Not Exactly Perry Mason

I admit, I enjoy crime shows. I started off with the old black and white “Perry Mason” reruns, graduated to “Murder She Wrote”, and “Matlock”. There were at least a half-dozen other shows that one could call crime thrillers which I soaked in, and that was all before the era of “Law & Order” and then “CSI”.

I served jury duty this week. If a cameraman had followed me around, he would have fallen asleep. I’ve never been called before, let alone served, so the process proved educational. Half the first morning consisted of instructions and a moral pep talk on why jury duty was important, just in case you had ideas of trying to finagle a way out.

In Tennessee they changed the laws back in 1994, removing all the means of exempting, as they found that while they had plenty of jurors, they were all middle-aged white males– not exactly representative of Memphis. Rich, poor, young adult or nonagenarians are called to serve.

After they select the first jury pools, they march them off to respective courts where the judge gives a brief overview of how long the case might take, whether criminal or civil, sequestered or not.  Each lawyer gets to ask the jury questions and dismiss some secret number dictated by the judge.

I was the very last person called into the pool, after several rounds of elimination. After four rounds after which each occupant moved to that jury seat was eliminated, I ended the hot-seat streak and was the last juror selected. They pick fourteen people in case someone has a family emergency, but alternates are not selected until the very end so that they don’t sleep or play Angry Birds during the trial.

I won’t go over the trial details, as the man’s family likely hurts enough. In general, it was a sad affair where a young man made a poor choice by going along with someone’s dumb-ass idea, effectively ruining his entire life with that one decision.

In the movies they show juries arguing and tense debate; even intimidation. I’m sure that happens sometimes, but we were a friendly lot that, truth be told, would have welcomed a logical argument for NOT finding the kid guilty. I think more than half of us had kids. A few had grand-kids. Still, at the end of the day, it’s rather hard to ignore a signed statement confessing the crimes. In fact, thanks to the rather lackluster investigation of the MPD, that was the ONLY evidence of any value.

I suppose, given the circumstances, the MPD figures it saves time and money to just get a confession rather than searching for physical evidence to prove a case.

The defense attorney grandstanded, threw out all kinds of innuendo, and basically acted the cliche’ lawyer that you wouldn’t trust with a ten-foot pole. I don’t expect that actually wins cases, but maybe his clients think it does, which makes me feel bad for the family.

Twelve people from different walks of life came together and calmly discussed the law. The only dramatic part of any of it was an alluded to “incident” which required the addition of a metal detector and armed officer outside of the courtroom entrance and the defendant’s (presumed) mother’s emotional response to the verdict.

Clearly, Hollywood has never served on a jury.


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