A little while back, Appellatesquawk was summoned to court for jury duty, herded into a large corral and shown a most entertaining movie.
It began with ominous music and people marching through a forest, looking like something out of the Herbert Hoover Middle School Christmas Pageant. They watch as soldiers in tinfoil armor tie a man hand and foot and throw him into a lake. The water closes over him. Glub, glub, glub.
Just when the suspense is becoming unbearable, the King, in a crown made of paperclips, raises his arm. The crowd, shouting “hurrah!” runs splashing into the lake and fishes the man out. He’s none the worse for wear – doesn’t even look wet – and everyone goes home happily.
The next scene shows then-Chief Judge Kaye (in modern dress), gazing earnestly into the camera. “That’s how trials used to be in the old days,” she says. “But thanks to jurors like yourselves, we have our marvelous present system of justice.”
This seems to be setting the bar awfully low. The best that can be said about the criminal justice system is that it’s better than throwing people into a lake? What if you had to sit through a movie of barber surgeons hacking off limbs every time you go to the doctor?
The rest of jury duty consisted of listening to exchanges like this:
Judge: Miz Jones – is that how you pronounce your name, “Jones”?
Juror: Uh huh.
Judge: Do you have relatives in law enforcement?
Judge: Do. you. have. any. family. like. brothers. or. sisters. or. a mother. or. father. or. husband. or. husband’s mother. or. husband’s father. who. works. for. the. police. department?
Judge: Who. is. that?
Juror: My uncle’s a police officer in Des Moines.
Judge: Does. he. talk. to. you. about. his. work?
Juror: Never met him.
[repeat this with all 62 potential jurors]
Judge: Now, Mr. Murgatroyd, I believe you said you have 13 children. Kindly state their ages and occupations.
Juror: Well, the youngest is unemployed, she’s only 6 months old. My oldest daughter is 32 and does data processing for the City. She started with the Department of Housing in 1999 when she got her college degree, and then she got a temporary job with the Department of Departments in 2002 which became permanent in 2004. Last year she moved to New Jersey and transfered to –
Judge: Wait, wait you’re going too fast. You say she worked for the Department of Housing in 2002 and then she moved to New Jersey?
Juror: The Department of Housing was 1999 when she was living in Brooklyn – no wait, I tell a lie, it was actually 1998 that she first started at the Department of Departments before her husband was transferred to Delaware –
Judge: (writing) husband. transferred. to. Delaware. Try to speak more slowly, Mr. Mugatroyd, we have 12 more of your children to go. . .
After three days of this, we were ready to throw the defendant into the lake and go home.