I Shot the Sheriff (Court)*


I got called for jury duty. My whole life I have dreaded being called for jury duty. Actually, no, that’s a lie. There was a period when I worked in an office where I’d gladly have taken any opportunity going to, y’know, GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE for a day or two, whether that be earthquake, jury duty or other disaster. Hell, was a time back then when the fire alarm going off at the Asda-Walmart across the street was a welcome diversion. But I digress. I do that a lot. (See? SO not juror material, not me!)

I got called for jury duty. I don’t have a date yet: the letter they sent me just says I will be called up within the next 12 months. So, it was a THREATENING letter, really, wasn’t it? It certainly scared the crap outta me. First of all, it came in an ominous brown envelope, and Lord knows, nothing good ever comes in those. Second of all, though, it was stamped with the words SHERIFF COURT, and this is what really made my legs damn near give way.

WHAT HAVE I DONE? I though, panicked, as I made my way, like a shaky-legged colt, to the couch to tear open the offending envelope with trembling fingers. Did I get caught speeding again? Did I, I don’t know, mug an old lady and forget about it? Ohmygod, do I have an evil twin who has been posing as me all this time, and who has now FRAMED ME and I will totally go to jail for a crime I didn’t commit, and the doppleganger will come and live in my house and she will be the one who gets to wear the Vera Wang wedding dress? Am I watching too much Neighbours?

By the time all of this had gone through my tiny brain (SEE? I have a tiny brain! Not ideal for a juror, is it?) I was actually quite relieved to find that it was only jury duty. Not for long, though. This is the girl who fell off her bike twice in 30 seconds they’re dealing with here. I mean, be honest: would you want to step into the dock and see my vacant expression staring back at you? I thought not. If these here "Sheriffs" think they’re onto a good thing with the whole "Amber as responsible member of society" thing, they have another think coming.

I cannot do it. As you all know by now, I am the most indecisive person alive. Seriously, it took me, what, four hours to get dressed this morning? And that’s with a closet stuffed full of absolutely nothing to wear. I am not good at deciding things. I am also easily led and also: prejudiced! Yes, prejudiced, that’s a good one! Maybe if I tell them I’m prejudiced against everything, they’ll let me off! And if the person on trial is either:

* Someone who is very noisy
* Someone who has recently ram raided my fence with a tonka toy
* Someone who thinks it’s a good idea to park their caravan on the pavement outside my house
* An employee of the House of Bath**

I won’t even have to lie!

In all seriousness, I really think I’m going to have to fight my way out of this one. I would actually have found it quite interesting, but the thing is, in my days as a newspaper reporter I’d cover the court all the time. Every Friday I’d head down there and sit, notebook poised, listening to tales of GBH and drink-driving. I loved it. It was one of the best bits of the job, but the thing about that? It’s good to watch other people’s misfortunes unfold in front of your very eyes, like a daytime TV drama. What might be a bit, well, not so good, really, would be to have to actually decide what happens to these miscreants. "Who Goes? Amber decides!" Er, thanks, but no.

In all of the cases I watched as a reporter, one thing was absolutely clear to me: I would hate to be on the jury. Because, no matter how clear-cut a case seemed to be, the defending lawyer would always, always be able to convince you that there was room for reasonable doubt. And I would believe him. (There’s that whole "easily led" thing again.) I have never been much of a thinker, you see – I’m always the last to work out whodunnit. My mum and Terry are the resident Miss Marples in our family. This is why I never watch watch mystery shows with them, because after twenty minutes or so, one of them will always click their fingers and say, "God, his wife did it! It’s so obvious!" I, on the other hand, will still be sitting there an hour later going, "It was Prof. Plum! In the kitchen! With the candlestick!" I actually don’t think I could convict someone unless they committed the crime right in front of me. Or arrived at the court with their stereo booming out, in which case they’d be going down.

The other problem, of course, is that the swines had to wait until I was self-employed, and a few days off work could literally be the difference between paying the mortgage and being thrown out into the street, didn’t they? Why could they not have called me up when I worked in an office, WHY?

Anyway, I have no idea what happens now. I get to call off if I am a social worker, if I am in the army, or if I am mad, apparently, so I need to become one of those things pretty quick. (No jokes about the last one, please, Terry has already made them all). If not, I’ll just need to turn up and act crazy, which won’t be too much of a stretch.

Ooh, and also: I have to give them a list of dates when I am planning to be on holiday, and they will "try" not to call me up on those dates. Will TRY, people. But what if they do not succeed? What if they call me up and it’s my wedding day? I’m having images of me sitting in the jury box in a wedding dress here, and trust me, that’s totally the kind of thing that would happen to me. I guess I failed the whole "are you a responsible citizen, who puts the good of society before your own selfish gains" test, huh? Shame.

* Not really.
* Who sent me a bill this morning for the waistband stretcher. That I did not get. Because, obviously I will pay for something that was mysteriously "lost in the mail", I mean, wouldn’t you? Ha! See you in court, punks! Oh no, wait…

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  • Ooooooh, I dread being called for jury duty too.

    Hmmmmmm…don't think there's much opportunity for aget out clause on this one, is there?

    No practical suggestions, but I'm guessing, if you put down the whole period your wedding/honeymoon's going to occur on, they def won't call you then.

    Nothing else constructive to say, but lovin' your work as always 😉


    September 6, 2006
  • Oh, I don't know, I think there could be some mileage in the "prejudiced against everything" idea 🙂

    September 6, 2006
  • Actually.Yes.On second thoughts you're right: I say you turn up on your first day, dressed in the most outlandish ensemble you can put together, maybe mess your hair up a bit, stick a few twigs/leaves in, that kind of thing, brandishing a shovel (or a pitch fork, either will do)and wildly proclaiming that you hate everyone and everything.Especially the *ALIENS* Those damn pesky aliens!

    Ya'see this'll kill two birds with one stone. A) You'll look like you're a stark raving lunatic, and can therefore be let off jury on account of your, you know, being completely *mad*, and B) As you say,they can't have someone on the jury who's totally prejudiced, can they now?

    What d'ya reckon? Fool proof or what? 😉

    September 6, 2006
  • Erik


    If they call you during your wedding/honeymoon period, they'll definitely give you an extension if you request it. (if they don't, I'd skip jury duty anyway and plead my case to the judge afterwards… as they say, it's easier to get forgiveness than permission.)

    Once you're in, if the system is anything like the American one, lawyers on both sides of a trial must approve off all the jury members. To gauge each potential juror, they'll ask you specific questions regarding your experience and opinions. If you seem heavily opinionated on anything, one of the lawyers will dismiss you. I've been called to jury duty twice and was dismissed for this reason on both occasions. Once was because I revealed I have a close family friend who was prosecuted and sent to prison for drug trafficking, only to be released early because it was learned he was in fact innocent. Needless to say the prosecutor tossed me out of the courtroom as quickly as possible.

    September 7, 2006
  • I think it's more or less the same kind of system, Erik, and yes, I'm pretty sure if it comes to the "interview with the lawyers" stage I'll be out of there – if for no other reason than that I will point a tremulous finger at the stand and say, "That bastard is costing me my livelihood and I'm gonna make him pay!"

    September 7, 2006