Friday, November 07, 2008

8 Days In Seat 10 (Part Two)






Part One HERE.

After I was the last one to be seated on the jury, we were all escorted into the deliberation room, there to wait our first call into court. Perhaps 12 feet by 16 feet, the ambiance of the room was similar to that of an urban public school classroom of the early 20th Century. For amenities, it contained two heavy oaken tables, about 7 feet long by 3 feet wide, set end-to-end from one corner of the room towards the other, and 14 fairly comfortable padded chairs. A modern convenience was a microwave oven, although there was nothing to eat. There was also a fireplace, although no wood to burn in it; a whole bunch of coffee creamers and sugar, although no coffee to put them in; and five or six hardcover books, I suppose to entertain you if everybody else was arguing and you had already made up your mind.

(As we found out, there was more time spent in that room than we originally expected, and I mean prior to deliberating the case. If one of us had wanted to read an entire novel, it probably could have been done. Also, as mentioned in part one, the Lower Palookaville court personnel were unfailingly kind. They later provided us with coffee, tea, cookies, candies, and more substantial fare, such as pizza and salads, on more than one occasion. I don’t want to slight their largesse simply for the sake of humor.)

The court officer left us alone and closed the door. Not knowing what else to do in this situation, we all stood there, a bit uneasy, trying to come up with small talk. Over the course of the eight days, we would discuss the weather more than most meteorologists. Everybody was pleasant enough, to be sure, but it was one of those situations where we all hoped it would be over with as soon as possible. Nobody wanted to invest a lot of emotion into personal relationships that we would prefer to have dissolved quickly. To give you an example: While we certainly introduced ourselves to those with which we most often conversed while waiting, we did not formally introduce ourselves to each other, by going around the table and giving our names, until the day when we began deliberation. Even then, most gave just a first name.

The court officer – a real nice guy with a great sense of humor, and also my personal escort during breaks since I was the only jury member who smoked – came back in and told us the procedure. Every time we entered the courtroom, we would file in by order of our seat numbers. He would be in the lead and announce our arrival. When we left the courtroom at the end of the day, or for a scheduled break, he would lead us into the deliberation room, from which he would subsequently release us to the outside world or keep us informed of when we’d be needed again. If we had any questions, he would be our conduit to the judge.

He now lined us up by number and led us back into the courtroom. It was sort of like going on stage for the first time in a play. There were some butterflies in my stomach. I felt as though I should check to make sure that my fly was up, that there were no boogers hanging from my nose, and so forth. We filed in, going to our assigned seats.

We stood and waited while another officer recited a half-noble, half-overblown announcement about how court was now in session, hear ye, hear ye, all with grievances pay attention because here come de judge! Then he told everyone to be seated. There were notepads and pencils on our chairs. We picked them up and sat down.

The judge, a petite blonde in (I would guess, but I’m not always good at guessing a woman's age) her early 50’s – a decent looker, as judges go, in any case – gave us some instructions concerning what we were about to do. She explained thoroughly, but was not boring. She was, at all times, solicitous of the fact that we were somewhere we didn’t want to be. This was definitely appreciated. We would come to understand, after a short time in her court, that she wanted to move things along as quickly and efficiently as we did. Although her intent certainly wasn’t to belittle the gravity of the case, her eye-rolling and sometimes barely-contained smiles became, for us, a source of relief from some of the more tedious portions of the trial.

She told us that the case we would be hearing involved a suit and counter-suit, each side charging the other with five or six different counts of abuse, assault, mental cruelty, and other loving gestures. The parties bringing suit against each other were (not their real names, by the way) Mr. Irish and Mr. French. The judge explained that we were now going to hear opening arguments from each side, after which we would be taken back to the deliberation room. Then we would be set free for the remainder of the day. She asked us to remember that these opening arguments were NOT evidence, but merely a presentation by each lawyer of what he intended to prove to us concerning the rat bastards on the other side.

(She didn’t actually say "rat bastards". It was just generally understood.)

I opened my notebook, ready to begin taking notes. I absolutely was NOT ready for what I heard.

Mr. French and Mr. Irish sat with their lawyers, at tables in front of the judge's bench. They were both in their early 60's, Mr. Irish with a full head of gray/white hair, Mr. French with a bit less so. Mr. Irish appeared reasonably fit. Mr. French appeared to have enjoyed a few too many pork chops in his day. They both appeared somewhat bored - one might go so far as to say catatonic - while their lawyers went on, at length, concerning their respective hideous behaviors. For their parts, Mrs. French and Mrs. Irish were much the same, although they sat in the general seating area, away from their husbands.

Lawyer Number One got up, introduced himself, and said that he was representing Mr. French. He said that Mr. Irish was "a terrorist" and that he conducted a campaign of criminally malicious acts that had his client, Mr. French, as well as Mrs. French, fearful for their very lives. He said that, at various times, Mr. Irish had:

• Climbed trees and used binoculars to look into the French’s house.
• Released the French’s dogs out of their yard.
• Threatened Mr. French with bodily harm.
• Actually bodily harmed Mr. French.
• Made off-color and threatening remarks to other neighbors.
• Wrote “Fuck You” on a gigantic tarp and hung it between their houses so that Mr. & Mrs. French couldn’t help but always see it from their TV room and bedroom.
• Wrote obscenities in other places on the property, messages specifically directed towards Mr. French.
• Continually ran chainsaws, wood chippers, leaf blowers, lawnmowers, and other machinery, both day and night, strictly to annoy Mr. French.
• Built acrid fires near Mr. French’s property line, so as to send voluminous amounts of smoke towards Mr. French’s house.
• Made false accusations concerning Mr. French to the police.
• And, he implied that Mr. Irish probably poisoned Mr. French’s dog.

Lawyer Number Two then got HIS chance. He introduced himself as Mr. Irish’s lawyer, and he said that he would endeavor to prove that Mr. Irish did none of the things alleged. However, Mr. French had done the following nasties:

• Continually photographed and videotaped Mr. & Mrs. Irish, 24-hours a day, with SIX different video cameras.
• Shone multiple spotlights into Mr. & Mrs. Irish’s bedroom, for many months, all night long.
• Took photographs and videos of the Irish’s daughter and granddaughters when they used the swimming pool in the Irish’s backyard.
• Kept his dogs out all night, barking, and would not listen to Mr. Irish’s requests to take them in and quiet them. Instead, he said that if Mr. Irish didn’t like it, he would encourage the dogs to bark more often.
• After his dogs pooped all over the yard in winter, leaving behind hundreds of droppings in the snow, he would pick up the excrement and throw it into Mr. Irish’s yard come spring.
• And, to top it all off, he had allegedly exposed his private parts to Mrs. Irish – twice, in two separate incidents, separated by months.

Thus concluded the opening arguments.

These people were next-door-neighbors; had been for almost ten years. They were both well past retirement age. It sounded like a sitcom plot gone horribly wrong. It was The Ricardos and The Mertzes with no laugh track, The Kramdens and The Nortons on a bad acid trip.

Oh, and did I mention that both of these guys were retired policemen?

Welcome to jury duty, Mr. Sullivan. It only resembles Hell. However, if you were still a Catholic, it could probably qualify as Purgatory.

Soon, with the other seven days of my life that I’ll never get back.

Go To Part Three.


23 comments:

David said...

I LOVE this story. I think this would make an excellent documentary. Start with the courtroom scene, then dissolve to the beginning, where the two ex-cops are sharing a drink together, best of friends. Then a thrillingly horrible hilarity ensues.

By the way, I'm Stu's brother...

-- Dave

mibsphil said...

Torture, I'm sure, while you were stuck there, but in retrospect you gotta love it. Our criminal justice system at work in the service of morons! Actually, I confess I've always wanted to serve on a jury. I've been called countless times, and each time they sent us home because the parties settled and there would be no trial. Even though we haven't yet heard the whole story, it sounds like both of these idiots deserve some time in grownup time out: are these guys for real??

GreenJello said...

At this point, I would have WANTED to be on jury duty, just to see how the train wreck ended. LOL!

Chuck said...

Sounds like you got a bonus Staycation! :)

mlh said...

OMG!

All I have to say is, "Are you selling personalized transcripts of the proceedings? With off-side commentary and funny balloon drawings over the pictures of everyone in the courtroom?"

I want ten copies!

*Hee-hee! Off topic - my word verification for this comment is "sulness." What do you make of that?*

Kuanyin Moi said...

Purgatory for sure! Lucky me, I've always had my cases dismissed prior to sitting through stupid stuff. I luv your great storytelling though...so it's worth it to me. :-)

Angie Ledbetter said...

This kind of schlock makes you wonder who'd want to become a judge and listen to it all day every day.

Glad you got smoke breaks. If I get called to duty, I'll tell them Lower Palookaville lets their jurors smoke, so I better get to also.

Suldog said...

Angie - I didn't get to choose when to smoke. I was allowed only during the morning break, lunch, and an afternoon break. When we deliberated, none. Believe me, that didn't help me to feel charitable with my part of the verdicts :-)

Hilary said...

This is going to be a fun series of blog posts. Maybe MLH can illustrate the story for you...

Angie Ledbetter said...

Ooo, Sul, wish I'd known. I coulda puffed one for ya. :)

Buck said...

Good Lord. "Sausage Making," at its worst. But entertaining! I've never had "the privilege" of serving on a jury, to put it euphemistically. That's too long a story to go into here...

Ericka said...

maybe the gods did this to you just so they could read your blog about it later. maybe...

Tim King said...

OK. If there's no laugh track, then why I am I guffawing so much?

These two remind me of my kids. I ask them if they suddenly turned 2 when I wasn't looking, and that sometimes gets them to stop and think about what utter imbeciles they're being.

But these guys lived next door to each other for 10 years, and they're just now figuring out they don't like it there?

As for both of them being retired police officers... Well, I'll hold my tongue, but I can think of a few good jabs.

-TimK

Janet said...

Have mercy. SOunds like they deserve each other. The worst part of this is that greedy lawyers (and yes, my uncle spent 40 years as a criminal defense attorney so I can say this) will take cases like this. What a waste of taxpayer time, money, and resources, when there are REAL criminals out there.
But it sure sounds like it's going to be a funny story. Sorry you had to sit through it, but thank you for entertaining us.

Karen said...

People. They never fail to entertain. LOL Great story!

Tim King said...

WIth a suit-countersuit, that's a civil case, not a criminal one. These two guys are digging into their retirements to pay these lawyers. And so as long as it's their own money they're wasting (and not mine), my only question is...

How do I get in on that windfall? <sly grin>

-TimK

Moannie said...

Oh dear, another 'neighbours from hell' scenario. Poor you, but lucky us, er, we.

Over here those cases block the system and usually, if the plaintiffs are poor, taxpayers money is used, and the lawyers get richer. All it needed was for someone to say 'sorry'.

tshsmom said...

After reading this, my junk-collecting neighbors don't sound so bad. At least they keep to themselves.

Between homeschooling, nobody to replace me at work, and being close personal friends with the county attorney, I have no problem getting out of jury duty. :0

Shrinky said...

Your courts actually entertain this crap?? (No pun intended.) So, so funny in a tragic kind of way. Poor you hon, but at least something good came out of it, I so love your dead pan delivery (still smiling).

I can't wait to hear the conclusion.

About Me said...

This story is both hilarious and ridiculous I don’t envy you being on the jury but thanks for doing your civic duty.

About Me said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenn said...

A sitcom gone very, very wrong indeed. Wow, I so much can't wait to dive into today's update that I am heading there right now.

CrazyCath said...

Your punchline is just brilliant. Well done for not blurting it out at the beginning.

(I missed this post because I forgot to look for the "Part 2" and "Part 3". Consequently, I am catching up...
*sigh*