On Monday, I received a letter from 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City. My pulse (and bladder) immediately quickened. What had I done now?
First, because I couldn’t remember anything I’d done that would warrant a summons. Just to be sure, and before I even opened it, I called Sonny. He said, “You have the wrong number.”
Second on the nervous scale was because I make it a habit of staying as far away as possible from anyone who can put me in jail for something as minor as “contempt of court.” It’s been more than 40 years, but I’ll bet jail still sucks.
Judges make me nervous. Dressed in black robes, they make it impossible to tell whether they have a sense of humor.
Accidentally shooting a frozen turkey clear through a fifth wheel trailer in which a couple are amorously engaged would be pretty darn funny to most people. Probably not a judge, though.
Once, when in court for a traffic offense, I made the mistake of referring to the judge as “your worshipfulness.” She didn’t smile. Instead, she asked if I’d like to try being a smart aleck again for a hundred bucks.
Me • “No, your majes…I mean, no, your honor.”
When I finally opened the letter, my relief was immediate. I had hit the jackpot. I was being considered as a possible juror in 3rd District Court.
Between being a youthful idiot and later a cop, I have a lot of court time. But I have never been in court as a juror with the power to recommend the death penalty for shoplifting or domestic violence.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to it. But, first, I had to get through the vetting process. The letter was actually a questionnaire intended to gauge my qualifications to be a juror.
It started with the usual name, address, phone number stuff, then it got personal. I swallowed my indignation and surrendered my private information.
One of the questions wanted a yes or no answer to whether I was 18 years of age or older? There were two tiny circles for “Yes” or “No.”
Factually — which I believe is the basis for juror-cating a case — I’m 3.6 times older than 18. But I just put a check in the “yes” circle.
Was I a U.S. citizen? Do I live in Salt Lake County? Can I read, speak and understand English?
Yes, yes, yes…but then came a question that made me uncomfortable: Had I ever been convicted of a felony that had not been expunged?
Instead of checking no, I went over to the margin and wrote, “That’s a little personal, don’t you think?”
There was a way out of jury service. I could be excused from serving if I were a breastfeeding mother, if I had a major disability that would preclude me from paying attention longer than half a minute or if I were physically incapable of getting around.
In a space for explaining why I should be excused, I wrote, “I don’t want to be excused. In fact, I triple-dog-dare you to call me for jury duty.”
Really. I’m an ex-cop and a current member of the media. As such, I believe everyone is guilty of something, even children.
This is going to be so easy.