The Mysterious Juror #1

 

Since only nine of the intended 14 were empanelled on the first day, they told us to report at noon on Wednesday.  I got in a good morning at work, and headed over.  To get to the jury room you take the elevator to 10, and walk down stairway number 2 to floor 9 ½ .  Ten of my co-jurors are already there. 

We’re varied in age, Roy is 22, a grill cook at a healthy fast food place, Susan is a retired teacher. We’re starting to connect.  Susan is reading a classic, I forget which one, maybe Jane Eyre but the impression was of a beloved friendly book, something you’ve read before but knew would be a good choice for lots of hanging around.  We’re together at one end of the table.  Larry is about my age (50), he’s sitting slightly away from the table where the light from the window is best.  He’s an artist.  We’re not all chatting, but the silence which dominated yesterday is dissipating.

What are the first topics you talk about?  We don’t get to “what do you do for a living?”, which can be a rude question, we are being very careful not to discuss the case, although “why did you get picked?” seems OK – a social worker (Andrea) notes that she is surprised she got  picked as she has done counseling on sexual violence. We discuss how they managed to fill the empty four chairs in only a few hours when it took all day yesterday to fill nine, and conclude the attorneys had used up their challenges.

Wesley, the Bailiff peeks in, and counts us “Thirteen, and we’re supposed to have fourteen, wait, don’t help me, I can do the math.” He makes a big show of counting on his fingers, and says “one missing, did I get that right?  When he gets here, pull this string, that turns on a light in the court room.”

The chatter resumes, I ask Larry what kind of art he does, and he shows me his drawings on his smart phone.

Wesley comes back “he’s called in, he’s close”.  We figure out it is Juror Number 1 who is missing.  Jurors 1 through 8 had been in this room most of the day before.  Larry (Juror number 4) recalled Juror Number 1 – “he was sort of high strung, just came over from Provincetown to do jury duty, had to change clothes six times during the day”.

By now Juror Number 1 is  half an hour late “why don’t they just grab another from the jury pool?” we start to mutter.  “Maybe we can go with 13”. Another cameo appearance from Wesley who tells us “he’s almost here”.  This is beginning to resemble Waiting for Godot.  On Wesley’s fourth appearance he asks us to line up by juror number in the corridor – and he leads us to the court room.  The stair is poorly lit, and the risk manager in me calculates the odds of juror 11 tripping and pushing the rest of us down like dominoes.  I hold the railing, and am glad I didn’t wear heels.  Ahead of me I hear Wesley calling “All Rise, jury entering”, and we cross into the sunny court room.  Today the lawyers are in navy blue jackets, and John in the same well pressed blue shirt. 

The seats in the jury box are comfortable, padded, slight swivel, and the can tilt a little back, well designed for sitting for hours.  Judge MacLeod addresses us – “you have waited patiently for about an hour.  I am sure that you are not feeling kindly towards your fellow juror who has wasted your time. The difficulty he has with appearing now tells me he may have other difficulties as the case continues, so, the attorneys and I have agreed to go forward with 13 jurors.  We will swear you in, then break for lunch now, and this afternoon, you will hear opening statements”. 

Wesley calls “All Rise”, and leads us back to the jury room.  I ask him what will happen to Juror Number 1, and he ominously, clicks the handcuffs on his belt.  “I’ve sent the police out to juror’s homes too – so, none of you want to be late coming back from lunch, right?”  We all slightly quake.

I pick up my lunch bag, and we disperse, and head up to 10.  I find a ladies room.  As I’m leaving a young man is leaving the men’s room.  He’s wearing black jeans, a white shirt, a pale blue sweater tied around his neck, sunglasses propped on his head, and a smart phone in his hand. “Oh, hi, you’re on the jury right?”

I’m a little nervous, is this guy going to try to sway me in some way?  The corridor seems completely isolated, everyone’s gone to lunch.  “I’m on a jury” I say cautiously.

“The sex guy one right? I’m supposed to be on that, I think I’m in big trouble” 

“Yes, I think you are, you should go talk to the judge, it’s that stair over there”.

He flies off, sweater functioning as a cape.

I head for the Garden of Peace which I had seen out the window, and settle down with my hummus cheese and carrot wrap, and a detective story. I allow 20 minutes to walk the half block back, go through the metal detectors, up to ten, and down to 9½.  I’m ten minutes early, no need for Wesley to click his handcuffs at me.  Susan never left, she’s eaten her lunch there.  “Juror 1 showed up, he said ‘you can say I was here at ten of, right?’ I told him I couldn’t and suggested he pull the string so he could talk to the judge”.  Susan, the retired elementary school teacher, is the last person in the world I would ask to lie for me. 

Roy and Jorge came back together, they had also run into Juror Number 1, and told him to talk to the judge. Wesley looked in on us, did his big show of struggling with math, and randomly chose Samantha, “you’re in charge, when the missing two show up, pull the string”.   No one was late getting back from lunch, but after pulling the string, it was 15 minutes before Wesley led us downstairs, and we heard “All  Rise” again.

“Good Afternoon jurors, Juror One did appear, but due to personal issues, I have excused him from service on this jury, as I have mentioned,  I want happy jurors  who will work well together”.

Next installment – opening statements – reasonable doubt?

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