Sunday, June 24, 2007

I'm a New Yorker Twice Over

There are certain milestones one passes on the way to becoming a New Yorker: having a tourist ask you for directions (and being able to answer correctly), becoming blase about seeing rats on the subway, and not only knowing which pizza place is the best, knowing the "correct" way to eat it.

Thus far, my experiences with the legal system had included threatening to sue Sea World when, at 10, I knocked out my front tooth on a jungle gym, and when Amete and I sued an ex-roommate of ours in small claims court, where we were discovered by a Judge Judy producer (a long, salacious story from the book that won't be teased here. Hi Mom and Dad!).

Recently, one Thursday, I, along with about 200 of my fellow New Yorkers, gathered at 9am in the criminal court building. While we waited for our names to be called, we filled out backgrounders with questions detailing our personal and legal history. Around 11am, about 20 of us were finally called and we headed to our assigned courtroom. The room was small and unimpressive; if I didn't know we were in the courthouse, I would have thought the we were in a classroom preparing for a mock trial.

But it certainly was real--the judge spent nearly an hour reading instructions to us from a packet. Then it was time to call role and answer some questions. Of the 20 of us, about a dozen of us had surnames like Rosenstein, Bloom, and Silverman.

"Who of you is related to a lawyer?" All of our hands shot up. I'm sorry, but asking a Jewish person if they're related to a lawyer is like asking if Britney if she wants more Cheetos: if the answer isn't yes, you know there's something wrong.

After a break for lunch and more questions, we finally found out the details of our case: a bearded guy in his 20s with a pony tail was on trial for a sound disturbance. Translation? He had used a bullhorn at an anti-war demonstration. I may be an asshole, but he looked like he would have used a bullhorn at an anti-war demonstration. Why didn't his attorney tell him to get a shave? Or a haircut? Guilty! I'd be the worst juror ever. Which is why it was a good thing I wasn't chosen for his jury. After lots of questions and a few more hours, we were all dismissed with instructions to return the next day.

Apparently, when you're called for jury duty in New York, you owe the city 2 days of service.

The next day was far different from the first. Instead of 20 other people in my pool, there were about 100 of us called for a far more serious case--attempted murder. We filled the pews of a huge courtroom, something right out of a movie or tv set. Once again, the judge read us a packet of instructions, and then asked us if we could impartially weigh testimony from police officers (she read a list of names like O'Mally, Callahan, McMahon) and from the defendant's witnesses (names like Hernandez, Perez, and Rivera).

Then it was time to question us. The judge called up groups of 12 people at a time to fill the jury box, and that's when I saw her--a short woman in her mid-50s with pouffy, blond hair. I knew her, but from where? I never worked with her. And why would our social circles intersect? It took about 15 minutes for me to realize that she was my friend's husband's aunt--about a year and a half ago, she threw them a wedding shower at her place in Mamaroneck, about a 45 minutes train ride from Grand Central Station. Oh man, I got d-r-u-n-k that night--we all did--they ran out of food, but not out of wine, and since we missed our train back into the city, we had nothing to do but drink for the hour and a half we had to kill before we needed to leave to catch the next train.

Out of all the people called for jury duty in the entire city of New York, I got drunk with a woman in my random jury pool. Not only am I a New Yorker, I'm a New Yorker twice over.


Blogger copyranter said...

also, shit on by a pigeon.

1:22 PM, June 27, 2007


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