Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jury Duty

I had jury duty on Tuesday. I arrived at the courthouse at 7:15 a.m. I ended up being ushered into a courtroom where I sat until after 5:00 p.m. as juror 143 out of 150. The prosecutor and defense attorney settled on 12 jurors before the courtroom clerk called my number.

The man sitting next to me in the courtroom surprised me. He was a retired, white man who was dressed in a cream-colored button down shirt and a dark blue tie with thin gray stripes. While physically he would blend in at a Tea Party rally, an incident with his wife made him distrust police officers. Apparently, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had his wife arrested a few years ago. She is a retired special ed teacher who now limits her teaching to Sunday school. He said that she had unthinkingly brought a weighted, metal bookmark with her initials on it into an airport in Florida as she was returning to Maryland after a vacation with their sons, one of whom was in law school at the time. An airport security officer confiscated the bookmark from her purse, accusing her of carrying a concealed dangerous weapon. Then, officers* handcuffed her and placed her in a cell. The man said that a supervisor eventually let her go. Technically, she was never prosecuted. Emotionally, she was rattled. She still suffers from heart palpitations because being behind bars completely unnerved her.

The judge asked anyone if they, a family member or close personal friend had ever been the victim of, witness to, or charged with a crime. The judge told people to approach with their answers. I told the man that he should go up to the front. Categorizing the incident with the bookmark as a traumatic violation, he questioned the levelheadedness of the police. He relayed what happened to him at the bench and was excused. I watched him as he exited the courtroom.

* I assumed TSA officers. The man was using pronouns - "they" and "he" - and I let him speak without trying to nail him down. Apparently, though, TSA officers lack the authority to handcuff anyone. So, TSA officers would hand a person who the TSA officers view as a threat over to local law enforcement officers.

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