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Another day in court

It’s been almost three years to the day since I last tried to take a dip in a jury pool. Once again, I’ve been rejected. 

Truth is, I have a great respect for all things pertaining to jury duty. I obtained it in the Clay County Courthouse 20 years ago while watching a juror doze off during a trial. The man in the defendant’s box at those particular proceedings happened to be responsible for a 3-inch scar in my state trooper husband’s scalp, and the fact that Sleepy (maybe Dopey, too) would have a say-so in rendering the verdict — well, it woke me up to the seriousness of jury selection and service. Ever since then, I’ve been a big believer in doing your duty.

So when a summons came in the mail, I made plans to do mine, right along with the teacher missing spring break and the accountant missing tax season. By 8:30 last Monday morning, 58 of us filled the designated rows at the Copiah County Courthouse, sans purses and anything else deemed illegal to tote. We were a varied lot. Young. Old. Balding. Dreadlocked. Chatty. Tired. Sneakered. Suited up. But we all had one accessory in common — a clip-on “juror” tag.

The National Center for State Courts says the number one complaint citizens have about jury duty is the waiting — waiting for orientation to begin, waiting in the hallway during last-minute motions, waiting to find out who’ll be impaneled.

You can sense the sentiment strongly when you have time to count the courtroom’s Corinthian columns or spot a young lawyer in the corner bored enough to read “The 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse.” It didn’t help that the hands on the huge clock behind the judge’s bench didn’t move, may not have moved for years. Being eternally stuck at 8:44 seemed to underscore the reality that we were on their. time. now.

There was one moment of comic relief, though. In this no-phone zone one went off, expanding all our musical horizons to include some genre with which I am unacquainted. Court officials were not amused.

That reminded me of the voir dire round three years ago, when I learned another surefire way to rile the judge: move to Terry but keep your voter registration in Hazlehurst. Someone named Virginia dodged duty by answering in the affirmative regarding that very issue, but she was thoroughly chastised in the process. The judge also made his point to a gentleman choosing to cash in on his over-65 status (“seniors sometimes make the best jurors”) and a woman demonstrating her back discomfort (“we can take as many breaks as you need”).

But this jury selection experience had its own distinctions. The big one came early on, when newly-elected Judge Irving let the cat out of the bag.

“We’re picking a grand jury today,” she said in as friendly a manner as any judicial pundit ever managed.

The crowd groaned. I mean it. Groaned. Out loud. But I heard the pronouncement and thought, “Wow, grand jury might be, well . . . grand. Right?”

Then came some unusual but obligatory questions about our personal gambling and drinking habits. The judge was delighted to see none of us own up to any such issues and declared us “a good bunch.”

Within 15 minutes, though, I realized that once again I wouldn’t be weighing in on the scales of justice. I wasn’t a first-round draft, which is all they took this time.  At number 40-something, I didn’t make the cut.

And that’s how I came to be in the produce aisle at Wal-Mart by 10:15 last Monday while 25 of my betters got to weigh in on the scales of justice. I wonder if I’ll ever get to serve on a jury.

Contact Kim Henderson at kimhenderson319@gmail.com or follow her on twitter at @kimhenderson319.