C’mon peers, let’s get this jury started

John Kelly
Columnist January 9, 2013

Some people dread getting picked for jury duty. Not me. To me, getting a jury summons is like a government invitation to take a vacation, albeit one where you’re forced to spend all day in a room with strangers watching a John Grisham movie.

Granted, the average trial isn’t as tightly plotted as a John Grisham movie, but then the stakes are higher than in any film. When you’re on a jury, you have someone’s actual fate in your hands. Well, one-twelfth of his fate. Or is it one-twelfth of your hands?

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

You have someone’s fate in about two-thirds of your pinkie finger.

As a registered voter and a licensed driver, I get called for jury duty every few years and was even picked for a trial once, more than two decades ago. And then last month I got the mother of all jury summonses. A large manila envelope contained a 23-page questionnaire for what promised to be a high-profile trial in federal court in Greenbelt.

Every other page warned me against discussing the case with anyone. In other words, I could tell you what the case was, but then I’d have to kill you.

Actually, for reasons that will become clear, I’ll tell you and I won’t kill you. Unless you try to kill me first. And even then I might just try to wound you. Or run away.

Where was I? Ah, yes, jury questionnaire. It asked about the typical stuff — occupation, education — but then delved so deeply into my psyche that I thought it was from eHarmony.com. For example, it asked me to list three people I admire most and three people I admire least and to explain my answers.

Now if I was one of those citizens who didn’t want to be on a jury, this would have been a great place to lay the groundwork for being struck off. I would just flip my answers. I mean, is any attorney going to want a juror who admires Adolf Hitler but detests the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.? Or who hates John Lennon but loves Newt Gingrich?

I guess it depends on the trial.

I kind of resented having to explain my choices. How much time did they think I had to answer their questions? It’s not like I was filling out a college application. For why I didn’t admire Hitler I just put, “Duh.”

One question did give me pause: Do you have any family commitments or responsibilities that would make serving on a jury a hardship? And, actually, I do. I contemplated writing this:

“I am the main caretaker for an elderly individual who is heavily dependent upon me. He is not able to feed himself, nor can he urinate or defecate without my assistance.”

That’s my black Lab, Charlie.

But like I said, I wasn’t trying to get off a jury. I was trying to get on one. (“Sorry, boss. My country needs me. See you in two weeks!”) I answered the questions honestly, sent off my responses in the prepaid envelope, and waited.

Then last Friday I read in The Post that the Prince George’s corrections officer involved in that suspicious jailhouse asphyxiation in 2008 had pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

That was my case. On Monday, I called the court’s recorded information line and learned they didn’t need me. I like to think by standing ready to impartially ponder the evidence — even at the risk of dog pee all over my house — I did my duty anyway.

Poetry in motion

Poor Robert Griffin III. Or, more precisely, poor RGIII’s knee. If only Homer or Milton — or Edgar Allan Poe — were alive today to memorialize his cursed body part. Well, we’ll just have to do our best without them. I want you to compose a poem about the Redskin quarterback’s woes. Haiku, sonnet, scrap of doggerel, whatever. Just wax poetic about the most famous joint since Bill Clinton didn’t inhale.

For example, here’s my Pepsodent-inspired couplet:

You’ll wonder where the season went

When you mess with Griffin’s ligament.

Send your RGIII poetry to me at kellyj@washpost.com. Put “Love Me Tendon” in the subject line. I’ll print some favorites next week.

Now, what rhymes with “Shanahan”? Something-something hits the fan?

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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