I recently found a foolproof way to get out of Jury Duty: be myself.
Our story begins with my receipt of a personal invitation to attend the coveted jury selection process at the exquisite Collier County Courthouse in Naples, Florida.
How could I refuse such a lovely offer?
Ironically, this was my first dip into the jury pool and, though I have heard multiple stories as to the best way to be voted off of Jury Island, I honestly didn’t mind finally having the opportunity to go. Call me a traditionalist, but I actually believed it was my civic duty.
Of course, I was also well aware that the case would likely be fairly lightweight. It’s not like the average retired-senior resident of Southwest Florida was going to be in court for knocking off a 7-Eleven or anything like that.
I have to say, the Collier County Court has got it going on! The bubbly Clerk who greeted us at the door seemed to regard us more as her “special guests” as opposed to what one might expect from repeated viewings of “Boston Legal” or even “Night Court”.
In short, more Rachael Ray than Judge Judy.
Just to clarify, Judge Judy is a part-time Naples, Florida resident and I completely adore her. She must have me over to dinner—Rachael Ray can cook.
With copious amounts of coffee at our fingertips, each of us waited patiently for our number to come up while Bubbles the Clerk provided us periodic yet thorough updates as to the day’s judicial progress.
Actual judges would also occasionally enter the holding area and thank us personally for our time and service.
Well, that was unexpected but you’re welcome nonetheless.
For my part, I love meticulous communication and professional courtesy so I was quickly trying to figure out how to parlay this Jury Duty assignment into a regular paying gig. After all, Bubbles was basically my dream assistant.
Sadly, clear communication was not destined to remain part of my day once I left Bubbles’s concierge-inspired care.
After two hours or so, a dozen or so juror names were called, including mine. Bubbles swiftly and efficiently directed me and my potential juror pals into a single-file line before being whisked away to a courtroom upstairs.
Though reminiscent of my days at Fairview Elementary School in Columbia, Missouri, I resisted the urge to pull the pony tail of the girl in front of me. However, I am almost positive I heard the guy behind me mutter under his breath, “Move it, Lard Ass.”
Once we entered the courtroom, the serious but welcoming Judge Suave immediately imposed a 20-minute limit for both the Prosecuting and Defense Attorneys to depose the Jury in an effort to select the Lucky Seven who would spend the balance of their day in court.
So far so good—they run a tight ship! My anal-retentive Virgo side was overjoyed.
I guess the problems first started when the Prosecuting Attorney opened his mouth—let’s just call him “Doogie.”
Yes, by my estimation, Doogie was about 17-years old.
Doogie had not even completed his first complete sentence before committing Faux Pas Number One:
“…I ask you to return a verdict of NOT-GUILTY.”
Huh? Aren’t you the Prosecutor?
Having realized his egregious mistake, Doogie quickly recanted—admitting to having only recently changed from the Defense to the Prosecution side of the table.
Oopsie! Where did he work before that? The GAP?
But my mind was open and my sense of duty strong when Doogie then asked if any of us had any strong opinions regarding the legality of Prostitution.
Honestly, I had never thought about it. Though I have certainly known my share of loose women (and men), to the best of my knowledge, none had ever charged a fee for their time or attention. When I was younger, most of us were so stupid we gave it away for free.
After one awkwardly skinny, mature gentleman shot his hand in the air to renounce all-things-sexual, the room sat silent.
Asexualman had proven to be a legal-system buzz kill.
However, once I carefully considered my options, and knowing that honesty was the best policy, I tentatively raised my hand and was acknowledged by D.A. Doogie.
“I must admit, I have an issue anytime the government tries to tell any woman what she can or cannot do with her body.”
Though I realized I was shooting myself in the jury-selection foot, I had to tell the truth. Plus, if we were going to get any traction on this topic, someone had to fire the first volley.
Now, an adult would have thought Doogie would leave me alone at that point. Though I certainly have no fear of speaking in public and/or sharing my opinions, I candidly thought my comment would simply liven up the room a tad and I’d be forgotten. It would surely only be a few minutes before I would be graciously dismissed by Judge Suave whereby I would rush back into the comforting arms of Bubbles for a final cup of jo and a fond farewell.
But for some inexplicable reason, Doogie kept coming back to me:
“What do you do for a living?”
“And do you close every sale?”
“Uh..no, I don’t.”
“But even if you don’t close the deal would you argue that the sales process took place?”
OMG—the Defense is going to argue entrapment. Way to tip your hat on that issue, Doog!
But was I done with Doogie? No! After a comment or two from other jury candidates, an even more determined D.A. Doogie returned to face me:
“Mr. Randall, let me ask you this.”
Though, in my mind, it takes a special kind of person to mess up “Jones,” I chose to not correct him. Believe it or not, I wasn’t enjoying the attention.
“Mr. Randall, don’t you feel you would be less likely to uphold the law in this—uh—specific situation?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Mr. Randall, do you feel you can—uh—address this alleged crime with the—uh—seriousness it deserves?”
Starting to get miffed…
“Yes I do. I am a law-abiding citizen. I understand the concept of legal versus illegal.”
“Mr, Randall, you don’t—uh—think you’d—uh—take, for example, a murder trial—uh—more seriously?”
Officially pissed now….
“UH—I WOULD HOPE WE WOULD ALL TAKE A MURDER TRIAL MORE SERIOUSLY!”
So let me recap the situation: both the Prosecution and the Defense had a total of TWENTY MINUTES to question and select a jury. D.A. Doogie had chosen to not only take up almost all of the time allotted, but did so by attempting to go head-to-head in a battle of wits with me—the feisty gay guy, as well as professional courtesy advocate, who publicly admits to having no fear of anything except for ABC News’s Elizabeth Vargas and bunny rabbits!
What turnip truck did this guy just fall off?
Then again, why would the Defense Attorney want to get involved at this point with Doogie doing such a bang-up job clumsily trying the case in advance of commencing with an actual trail?
Of course, I once again thought I was in the clear, but just like Energizer Bunny of the Florida Legal System, Doogie came back for more.
“So, Mr. Randall…”
Obviously aware of my mounting frustration and probably sensing that I was about to launch into a very different style of name-calling, Judge Suave briefly stepped into the fray:
“Excuse me; it’s Mr. Jones, correct? Not Mr. Randall?”
“Yes—but, you know, at this point, I’ll answer to anything.”
I don’t know if it’s rare for a jury pool to giggle, but this one proceeded to do so as Doogie morphed from a light red to deep crimson in color. I may be wrong, but I swear I even saw Asexualman crack a smile.
But here’s the kicker. I heard yet another solitary snicker coming from the other side of the courtroom. I briefly glanced over and, to my amazement, it was the defendant—Ms. Alleged-Lady-of-the-Evening herself—actually expressing her amusement with the situation.
Now Doogie, I’m not a lawyer and I certainly couldn’t do your job, but I also have respect for the legal system and the trial-by-jury process. I can’t even imagine a Court System more organized or respectful than that of Collier County, Florida. And I even get it that, from a professional standpoint, we all have to start somewhere. Furthermore, I understand everyone is entitled to have a bad day at work, but in any situation, when the hooker laughs—you’re in deep shit.
Though I genuinely feel we all have a civic duty to perform jury service, I was (shockingly) not selected to be part of this specific panel of adjudicators. And in my relatively small town of Naples, Florida, I have yet to even run into D.A. Doogie at the Library, a thrift shop or even Costco.
Imagine that reunion.
However, I do plan to ask Bubbles if she’s free for lunch next week.
Marketing guru, business humorist, professional-courtesy advocate, branded-content writer, creative-development consultant, and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Florida.