Home > Uncategorized > Here’s What I Was Called Friday: Madame Foreperson

Here’s What I Was Called Friday: Madame Foreperson

When I received the No. 10 envelope in the mail a few weeks ago, I had the typical reaction. Great–I’ve been sentenced to jury duty. October is a chaotic month anyway, with a slew of fall festivals and events involving costumes and candy, and I’ve layered this October with some new clients and some additional challenges on the work-front.

Jury duty was the last thing I thought needed to be added to the calendar.

However, I was there just five minutes when I realized that jury duty was going to inspire me to dust off the ‘ol blog. Because there was plenty of stuff happening there that was blog-worthy. (most of which I really couldn’t do justice without a cameraphone, which was NOT permitted in Judge X’s courtroom).

There were cases at the beginning which were plea-bargained. Reckless driving. Simple possession of marijuana–a couple of those. Driving with a suspended license, failure to yield. At first, it didn’t seem like jury duty was going to be as interesting as watching one of those judicial shows on television (a la Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, etc.). Although the judge did come back with some good quips, like “Don’t step in a hole,” (and get caught driving without a license) to the young man who was surrendering his license due to a marijuana charge.

I knew a few of my fellow jurors, and although we weren’t permitted to go to the bathroom without judicial consent, we represented a pretty fair collection of the populace. I was congratulating myself on being fair, and open-minded, when the next case was called. A man stood in front of the judge and I could literally feel the fury boiling inside him. I hadn’t even heard the charges he was facing, but his anger–and his resentment–was clear from his back. This man was angry–I’m not sure why or where the poison came from, but I felt it, even three rows behind.

Then the judge read the charges: domestic violence. And that’s when my blood began to boil. I quickly realized that I wasn’t fair, or objective, or open-minded. I wanted to unleash rage and anger against  him, against someone who would hurt someone else. Photos documenting the abuse were shown. An officer testified about the incident. And the man standing there within a pit of rage offered that the woman who received the beating “hadn’t called the police. Someone else called the police.” As if….as if that made everything okay. The victim hadn’t reached out for help, so therefore, she was somehow less of a victim.

Being told he had to attend some anger management classes seemed like a pittance to me. His only “punishment” was that he had to pay for the class and go sign up for it within a few days. Really? That’s it?

The next case–an animal cruelty case–was when I was called as a juror and named Madame Foreperson. A man had abandoned seven brown-and-white spotted puppies inside a house for at least a week without food or water. Eventually, a neighbor called the police based on the smell. That defendant didn’t even show up for his court date, but we found him guilty nonetheless. I don’t think I’ll forget those photos.

The final case of the day was another domestic violence case where the defendant defended himself. He claimed his 18-year-old pregnant girlfriend was violent and bi-polar, by way of explaining the fight that left her with marks around her neck where he allegedly tried to strangle  her. She wasn’t there to testify because she is still with him, and planning to resume the relationship when he is released from jail on an unrelated charge.

It’s no wonder the female prosecutor’s mouth is shaped like an upside down smile. Her world is filled with these stories–day in, day out.

All just a typical day in Municipal Court, where they hear about 15,000 cases per year. I only spent a few hours there, but I gained a healthy perspective on the circumstances and impossible odds that some of my neighbors are facing. And sooner rather than later, I’m going to figure out how I can reach out and make a difference, even if it’s just for a single person.

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