By ALEXI VENICE—
I get summoned for jury duty every five years or so. I recently served and came away with a story for the ages. This isn’t one of those boring stories your coworker told you when she deliberated in the jury room for 20 hours, eating pizza, drawing Venn diagrams on the white board, and bludgeoning the holdout to capitulate so they could reach a unanimous verdict. This, my friends, is a crazy, but true, story.
I was sitting in the gallery of the courtroom—minding my own business with 59 other potential jurors—when the judge called 16 of us to the jury box for voire dire. We were to be questioned—first by the judge, then by the lawyer for each side—whether we were unbiased and had an open mind with respect to the prosecutor in the blue suit presenting a case against the defendant in the orange jumpsuit (not her own fashion choice).
I always expect to be dismissed because the lawyers don’t want an author (just kidding)—a lawyer (me)—on the jury. Never fails.
I sooo want to be on a jury—for my author profession—but I suspect it’s never gonna happen unless I get a fake I.D. under my pen name of Alexi Venice and cast a vote in the next election. I’d be on the county roster for jury duty, and I could honestly respond to all questions that my vocation is that of a writer of blog posts and mysteries with romantic twists. For those people in attendance who recognized me, they would have to keep their traps shut in the interest of elevating my fiction.
(I know what you’re thinking: Why don’t I gain experience from the viewpoint of the lady in orange? Nope. I’ve watched Orange is the New Black. Not my cup of tea.)
Anyway, of the 16 potential jurors in the box, I knew a few because ours is a familiar community. There was an older gentleman (now retired) who ran the hearing aid shop for 40+ years. I didn’t know him personally, but recognized his name and face because he advertised heavily on television. There was also a prominent, well-liked physician who I knew from our healthcare system.
The 16 of us made our way into the jury box, and no sooner did we sit down than a lady in her mid-60s in the front row collapsed, fell forward in her chair, and did a faceplant on the floor where she lay semi-conscious. I was in the second row, behind the physician, who is eminently qualified to attend to a person who’s lying flat-out like a drunken lizard.
However, to everyone’s surprise, the hearing aid guy jumped into action and rushed to the fallen juror, rolling her on her side. He yelled at the clerk of court to call 911. Kudos to him for thinking fast.
He began muttering to the semi-conscious patient, apparently examining her, which I don’t have a problem with because I think he’s had some cardiac training as a volunteer firefighter. What I found extraordinary, however, is that he attempted to prevent the actual, board-certified physician from helping the patient. Hearing aid guy initially pushed her away. Despite telling him she was a physician, he ignored her. Maybe he has a hearing problem?
What was going through his mind? Did he think the patient’s hearing aid caused her to faint?! Because none of the rest of us did. We were all thinking this was a serious health event like a heart attack or stroke. Something unrelated to hearing. I know if I were lying semi-conscious on the floor, I’d like an actual physician helping me, not the hearing aid guy. The physician was persistent, so he ultimately acquiesced to allowing her to care for the patient.
In the meantime, the judge ordered the rest of us jurors to move out of the jury box, back to the gallery, to sit in the wooden pews with our hands in our laps and our mouths shut until this poor woman’s health crisis could be properly addressed.
I sat in the front row of the gallery (“of course you did, Alexi!”), so I could have a clear view of what was transpiring. A short distance in front of me sat the defendant next to her lawyer.
The first authorities to respond to the 911 call were two uniformed sheriff deputies. Reminiscent of the old Western Gunsmoke, they burst through the double doors and rounded the corner on their way to the jury box. One of them must have gotten dressed in a hurry that morning because his taser came loose from his belt, flew by the only person wearing orange, and fell to the floor. It bounced and skidded, finally coming to rest within arm’s reach of a shackled ankle.
Not everyone noticed the taser now resting on the floor, so I whispered to the lady in orange, “This is your chance. Pick up the taser and zap the hearing aid guy, so the physician can take care of the patient.” Seriously, she was the only one who didn’t have anything to lose. Oh come on, I wouldn’t do that—even though I thought about it between heart beats.
The sheriff didn’t notice his taser had left its holster, so I yelled, “Your taser flew off your belt! It’s there—on the floor.” He looked at me, put his hand on his empty holster, then looked at the floor where I was pointing. He quickly ran to it, scooped it up, and securely fastened it. He cast me an appreciative glance before joining his partner in the jury box. I gave him the thumbs-up sign and mouthed, “Check the shit on your belt before you leave the house in the morning.”
And people wonder how all hell breaks loose in a courtroom. How a criminal defendant gets ahold of a taser and takes out the bailiff or judge. How a juror tases another juror to shut him up. How the clerk of court tases the judge because she’s tired of listening to his same old stories. How a physician tases a hearing aid guy so she can do her job. It just takes one little mistake…
Anyway, we watched the poor woman in distress get strapped to a cart and rolled out by the EMTs. As she went out the door, a knucklehead in the back of the gallery said, “Some people will do anything to get out of jury duty.” What a dumb-ass. I mean, the sheriff should’ve tased him on the spot.
After all that drama, the judge reseated us in the jury box and commenced voire dire. When the Assistant D.A. asked me if I had an open mind about the charges against the defendant, I thought for a second then said, “Yeah. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt because she didn’t pick up the taser and take you out when she had the chance.”
Needless to say, he exercised a strike on me and I was dismissed. Gone. Just like that.
I think I’d better get that fake I.D. for Alexi Venice. No, that isn’t the moral of this story. The moral of this story is that I should never be allowed to carry a taser.