Jury duty


I have been a registered voter since 1976. I have lived in Rhode Island most of that time. And, in all that time, I have never been called for jury duty.



Until now.



The Providence County Courthouse is a 1930s pile that literally climbs up the side of College Hill; you can enter on the South Main Street side right across from the Providence River, get in the elevator, ride up five floors, and leave the building on the Benefit Street side, halfway up the hill. The elevators are ancient and full of fancy brass fixtures, and I expected to find little elevator operators with funny caps inside.



We straggled in, all 135 of us, and presented our summonses, and were given little JUROR nametags.



And they put us in a room and let us sit.



Luckily I have been alive for over fifty years and have learned a few things, so I brought lots of reading material. I felt dreadful for the guy next to me, who just kept turning his Juror Manual over and over again forlornly.



The jury-control people (or whatever they call themselves) talked at us for a while, and took us into a courtroom, which looked for all the world like an old New England church, with pews and reading-stands and everything, and the Rhode Island state seal instead of a crucifix. We were shown a video called “JURY DUTY: WHY ME?”, which reassured us that we would not be asked embarrassing questions, and that we would be released again as soon as possible, and that we would not serve on more than one trial, and that we might not have to do anything at all.



Then a judge popped out, very cheerful, to jolly us on. “Listen,” she said. “This is Rhode Island. If you get on a, let’s say, trial about an automobile accident, and you find out where it happened, it will probably occur to you, ‘I could just drive by there and take a look at it!’ Don’t do it. You’re not an investigator. Don’t research anything. Don’t ask around. Don’t Google anything.”



We got sworn in, and we went back to our room. By now we were all old friends.



But it was still horribly dull.



They gave us a mid-morning field trip to the downstairs coffee shop, run by a cheerful balding man who made the food and his blind wife who ran the cash register. “Golden toast!” he’d sing out. “Hot and delicious, from the Providence Superior Court, straight to you!” It took forever to get served, but believe me, it was a diversion, and we all badly needed diversion.



They sent us home at noontime; four cases were pending, but all were on the verge of settlement.



Second day: more of the same. I did my Financial Times crossword puzzle, and listened to another guy’s really dull stories (well, actually, a few of his stories were okay).



And then, at noon the second day, they released us.



And now I’m done, for three years.



Such fun!



I’m a little sorry we didn’t get to serve, though.



I heard there’s a really neat murder trial coming up soon.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

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