Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

A Piece of My Mind: Civic Duty

I get the post card.  I am on call for jury duty for a week. The new procedure is to sign in at noon and 5 pm to find out whether I am on call to appear the next morning or afternoon.

For four days I dodge the bullet.  I manage a blood donation, a Book Club meeting, and a friend’s Anniversary Party, and then the notice appears:  “Your report date is 4/22/22.” Following is other information about where to park, where to report, how to check in.

I make it easily to the parking garage, up two floors to the pedestrian bridge, and then the signage ran out.  I start for the nearest building – nope, that’s the jail.  In the other direction – yes, the Superior Court.  Through the bag scan and the metal detector, up to the second floor, where i wait in line for the sign-in kiosks, directed by a friendly young man evidently used to handling clueless questions from silver haired ladies.

I balk at the sign in kiosk, clearly labeled “Step 2” and “Step 3”. 

“Where’s Step One?”

The young man shakes his head. “We’re re-vamping the system.  Gotta change those signs.”  I scan my juror postcard, he kindly takes my parking ticket for validation (saving himself several other clueless questions, I’m sure.)

Into the jury room, full of people scanning their cell phones or filling out forms. What are these forms?  Did I miss something? I ask. No, that’s for after you’ve been assigned to a jury.  The form looks like it goes on forever.  And only one chair in the entire room has a desk arm.

I am on Panel 47B. An announcement comes. 47B is called to the third floor.

We are seated in the courtroom.  We rise for the judge, a young-ish woman with brown hair flowing over her robe.  We rise to swear to do our best.  The defendant and his attorney rise and take off their masks to greet the prospective jurors. They both sport conservative suits and ties.  The defendant, a large, square shouldered guy, smiles at us – he has perfect teeth.  A charmer.  The DA also rises maskless, a woman in an un-challenging beige suit.

The judge read the charges against the defendant:  six counts of sexual aggression, forcible rape, sodomy….

I haven’t thought about it for years.  When I was eleven years old, my father out of town, my mother at a meeting, she arranged for me to go to and from my dancing class via taxi. The driver had dark curly hair and a pock-marked face. Molestation is the word we have for it now. No rape, but still mystifying and terrifying to my young self. 

The judge said “This trial will probably last for five weeks. If you can plead a hardship, you may be excused.”  She read the reasons which would justify hardship. Being uncomfortable with the subject matter is no excuse.

Happily, my husband and I have a long-deferred travel planned, which is non-refundable.  I have been allowed a deferral until mid-summer. I’m hoping that my civic duty at that time will involve only some financial malfeasance, and will evoke no nightmares.

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