You were in the forecast back in December, when I received that plain, white envelope from the Circuit Court of our state. Dear Husband knew immediately what it was; I was a little slow. You see, I'm a jury duty virgin.
The first and only time I had ever received a jury summon was about four years ago, when Dear Son was only one-year-old. I had quickly sent in my reasons for not being able to serve my duty: I was the sole caretaker of my son who was still nursing at the time. Valid reason; I was excused. This time, no valid reason. I was a standby juror, so I had to call at 4:30 PM or thereafter the day before the summon day to find out if I have to go. Calendar entry--check. Alarm at time of event--check.
Let's back up a bit. My previous post had indicated that we had all gotten sick within days of one another. DS stayed home one day from a moderate fever. The next day he woke up with a fever of 104. A quick doctor's office visit determined that he had the flu. The next day, Dear Daughter began a fever. The next day was my turn, and sure enough, DH got his the following day. But since DS had been fever-free for 24 hours by then, he went back to school.
Then everything fell apart.
DS came home telling me that he slipped on ice and fell on his head and bottom. I got super worried because of his previous case of severe concussion back in preschool. He seemed to be okay, so I stopped the Mommy Freak Out with the ninety thousand questions. After lunch, he told me he was tired and voluntarily took a nap, which never happens, since to him a nap would mean missing out on Life itself. Two hours later, he woke up with a 102 fever. Which meant only one thing: he'd caught a secondary infection and needed antibiotics right away. The clock read 4:00 PM. The doctor's office was closing in an hour. CALL and drive him in ASAP.
In the waiting room, DS was burning hot, complaining about his tummy, hacking out a lung, and just looked terrible. My Mommy Freak Out kicked up into high gear. I had visions of DS upchucking right there in the waiting room. I worried about the fall being the reason for his passing out and that the very tender bump on his head is bleeding on the inside. Still quite ill myself, I felt like the day could not have gone more wrong.
Until my phone alarm went off to tell me to call that number on the jury summon. If you are a standby juror, you must report to your appointed courthouse tomorrow. <Shoulder slump #1>.
Sure enough, DS had a sinus infection. And I had a long day ahead. The criminal court I was summoned to is on the south side of downtown, a good hour and a half drive in rush hour. Fortunately, DH's work project was winding down and he was able to work from home that week. So, much against my likings, I had to leave my sick child at home with Daddy while I take my own sick self to the courthouse the next day.
I got to my destination despite my driving anxieties. It took exactly 1.5 hours door-to-door. By the time I got there, it felt like the day was already more than half over. I sat in the waiting room for about 1.5 hours. Thank goodness for smartphones these days. By the time I was called in, I had already exhausted scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, and was taking pictures of myself to document how incredibly bored I was under the unflattering fluorescent lights. And then they call my panel number. <Shoulder slump #2>.
Sixty of us where escorted down the elevators and to an open area to line up. Then we were asked to walk in an orderly fashion to the opposite side of the building. Teachers across America would have been so proud to see how well we learned and put to good use our lining-up and walking skills. Everyone was quiet, cooperative, and alert. We were then filed into a hallway to stand and wait while the judge prepared her courtroom for us. I almost felt like bleating like a sheep.
Next, we entered the courtroom. The judge greeted us and began to explain procedures for selecting jurors. First, she asked the counselors to introduce themselves. Seated at the defense table was a good looking young African American male dressed in a white button down shirt and tie. While I am still trying to decipher the ins and outs of this jury selection process, the judge read us the case's charge: first degree murder. <Shoulder slump #3>.
The judge then gave us a nice pep talk about the significance of jury duty and what it means for the democracy of our country, including a few relevant anecdotes to support her points. I found her to be very professional, charismatic, and had a great presence as a judge of her courtroom. After about half an hour, she dismissed us for lunch and had us return for the jury selection process.
From the moment I walked into the courtroom, I knew that I was going to be selected. For whatever reason, I felt like I was kind of a no-brainer when it came to jury selection. I was the third out of 34 called to be interviewed. Having never gone through this process before, I had no idea what to expect. The judge read off my juror questionnaire to verify my general area of residence, my profession (part-time substitute teacher), and that I or no one in my family had ever been a victim of a crime or committed a crime (no). Then she asked: which grade level I teach (I am certified to teach K to 9), which year did I like to teach the most (um, first grade?), and what I like to do in my spare time (I like to knit, I like to read, and I like to bake). As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I seriously rolled my eyes inside my head because I knew my fate as a first-time juror had been sealed. And yes, I was selected. <Shoulder slump #4>.
But, after having been selected, I accepted my fate and actually looked forward to learning from this experience since I knew DS would be taken care of at home. There was a reason why I didn't raise my hand when the judge asked if anyone would not be able to try this case "without prejudice or sympathy"--as did some people, who were eventually dismissed. Some had very valid reasons for saying so; others clearly just wanted to be dismissed from jury duty.
The judge had indicated a timeline for this case: that it would begin on Wednesday and jurors would deliberate on Friday. For a first degree murder case. Which meant to me that the judge felt confident this would be a slam dunk case. Which really chilled me to my bones. This was a gang violence case involving a deadly shooting. And I wasn't to talk about any of it until the case was dismissed on Friday.
This "slam dunk" case involved testimony, courtroom theatrics, and jury deliberation. Even though the prosecutor had painted a clear, black-and-white case for us, some jurors found shades of gray. It was one of the most draining three days of my life. I came away from this duty so unsettled that I know our verdict will probably haunt me for a very long time. I will write about my internal struggles on this case in the next post. I need to write, as a part of my own therapy to--as DH called it--Post Jury Duty Syndrome. And I think I have almost digested it all enough to get it clearly down in words. I have lost sleep and appetite over this, so you can imagine how difficult it has been for me.
To further show how distraught I had been, I hadn't even had the inclination to post anything on Facebook for over a week <gasp!>.
Interestingly, on the home front, DH and I completely switched roles. I drove the 1.5 hour commute to
So, Dear Storm, as fiercely as you come, you do eventually leave. You've left a big mess, though, and looking at the state of my home gives me only one action: <shoulder slump #5>. It's time for some serious storm relief this afternoon.