Until the weekend, I was under the impression that I’d largely managed to sneak under the radar as far as American officialdom was concerned. Sure, I’d had a million and one hoops to jump through to GET here, but now they’d finally let me in, I intended to live a quiet, monastic life. I wouldn’t bother the government, and the government wouldn’t bother me. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the court system in Maricopa County, which is why I received a summons for jury service on Saturday morning.
They were clearly keen to have me, and even included a bus-ticket – one-way! – so that not even mechanical failure could prevent me attending. And they were prepared to pay me too: the princely sum of $12 for each day, an entirely appropriate sum given the extent of my legal knowledge is two years spent sharing a flat with a law student.
I have to say, though – my first reaction was “Cool!”. I guess I’d always harboured secret dreams of being involved in a pivotal trial that would change the very fabric of life forever. Of course, the reality would probably involve something very mundane and tedious, involving the theft of a bicycle. But even so, you still hold someone’s reputation in your grasp; would I have the moral fibre to weigh the evidence, make up my mind regardless of external pressures, and live with myself afterwards?
Unfortunately, we’ll never know. Reading the small print, to my disappointment, it stated that all jurors had to be citizens of the United States. Dammit. What about the right to be judged by your peers? Shouldn’t we immigrants be able to face our fellow newcomers, who can understand the pressures and struggle of life in a foreign land? Admittedly, here in Phoenix, this would probably mean a jury composed of six Marias and five Joses, trying to communicate with a very confused Scotsman whose knowledge of Spanish is limited to “dos cervezas, por favor”, but there you go.
Suspect it’s probably a good thing; the risk of getting lumbered with a long trial, at $12/day, was just too much, and I can see why Chris was pleased it was me rather than her that got the call-up. Little wonder the justice system in America is universally regarded as broken; you pay peanuts to jurors, you’ll get a bunch of monkeys. Though it would probably prove quite easy to limit your tour of duty to a single day. Simply adopt the sort of mannerisms which would bring any defence attorney to their feet in an instant, objecting to your very presence in the court building on the grounds it would prejudice things against their client.
Subtlety is not necessary here; indeed, the more you act like a total loony (preferably from the “Kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out” brigade), the better your chances. Talking fervently into space is probably good, maybe with the odd half-heard profanity. Acquire a nervous tic. Address everyone as “your honour”. Carry a Bible. Hey, just use your imagination here – you’ll be home in plenty of time for tea, bus-ticket or no bus-ticket.