The kids knew something was up the moment they got back from school. Nico looked at me…then Ilsey. They both said, “It came!!??” I took a pause, for dramatic effect, then said, “Yesssss….!”
They jumped. Yes!! All right! It was what I had been waiting for, and they knew it. No matter that it came at a rather inconvenient time, just as we were planning to head into recording the next album, (not to mention getting ready for the holidays), no matter that everybody else seems to loath and detest it, I proudly held out the official looking pinkish notice that arrived in the mail that day….the one that says I must report for jury duty. I am one of those rare individuals who simply love jury duty. I look forward to it with an unreasonable amount of anticipation…wondering what the case will be, who I’ll meet, which court house I will go to, endless unanswered questions, which for me is part of the appeal.
Where else do you get thrown into a room full of strangers who you would otherwise never meet? Last three times I went for jury duty I made friends with such an unlikely bunch…people who I would have never run into if it hadn’t been for the legal system. In the big holding room I played cards , ( I am an avid spades player) caught up on some reading, and learned about the gas company. In an odd way, its almost an enforced vacation. There are a couple of I people I’ve met on jury duty I still keep in touch with.
First things first, we had to call our engineer and rearrange the recording schedule to work at night, not easy, but not impossible. Hey, sometimes the necessity of working at night can be an advantage, providing a different mood and all. With that all set, I looked forward to another legal adventure.
I reported to the big room and immediately scouted the place for potential spades partners. I’ll tell you one thing, there are more card players downtown than in Van Nuys (which is where I was assigned this time). No matter, I found some and we started a game. Pretty soon they showed us The Video. The one where Kelly Lang (a local newscaster) explains how much of an honor and privilege it is to be a part of our great judicial system, and how in olden times they used to throw people in a lake to decide if they were guilty or not, and how this way is much better.
I watched as flags blew in the wind, and Kelly talked about service and fairness, and found myself getting all misty, I blinked away my surprising overwhelming sense of patriotic sentimentality, and looked around the room hoping to share my surge of feelings with other participants. Nobody else seemed to be paying attention to The Video. They were talking, reading, drinking coffee, or just staring into space. I began to wonder where my unusually strong feelings of civic duty came from.
I was lucky, they called me for the first panel of jurors for a case. The voit dire process began and the lawyers asked all of us potential jurors lots of questions. It was all pretty serious and formal. When it was my turn to be questioned the young, earnest very conservative looking plaintiffs attorney began with where I live and what I do etc.
He asked if I was married, and my husbands occupation. “He’s a musician.” He waited for more information. “A guitarist,” I added. The lawyer asked if he was or had been in a band. I didn’t see the relevance to the traffic violation case, but I said, “Yes.” Which band? He prodded. “Wings,” I replied. At that point this serious, controlled professional simply fell apart . Paul McCartney!!?? Really?? Wow!! How cool!! He was now a star struck teenager. It took a while to regain composure, but the process finally continued and I was deemed fit to sit in judgment of a rear ending accident, even if my husband had been in a band with a former Beatle.
The case was not particularly original, just an ordinary traffic accident, but it was important to the people involved and all of us on the jury paid close attention. It took a few days and I ended up having lunch a couple of times with a very nice, interesting man. His name was Tony, he was about 70 years old. A scientist with an East European accent, he tried to explain to me the process of desalinization. I’m not sure I grasped it, but he was so enthusiastic , I tried to follow. We talked about pets, I told him about our menagerie, he said he had one pet. A crow. Named Laura. He was certainly intriguing.
When the case was turned over to the jury we were all led into the jury deliberation room and the first order of business was to select a foreman. It was interesting to watch the dynamic at work. Most of the women in the room turned toward the only young, middle class looking man and assumed he would take charge. He was completely taken aback. Tony suggested that I would make a good fore person. I was inordinately pleased. All agreed and I was in charge. I made a very good fore person if I do say so myself, and I was also thrilled with prospect of having the only speaking part. I was looking forward to that moment when the judge asks Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict? Then I would get to rise and say….very sincerely We have, Your Honor.
The kids were happy about the prospect, too, and had all sorts of ideas about how I should deliver the line. Nico and Ilsey insisted on helping me rehearse The Line. We briefly considered altering the meaning with a different emphasis….such as WE have YOUR honor But dismissed it, it was after all serious business. The other jurors all kidded me about having the only speaking role, so after we reached our verdict (not a particularly difficult process) and started back into the courthouse and the deputy came over and told me that they don’t do that any more, the clerk reads it, all of the jurors were upset, knowing that this was the legal equivalent of ending up on the cutting room floor.
I resigned myself to a non-speaking cameo role now, knowing that I had to simply raise my hand to identify myself as foreman, and hand over the verdict to the deputy, who had remained next to me as we entered the courtroom.
I was extremely surprised, then, when the judge looked at me and asked Have you reached a verdict? I was not one to let this opportunity pass by, I stood, took a pause (for dramatic effect) and proclaimed We have, Your Honor. Immediately afterward I heard the other jurors collectively say a quiet, but emphatic Yesssss!!