One of the principles of democracy includes the right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers, which probably sounded like a good idea when it was included in the Bill of Rights in 1789. The problem is a lot has changed in the last 220 years and since then our “peers” have become, for lack of a better term, retarded. Seriously, they’re git-r-done, mouth-breathing Mountain Dew-swilling idiots, and I should know because I—takes a deep breath through my mouth—love Mountain Dew.
I also needed the $15 a day, which is why I reported for duty last week in downtown Riverside after getting my own jury summons in the mail. I also made sure to wear long pants, something the City of Riverside apparently takes very, very seriously.
Why else would the printed form for jury duty include a list of “dos” and “don’ts” that begins with “no shorts, tank tops or flip-flops?” The dress code is even listed before more obvious things such as “no guns or knives.” And what kind of message does it send when things without sleeves are listed before things that fire bullets? Because it makes me think the folks running the courthouse would rather a visitor to their building try to pull a weapon than smell another improperly dressed juror’s underarms or toe cheese.
Some of these jurors may literally have the chance to sentence a person to life in prison and potentially even death row and the only standard we’ve put into place to make sure they’re qualified is “no tank tops?” No tank tops? Is it a court of law or junior high gym class?
Jury duty is like a field trip for adults, except you never get to go anywhere fun. Of course there’s always the chance you’ll get to punish somebody in an orange jumpsuit for wasting your time.
It’s the government’s way of saying, “Hey, thanks for giving us your name and address when you registered to vote. Now we’re going to abuse that information and force you to take time out of your busy schedule to drive downtown to a courthouse and sit in the world’s oldest folding chair, drink instant coffee and face forward for eight hours while some lady older than Phyllis Diller mangles your name through an unintelligible intercom. If you refuse, we’ll mail you angry letters and even threaten to put you in jail (though everybody knows our prisons are so overcrowded and our courts are so backed up that only the most hardened criminals ever face real jail). And on the bright side, if you ever actually get picked to serve on a jury, we’ll pay you a whole $15 a day, which isn’t enough money to properly compensate you for your time but is just enough to be a symbolic “screw you” and let you know that we value your service slightly more than an 8-year-old working in a North Korean sweatshop.”
I’ve shown up for jury duty a grand total of five times now and I’ve never been picked. I don’t know what my problem is. Maybe my sleeves and pant legs aren’t long enough.
At this point I’m starting to think that jury duty is kind of a tease. It writes me letters. It tells me how much it just has to see me, how it can’t function without me. It even tells me what day I’m supposed to show up and obviously it’s a control freak about my wardrobe. And then, when I get to the courthouse, I’m just kept waiting for eight hours. Actually it was more like six-and-a-half hours (we were let out early for good behavior).
Courts have the three-strikes law for repeat criminal offenders. The jury system should have a similar rule for saps like me who keep getting summoned for jury duty but are never called up to the Big Show. (I may have to commit a crime just to see the inside of a courtroom.) If you’re not going to put us in the game, stop making us put on the uniform.
Or at the very least modify the dress code to include a Mountain Dew thermos and flip-flops.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org