Sunday, January 20, 2013
Jury Duty is one of the responsibilities of being a member of our society. It may be inconvenient and feel like an intrusion on our life, but it is necessary. Anyone chosen for the jury duty process of selection should take the event seriously. The following was overheard as I waited for to be granted entrance into the courtroom. People were being screened through the metal detector. There were two bailiffs involved in the procedure.
First Bailiff: “Are you drunk?”
Potential Juror: “No. I’m Ashley.” She held out a very shaky hand to the Bailiff, but he rebuffed the salutation. Ms Ashley’s mother stood next to her with a support hand at the back center of her daughter’s waist. She would have been voted as the best dressed juror in comparison to the other candidates. She wore a beautiful blue knit dress with a leather belt in the same color blue. Her hair looked as though she had just come from the beauty salon. Her makeup was flawlessly applied yet subtle. She could have been a politician’s wife on the campaign trail. But the swaying and shaking of her body told a tell that the togetherness of her exterior did not match her interior.Second Bailiff: “What’s in your drinking glass, Ms. Ashley?”
Ms Ashley: “It’s OK. It’s just water.”Second Bailiff: “You won’t be able to take that glass into the courtroom.”
Ms Ashley: “It’s OK. It’s just water.”Ms Ashley walked away (with the aide of her mother) tottering on her high heels.
First Bailiff to Second Bailiff: “We’ll have to do a breathalyzer on her. She’s smelly of the stuff.”Second Bailiff to First Bailiff: “I agree. Let’s get a female officer down here.”
About ten minutes later, a female officer arrived and there was a conversation about what would happen if the results were over the legal limit. She would be arrested. They spoke quietly, but the small lobby made it impossible to carry on a private conversation.Riley looked up at me and said, “So what if she’s been drinking. It doesn’t mean she wouldn’t be a good juror.” I proceeded to explain to him that jurors in to be in a clear state of mind so that they would understand the facts of the case presented. “It’s not illegal to drink,” he said. “So she’s had a few. It’s OK.” I didn’t respond.
Now that the posse had been assembled and measures / counter-measures were in place, the First Bailiff went outside to find Ms Ashley. She was not there, but her mother was. Her mother explained that she only had that odor because she had been drinking constantly over the past three weeks. But, she had not been drinking that morning and therefore she was not drunk. The First Bailiff explained that she could not be allowed into the courtroom if she was above the legal limit on the test.Ms Ashley appeared from the ladies room and said she had no idea why they would want to do a breathalyzer on her. Her comment was directed to an innocent, handsome, male by-stander. “Are you kidding me??? You reek of a distillery!” He exclaimed and then walked away from her. She muttered “Asshole” under her breath, but everyone in the lobby could still hear her.
The posse came over to her and said they needed to take the test. Ms Ashley informed them that she did not want to take the test, but would speak to her attorney who just happened to be in court that day. The lawyer came from around the corner where Ms Ashley stopped him and told him she did not want to take the test. The lawyer shared a few words with the bailiffs. It took less than five minutes for the lawyer to turn right back around and tell Ms Ashley to wait an hour or so and then take the test. She left to go outside to have a cigarette.It was about 30 minutes later when the lawyer came up to the bailiffs and asked if they had gone ahead and taken her into custody. They told him no. He said he could not find Ms Ashley or her mother anywhere on the grounds. Someone in the background said – “She said she was leaving. She said she wasn’t going to stick around for this bull shit, got in her car and drove off. She wouldn’t let her mother drive. They were arguing.” The bailiff’s thakedn the informant and then notified the police of a potential drunk driver by the name of Ashley etc., etc.
I don’t know what happened to the woman and her mother. Shortly after all the drama, we were informed that we could all go home. Well, it was an entertaining morning anyway.I wonder how many people show up for court appearances while they are still in the midst of foggy-mindedness. I bet it is more than I had ever anticipated. The thought of being a defendant with the question of my freedom on the line – and having my fate determined by someone who obviously is not of sound mind – is more than irritating, it’s downright frightful.
Should all jurors be given a breathalyzer before entering the courtroom? It seems logical to me. On the other hand, it could be construed as a violation of a person’s civil rights. After all, an occasional drink in the morning doesn’t make you an alcoholic. Or does it?For me, it’s not so much about determining if a person is an alcoholic. It’s more about having the good sense NOT to drink when you know you will be in a situation of having power over another person’s life. If I were on trial, I would prefer all my jurors be blessed with sound judgment and sober minds.