About the Author
Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, Porto, Sintra, Monsaraz, and Evora in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.