Part of my “Article of the Month” series in 2000
First day of March, 2000. I’m sitting in the Central Jury Room at the downtown DFW Federal Building, George L. Allen Sr. Courts. I was summoned for jury duty about a month ago. The day is finally here.
What a strange affair this is for me. It’s all very new and alien. The smell of pinesol is in the air, everything sanitary and public. I’m sitting in this large room, about 200 other chairs — movie theater seats — all positioned forward, facing at the judge’s podium.
It’s a bizarre feeling. No one sits next to anyone else; at least one or two seats separate each prospective juror. If you look up to gaze at the crowd, you’ll notice others making similar stealing glances around the room, until your eyes meet in an awkward lock, as if the two of you have been caught in a secret voyeurist game. The two of you quickly look away, minding your own business.
There’s a man in brown suede; another in green corduroy pants, reading his paper, the business section. A woman in black enters with deep knowing wrinkles. A middle-aged man sits behind me dosing off to his 12-steps manual. What odd isolation is between us. It’s like the movie projector’s off and the lights have come up, but no one is going home.
I am juror number 1158, but my name is of no consequence here. I’m just a meek member of society fulfilling his civic duty. I must admit though, I’m not at all disappointed that I’m here. I’m actually looking forward to making the cut. This is all new to me so I hope to experience more.
Well, ultimately I did not make the selection. The last group of jurors, myself included, were sent on our way. I’m somewhat disappointed. I was looking forward to the experience. But, I’m grateful for what I got: a slight look into city government life and the meager isolated lives us civic servants live. If nothing else I at least had the opportunity to speak with an elderly black man on the train home. He asked for the time. I gave it to him.
As I look back at that unique day, I was reminded not of the possible crimes and evidence in the halls of justice that I might discover had I been picked for the jury. Instead, I was reminded of the words of a wiser man than I. “No man is an island.”
And so it goes these interesting people, each one a relevant case study in the great diversity of our modern society, were randomly selected from disparate backgrounds. We were chosen to potentially decide the fate of some other lowly member of our fair society, down on his/her luck with the law. But not that day. Perhaps my fellow jurors will meet again. I rather hope we will.