This past Wednesday I took part in a mock jury. I’d seen the call for participants in the paper, promising both $75 and a light meal for three hours’ time. I’d come close to being on a jury more than a decade ago when I was summoned for a high-profile drug case while living in California. On my way to the courthouse my legs began to ache. During the voir dire segment I started to sweat profusely. By the time one of the lawyers got around to asking me if I had anything against people who used illegal drugs (he probably didn’t ask me that; but by that point I was in a flu-induced fugue-state), I was slumped in my chair, shaking. The judge didn’t wait for my answer, and instead asked me if I was sick.
“I think so, your Honor,” I mumbled.
She smiled and said I looked like I was dying and suggested I go home.
Being both a fan of The Good Wife, as well as a teller of stories, I’d always wanted to take part in the legal process, and was thrilled that I fit the profile the lawyers up north were looking for.
As I stepped inside the conference room and glanced past the group of other aspiring jurors seated at the large table, I may have uttered an audible-enough, “What the fuck?” Not because I saw that the light meal was nothing more than soggy-looking deli-sandwiches, but because there were dead deer hanging from all the walls. Almost a dozen large-antlered ungulates stared down at me through glass eyes.
Disconcerted, I asked the guy taking names if the case was about deer poaching. He looked up from the computer and raised his eyebrow as if he were looking at a woman with a low IQ.
“No,” he said. “All the partners in the firm are hunters.”
“Oh,” I said, casting my eyes over to table covered in tuna wraps and turkey on white.
While the very handsome attorney in a three-piece suit described the case in question, I tried not to be distracted by the dead-animal glances, focusing as best as I could on his face and my rather tasty sandwich.
I’d signed a non-disclosure agreement so I can’t share too many details, but the case involved a woman who should have known better doing a very stupid thing while on a job site and getting very hurt.
We heard both sides of the story. The plaintiff decided that since the guy in charge of the project hadn’t put safety measures in place, he was at fault. The defendant said that he thought it was more than obvious to everyone on the site that the thing he was demonstrating was only a mock-up of what the finished product would look like and that the woman should not have “tested” its soundness. It was this “testing” that caused her to get hurt.
The lackey who side-swiped me with his eyebrow showed us some slides of the injured woman’s broken body parts. A few of the other jurors moaned, but I was quite fascinated by the large steel pins sticking out of her skin. Honestly, I thought the gory images were far less offensive than the formerly adorable doe-eyed heads looming over me.
The lawyers left us folks to decide who was at fault and at what percentage, and, if we found the defendant guilty by more than 50%, what monetary value should we award the plaintiff for doctor’s bills, missed work, mental anguish, etc. etc.
I wanted to be foreman but the guy with the shirt buttoned up to his neck got picked. We went around the room about 50 times for each of the questions we were instructed to address. There was a standoff between the older woman with the well-executed breast implants and face-lift, who was worried that the defendant would lose his business over the incident, and the young nurse just back from fighting in Iraq, who was concerned that the plaintiff would, like him, suffer from PSTD for the rest of her life.
I congratulated myself for keeping an open mind and not jumping to conclusions based on the fact that the injured woman had hairy legs and unkempt toes.
Finally, after two hours we agreed that the guy in charge was 80% at fault and we awarded the plaintiff $1,500,000.
Before collecting my $75 I ran my hand over the soft fur of one of the dead animals and spoke silently to him with my mind. I told him how beautiful he was. I said I was sorry that the handsome lawyer shot him while he roamed silently through a dark fall forest, but at least he was mounted on a wall where he could witness the turning wheels of human justice.
And then I drove home.