# 318, April 26, 2004
COLUMBUS: Did you ever serve jury duty? Where you live they probably do it different, but for Municipal Court here in Columbus they call about 60 innocent folks together for two weeks of civic duty, for which you are paid $20 a day. They have about 15 judges handling all kinds of cases from drunk-driving and shop-lifting to husband-beating. Most of these perpetrators (alleged), and their accomplices (defense attorneys) wisely leave their fate in the hands of the learned judges.
But for the benefit of the few who choose to bypass the judge, sort of, they keep a room full of presumed peers ready to answer the call of a random draw. You wonder though about the intelligence of a “party of the first part” who wants his future decided by eight everyday people whose knowledge of legal jurisprudence derived from years of the O. J. Simpson and Perry Mason television shows.
Every day one or two of the judges dropped in for a spell, to educate us about the real world of juries and to thank us for our public service and patriotism. They told funny stories about cases they had tried, and let us get to know them as regular human beings, at least as regular as anyone can be who is up for re-election every six years.
On the next to last day I volunteered to spin a few yarns for the jury pool, as kind of an after-lunch speaker, and they accepted. I told ’em that many times I had entertained folks who paid to be there, and I had spoken at a number of benefits for free, but this was the first time an audience was being paid $20 to hear me. Of course I wasn’t the one paying them, the taxpayers were. If it was coming out of my pocket I might have been more selective. At $20 each, five or six is about all I could afford. And, given a choice some of those might have demanded at least $50 to stay and listen.
They seemed to like my little offerings, but I felt handicapped compared to the judges. See, while I included the usual political news of the day from Congress, I felt compelled, in case I was to get picked on a jury, to skip all lawyer jokes, and right there that knocks a potential B+ speech down to no better than a C-. Of course finishing sooner, as any speaker will tell you, can sometimes raise you back up to a B. But I sure didn’t want to risk any case being tossed out because a comedian/juror demonstrated poor taste in legal humor.
In other courtroom news, Michael Jackson has changed lawyers. Does that seem strange to you, changing lawyers? Based on my vast experience with the legal profession (two weeks worth), I would suggest the lawyers stay the same, and Michael do some modest changing.
Historic quote from Will Rogers:
“…there’s a famous case being tried [here in London, England] where a fellow had swindled through fake stock transactions the people out of ten million dollars. They just give him fourteen years so fast that it took all the Americans’ breath away and all they have talked about today is English justice compared to ours. It’s the consensus of opinion of all of them here [for the Disarmament Conference] that if it had been at home he would have gone into vaudeville or the Senate.
None of the habus corpusing and suspended sentences or appealing it when you commit a crime over here. You just wake up surrounded by a small space. Our delegation ought to be over here studying British justice. Our battleships are not harming us near as much as court delays, corruption and shyster lawyers.” DT #1092, Jan. 24, 1930