It is my duty to appear tomorrow morning in the King County [echo-y voice] HALL OF JUSTICE and report for jury service.
I’ve never done it before – the last time I was summoned, I got out because I was just about to graduate from college and needed the time for school. But there’s just no excuse for me anymore, so in I go with the rest of the schlubs who were too stupid or useless to get out of jury duty.
Coincidentally(?), I heard this story on NPR’s “This American Life” just the other day, which I’ve tracked down and found in written form on other people’s stories. It’s by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of The Last American Man:
My friend Kevin once attended a wedding where he heard the world’s most inappropriate wedding toast. The toast began inauspiciously enough. The best man stood up during the meal, clinked his knife against the crystal, and the other guests all quieted down.
“I was thinking on the airplane ride here about what I was going to say today about Danny and Joyce,” the best man began. “And all I could think at first was what a happy day today is.”
Good enough start. But then the speech took an interesting turn.
“And I realized that what I really want to talk about this afternoon is jury duty. Now, I don’t know how many of you have ever served on a jury, but it’s a fascinating process. I was just on a jury last year for the first time in my life, and I learned a lot about myself and about the legal system. It was a pretty serious case, too. It was actually a murder trial. It was very tragic. It was this old man who got killed, very sad. He was getting money out of an ATM machine in the middle of the day, and some gang kids came up and robbed him and shot him right in the face.”
By now, many of the wedding guests were lowering their champagne glasses gently back down to the table.
“It was a cut-and-dry case, really. There were plenty of witnesses, and the forensic evidence pointed straight to one kid as the shooter. The kid was definitely guilty. But here’s the thing – it was actually a capital offense. And my jury had to decide whether or not to give this kid the death penalty. Now, I don’t know if any of you have ever had to decide whether somebody should live or die, but it’s emotionally intense. We all knew the kid was guilty, but the death penalty is nothing to take lightly. In the end, though, we decided, ‘Yes, this kid needs to die.’ And we sent him to his death.”
The tent was silent. The bride, ashen. The best man took a moment to compose himself and concluded.
“That was probably the worst day of my life. And I got to thinking about it on the plane because that day was nothing like today, which is a happy day. A really happy day! So here’s to Danny and Joyce!”
So hey. If nothing else, I’ll hopefully get a wedding toast or two out of this.
(I know I’m not supposed to discuss the case with anyone if I actually end up on a jury, but I haven’t seen anything you could call a “discussion” on the Net since 1996.)