Friday, June 09, 2000

Trials and tribulations

My husband has jury duty week after next. This would not be a problem--doing his civic duty and all--except that 1) he had already taken that week off for vacation and 2) the reason he had taken it off for vacation is because it's the last week of school and the kids have four half-days in a row. Two days of that week I go into work, and he was going to be available for 1 p.m. pick-up. But now the court's got dibs. This problem became clear after it was too late for him to plead child-care needs and try to ditch his duty, so we just have to wait and hope they decide at the last minute that he's not needed.

I've actually never minded jury duty much myself; it's like a paid vacation from reality. I rarely get on a case, so it's a nice time to catch up on some reading in the waiting room, if I can ignore the Jerry Springer episodes somebody always turns the TV to. The one time I was actually chosen for a jury, we wound up hung. It seemed like an open-and-shut case, but the prosecuting attorney was so inarticulate and inept and the defense attorney was like something straight out of "L.A. Law," and the latter ran rings around the evidence so successfully that he formed reasonable doubt in the mind of one very stubborn juror. The protestations of her 11 colleagues meant nothing, and so we made no decision. Not exactly a satisfying way to spend a week.

The most satisfying jury-duty experience I've ever had was my spell on a Grand Jury--one day a week for ten weeks. We heard multiple cases each day, and the great part was that we weren't deciding anyone's guilt or innocence, just determing whether there was enough evidence to go to trial. A majority could do that; didn't need that pesky unanimity. The legal eagles in charge of the proceedings were highly articulate and often funny. Some of the cases were unpleasant, which made me glad that I didn't have to live with them for weeks. Clearly, if one has to be on a jury at all, this is the way to go.

But not the way my husband has to go; he's scheduled for a solid week, and the kids aren't quite. Whose idea is this half-day school stuff anyway? Why have a last week of school if it only works out to half a week? And speaking of working, don't they realize that a lot of parents do? Are they just trying to phase the kids out? My two are going straight from that week into two weeks of half-day camp, so we have a lot of empty afternoons in our future. Let's hope there are no protracted jury trials in Papa's.

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