Kim Henderson – My day in court

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Tuesday, March 16th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Commentator Kim Henderson now on the importance of doing our civic duty.

KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: I have a great respect for all things pertaining to jury duty. I obtained it in the Clay County Courthouse years ago while watching a juror doze off during a trial. The man in the defendant’s box at those proceedings happened to be responsible for a three-inch scar in my state trooper husband’s scalp. The fact that Sleepy (maybe Dopey, too) would have a say-so in rendering the verdict—well, it woke me up to the seriousness of jury selection and service. Ever since then, I’ve been a big believer in doing your duty.

So when a summons came in the mail, I made plans to do mine, right beside the teacher who was missing her spring break and the roofer whose crew was without its chief. 

The National Center for State Courts says the number one complaint citizens have about jury duty is the waiting—waiting for orientation to begin, waiting in the hallway during last-minute motions, waiting to find out who’ll be impaneled. I sensed the sentiment strongly from where I sat in a hard wooden seat with time to notice the courtroom’s Corinthian columns and peeling plaster on a far wall. 

It didn’t help that the hands on the huge clock behind the judge’s bench didn’t move—may not have moved for years. Being eternally stuck at 8:44 seemed to underscore the reality that we were on their time now.

Eventually we got numbered fans to raise when speaking, and the voir dire began. We quickly learned a surefire way to rile the judge: change zip codes but forget to transfer your voter registration. Someone named Virginia dodged duty by this means, but the judge thoroughly chastised her in the process. He also made his point to a potential choosing to cash in on his over-65 status. “Seniors sometimes make the best jurors, sir,” he said. 

Undeterred, Juror No. 9 also attempted an exit when the opportunity arose. 

“You said anyone who’s 65 can opt out,” she smiled. 

The judge corrected: “I believe I said over 65.” She apologized in a flutter and quickly sat down. Hours later, she would make the cut.

I, however, was no first-round pick.  Never have been, in spite of a strong desire to do this civic duty. Here’s how it went this time: the prosecuting attorney began naming officers involved in the case, and asked if we knew any of them. I fumbled for my fan.

“Juror No. 5, how do you know so and so?“

 I responded as quietly as I could. “My husband. He’s in law enforcement.” 

I was out of the running faster than the defense lawyers could scribble a note next to my name.

So that’s how I came to be eating a large order of onion rings at Sonic while 12 of my betters weighed in on the scales of justice. I wanted my day in court, but the court didn’t want me. If you get the opportunity, go for it. Do your duty.  

I’m Kim Henderson.


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