Sunday, August 28, 2005

Jury Duty

I was summoned to jury duty for the first time last week. Being gay, at my age, there aren’t very many "firsts" left. I’ve lived my life hard and fast, but mostly hard because fasting makes me hungry. I’ve bought my first car, my first home, my first personality chip. I am one jaded individual, and I’ve got the jewelry with semi-precious stones to prove it.

Even though I got there early, the jury waiting room was already packed. It was like a hospital waiting room, full of people who looked like they needed plastic surgery. I carefully waded through the room, looking for a good space to sit, preferably in a nice, quiet and clean corner--or next to some hot stud, I’m not picky at all.

Not too long after, we were herded into the jury room proper for jury selection. I realized right away that I must be excused. It would be a hardship for me to sit through a non-celebrity trial. I would have to sit through a low to mid-priced attorney’s arguments and with no cameras, reporters or book agents waiting to offer me millions for my experiences during the trial and the various detailed deliberations of what kind of makeover to give my fellow jurors.

Besides, the defendant was wearing an ill-fitting dark suit! I would surely not belong in a jury of his peers. My peers would be dressed in perfectly tailored, see-through t-shirts and leather chaps, the standard conservative formal attire for gays. And maybe a small, tasteful man-purse.

Ideally, I would be in a hung jury, emphasis on hung.

And there should really be a rule that says there must be a minimum of one cute guy per eleven potential jurors because otherwise, I don’t think I can stay awake long enough. This ratio will keep me interested in the details, the nuances of the amicus brief or boxers that he might be wearing. In our isolation from the world, I would pore over the evidence of his rising desire and we would cross-examine each others' members. Heady with information and drunk with facts, we would fall into each others' arms in our court-supplied hotel rooms.

Luckily, there was one such man in our pool: juror number six.

Jesse Jurran, 22, a six-foot-three, dark-haired, latin dreamboat with broad shoulders, hazel eyes and a mouth just meant for giving blowjobs. He had a back problem from playing high school football. He worked as a caddy to support himself through college. No priors, one moving violation in the last six months. He was reading a paperback copy of Siddhartha. Philosophy and fellatio, these are a few of my favorite things.

Jesse intrigued me, he sounded like a man with mystery. I learned all this because of all the questions the judge and lawyers asked to determine the suitability of the potential jurors. I tried googling his name afterwards to see if I could find pictures of him in his football gear. I wanted to re-live those moments when I threw him intimate glances and he ignored me completely. It was just like my first love.

But the questions they asked of the potential jurors! They were very, very personal and clearly made some of the people uncomfortable. It made me wish intensely that I had some unbuttered popcorn. And a large soda, diet.

If these were the questions for a lawsuit for a car accident, I wonder what they would be for something really juicy, like an emancipation case. I would pay to see Mimi try to emancipate herself from Mariah Carey, coz you know it's gonna happen.

We had been reminded that we swore a solemn oath. The act of holding up our right hand and swearing in compelled us to tell the truth. One friendly-looking guy revealed that he had been incarcerated for breaking into a hardware store and stealing tools. A middle-aged man in a dress shirt had been recently convicted of domestic abuse. They were both excused.

A young woman, 19, a very pretty college student originally from Uganda was next. Daleesha was her name, I think. I don't know how it's spelled.

The judge had been asking her questions in a very direct manner. And then he asked, "Have you ever the victim of a crime?"

She sat there, silent for almost a minute. You can see her gather her words, putting them together, trying to answer the question; her face a quiet storm of emotion.

The air in the courtroom was completely still. I was distracted by the silence; I had been boring a hole into Jesse's forehead, willing him to make eye contact. I turned my attention towards the jury box.

The judge, becoming aware of her consternation, leaned in and repeated the question. He said in a gentle, fatherly way, "Miss, have you ever been the victim of a crime, one that has been reported?"

With those five words, he gave her an out. I saw her shoulders cave in relief, defeat or something else, I don't know.

"No," Daleesha said in a small voice.

"Ok," the judge nodded. A small pause, "Ok."

In a low voice, the judge asked a few more questions and then excused her. Everybody looked at her as she left the courtroom. I'm sure in everybody's minds, the same scenarios were flying: domestic violence? Sexual abuse? Rape? Then the judge was back to the business at hand.

At this point, there were eleven jurors. One more to go. There was one guy who was ahead of me. I was afraid of the questions the judge was going to ask. Because of the nature of this case, I was going to have to tell him about Doug. I was nervous about that.

Fortunately, the guy ahead of me was accepted into the jury. The rest of us were dismissed. I received my check on the way out. $17.20 is the going rate for jury duty these days.

As I pushed the revolving door, I saw Daleesha standing outside the building, a few paces away. She was looking intently at the check in her hand. $17.20. A paltry sum. I wondered what that one question cost her.

Justice stood before her. It loomed thirty stories high. It had asked for her help to mete it out. I wondered if she would seek justice for herself. A step forward or a step back?

Then my bus arrived and I ran towards it. I saw a glimpse of her as the bus pulled away, still rooted to that spot.

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