Guilty

Jury duty is one of those responsibilities of citizenship that reminds us that the American justice system is the best in the world. It also reminds us that, if at all possible, we never want to have anything to do with the American justice system. Not ever.

If you’re not a law-abiding citizen when you first report for jury duty, by the end of the day you definitely are. You never want to go back there again, in any capacity. It’s like prison, only without the exercise yard. By the end of my two days I was scratching a crude calendar into the back of the seat in front of me. I wanted to speak to an attorney. I wanted my rights read to me. I wanted to yell "GUARD!!" but that would have interrupted the catatonia of the other 200 people trapped in a room with no windows and 12 ceiling-mounted TVs.

As we waited to be called to trial, we were apparently being tested by having to watch something called Regis and Kathie Lee. I have heard of this program. I have also heard that there are people who watch this of their own free will. But here in this large room there was no choice, no escaping this Regis and Kathie Lee person (or perhaps it was two separate people).

"Come on Steve. Take your shirt off. Let’s see the kind of hunk that stars on General Hospital!" [frenzied screams from audience]

I glance up. Maybe the people in the TV audience are themselves waiting for a jury assignment, except they’re in a more creative city that teaches pity and compassion to its jurors by making them watch celebrities.

But my mind was becoming numb from the noise. Those around me had already lost their will to resist. They slouched, unmoving, staring up at the televisions with heavy lids and blank expressions, newspapers slowly sliding out of reach of their lifeless fingers and gathered in loose piles on the floor.

They were the undead.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1998
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