The Jury’s Still Out on This Column. Way, Way Out.

November 14, 2011  

by Roger White

You’ll pardon me if I flex my whack-a-lawyer muscles again, but it’s not my fault this time. It’s true that I swore to my friends of the barrister bent that I would lay off for a while since my last acerbic attorney attack, in which I believe I opined something to the effect of the following:

“Q: So you’re stuck on a desert island with Hitler, a 100-pound rabid wolf, and a lawyer and you have a gun with only two bullets in it, what do you do?

A: Shoot the lawyer twice.”

And, indeed, I had no intention of even intimating in this column the notion that fifteen minutes in a steamroom full of lawyers is guaranteed to produce results as mucilaginous as a great pot of stewed okra. Ick.

No, I was going to pen a nice, droll little piece about the agonies of Christmas shopping, mainly pointing out all the unfathomably extraneous must-purchase gift doodads at places like Brookstone—such as those internet-linked patty thermometers that you can insert into your burgers as you grill them to determine not only the very millisecond that the epicenter of your ground beef mound hits optimum ingesting temperature but also to pinpoint and track the temperature of each burger patty as it works its way through your backyard barbecue guests’ digestive systems, just for fun.  This is what I was going to write. How gifts have come a long, mysterious way since the era of maritime-themed tie tacks and microphone-shaped soap on a rope.

Alas, that column was not to be, for again I have been sidetracked, this time by that little letter we all receive from the county now and again that makes us all earnestly yearn for a hefty dose of the chicken pox: the dreaded jury summons.

Yes. So the very day I had set aside to congeal all of my yuletide shopping horror stories into a bouncy little missive for your amusement was spent instead deep in the bowels of the Travis County Courthouse grounds listening to defense and plaintiff legal beagles grill me and approximately 50 other total strangers on whether or not we could be fair and impartial in this really twisted case of . . . ooh, sorry, I can’t divulge that information. Judge’s orders, ya know. All I can say about the case is ew, yuck, OMG, and I didn’t know such a thing was anatomically possible with a bowling pin.

As prospective jurors, we all had to sit through five grueling hours of voir dire, which is Latin for “your embarrassing past is now on display to determine if your biased, bigoted, and emotionally disturbed personality precludes you from jury service.” The lengths some folks go to avoid their civic duty, I must say, never ceases to amaze. One lady, I kid you not, interrupted the judge no fewer than nine times with such questions as “Is the prosecutor the same thing as the attorney?” By the time this old gal was hustled away, the rest of us weren’t sure if it was an act or not, but she was unceremoniously handed a “get out of jury service free” card. One large man in front of me claimed post-traumatic stress disorder from grievous wounds received during his military service as a means of skipping out, but when pressed by one of the attorneys on the specifics of his war injuries he fessed up that he was beaned in the back of the head by a car part in his motorpool job.    Yeah. Keep your seat, pal. I was Prospective Juror #18, and by the time the lawyers took turns whittling away all their undesirables, it appeared that I was seriously headed for ye olde jury box, but a late question by the defense team saved the day. They asked me what my wife did for a living, and I proudly proclaimed that dear Sue works for, you guessed it, a downtown law firm. “You mean she works with lawyers? Like us?” “Yup.” “Do you believe this fact might hinder your ability to render a fair and impartial verdict in this case?” “Uh, probably not. Giggle. Fry ’em.” “What did you say?” “Nothing.” Then both legal teams hustled to the bench to whisper things back and forth to the judge, and the next thing I knew I was on the street.

Hoohah! I mean, darn. Oh, well. I had fully intended to serve if called upon. Seriously. However, I did not emerge unscathed by my brush with our cantankerous court system. When I finally got to my car, I found my windshield papered with a nice collection of parking tickets, courtesy of Austin’s finest. Now, that’s a good scam. Where’s my lawyer?


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