Despite the discomfort of sitting on the benches of doom for 8 hours a day, three days in a row, I always enjoyed serving jury duty. I would bring a few books and my knitting and would luxuriate in getting re-acquainted with my old friends Josephine Tey, Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Reginald Hill. Nothing like reading a good, old-fashioned mystery when waiting to be empanelled for a jury in Brooklyn.
I hear that post-9/11, jurors are not allowed to bring their knitting anymore. I suppose the knitting needles must be considered lethal weapons. I’m saddened especially because disasters like 9/11 and Katrina are often the catalyst many people need to start knitting. Making order out of chaos. Creation out of destruction. Plus, making warm things for people to wear is so satisfying.
The last time I served jury duty was 1997. Between jobs, going to school at night, I had time free and hoped I’d be picked for a jury. I was empanelled for a case against a drug dealer. When it came to be my turn for voir dire, the conversation went like this:
Q: “Have you ever been the victim of a crime?”A: “Yes, I was home during a push-in robbery when I was 10, and held-up twice at gunpoint while workingAfter I answered a few more questions and the rest of the pool were questioned, we were sent out into the hall to wait. No benches here, just a few radiators and one chair they brought out for the ubiquitous grandmotherly lady with the high blood-pressure. We waited. And waited. And took bets on who they’d pick. Everyone but me thought they’d choose me. I knew they wouldn’t. I was right.
Q: “Wow. Anyone else in your family ever been the victim of a crime?”
A: “Aside from car thefts and burglaries when no one was home, no. I’m the crime magnet in the family.” (Laughter) I could see the lawyer for the defense decide not to take me.
Q: “Are you an attorney, related to an attorney or work for an attorney?”
A: “I’m working part-time as an office manager for [insert name of Big Time Defense Lawyer].” (There went the prosecution’s vote).
Here in Ashburn, my jury duty consisted of one phone call the night before I was due to serve. It was Memorial Day weekend and I was in "Group 1" on the notice they sent me. I called the number, they said "Group One is not needed. If you are in Group One, you have completed your service." Hmpfff. I was disappointed. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with Reginald.