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Jury Duty Part 2

Day 2 (October 4) Part 1

 

The Defense attorney’s name was Guardanino, and just in case you don’t think that he was the most stereotypical Italian-American Brooklynite that’s ever lived, I’ll inform you THAT HE WAS ACTUALLY WEARING A PINKY RING! No, I’m not making that up. I wish I was. Anyway, the voir dire process continued. I found it to be fascinating, and a small part of me wished that I had become an attorney. After all, when I was in high school, I was on the Mock Trial team all four years (as an attorney) and I was good at it. However, if I had become an attorney in real life, I would have become one of the “good guys”–a prosecuting attorney. I would never be a slimy, criminal-minded scumbag fuck like Guardanino. I think I should spend my life letting murderers go free! I think that that would be very rewarding!” Oh! While I’m on the topic of people who need to be deprived of food and water until there is irreperable damage to their kidneys, one of the potential jurors worked for British Petroleum. When asked by the judge, he said that he would be unable to render an honest verdict–which wasn’t much of a surprise–and he was excused from jury duty. So, basically, he was excused from a murder trial so that he could go back to his job of legally committing murder. How ironic! The Prosecuting Attorney was Assistant District Attorney Walsh. From here on in, I’m going to refer to him as ADA Walsh. That’s because, after my eight days of serving as a juror, I feel that I have a tremendous amount of knowledge when it comes to the law, so much so that I feel comfortable using abbreviations like “ADA.” Anyway, during the voir dire process, both Guardanino and ADA Walsh asked the potential jurors hypothetical legal questions. For example, while trying to establish the concept of being innocent until proven guilty, Guardanino asked, “Let’s just say that you get off of the subway at Times Square, and once you walk up the stairs and you’re out in the street, you see someone in handcuffs. That’s a pretty powerful image, right? But would you assume that just because they’re in handcuffs, they must have done something wrong?” Bad metaphor! Why would someone from Oregon be in handcuffs? And, no, the image of someone standing in handcuffs in Times Square is not a powerful image! You get off of the subway at Times Square, and once you walk up the stairs and you’re out in the street, you see The Naked Cowboy get decapitated with an icepick, and his head rolls into the sewer. Now that’s a powerful image! Or better yet, The Naked Cowboy gets decapitated with an icepick, and his head rolls into an open manhole cover and lands right in a Con Ed worker’s bowl of soup! I’m not sure why he would be eating his lunch underground, but that’s not the point. The point is that Guardanino could have come up with an assortment of images that are far more powerful than someone standing there in handcuffs. Yes, I most certainly made a mistake when I chose not to to go to law school.

Guardanino explained that the burden of proof rests on the prosecution. He said, “When there’s a dispute between two people, it’s human nature to want to hear both sides of the story. However, the defendant is under no obligation to testify because he’s presumed innocent until proven guilty, and because the burden of proof rests on the prosecution. Does anyone disagree with that?” A guy raised his hand.

“Sir, you don’t agree that the defendant should not have to testify?” asked Guardanino.

“Not in a case of this severity.”

“Does anyone else think that? That in a case of this severity, the defendant should have to testify?”  About four other people raised their hands.

“Well,” said Guardanino,”it’s against the law to think that!”

“Uh, Counselor,” said the judge, meaning Stop being stupid.

Everyone in the courtroom laughed. Guardanino tuned back to the jury box and said, “Well, maybe it’s not against the law to feel that way, but it’s not how our legal system works.” He then went into a long speech about why our legal system doesn’t work that way. I wasn’t listening though because I kept thinking about The Naked Cowboy’s decapitated head falling into a bowl of soup.

Eventually. it was my turn to be voir dired. The judge said to me, “Mr. Malek, on the form that you filled out, where it says Occupation, you wrote Sales. What exactly is it that you sell?”

“Life insurance,” I said while swallowing down the vomit that creeps up into the back of my throat whenever I have to answer that question.

The judge then tried to act cute and funny by asking, ” Well, when the jury deliberates, can you promise me that you’re not going to try to sell them anything?”

“No, ” I said. Fuck it. I might as well be honest. Everyone in the courtroom laughed, not knowing that I was serious. The judge then asked, “Is there any reason that you can think of that might make you incapable of serving fairly on this jury?” It’s usually at that point when, if you don’t want to serve, you’re supposed to say that you’re a racist. Or at least that’s what people tell you to say. In reality, that doesn’t work. First of all, that’s an embarrassing thing to admit to, regardless of whether or not it’s true. Plus, I had a tremendous fear (which might or might not have been rational) that if I had said that I was racist, I would indeed have been dismissed from jury duty, but once I triumphantly exited the courtroom, the smile on my face would have quickly vanished, for I would immediately discover that Michael Clarke Duncan or some other black man with an overactive pituitary gland would be waiting on the other side of those doors. He would then proceed to beat me within an inch of my life. And my beating would be financed, of course, by the New York State Bar Association or some other legal entity that has Michael Clarke Duncan on its payroll. Again, I don’t know if that’s a rational fear to have had, or if I had once again slipped into the realm of paranoia, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I mean, honestly…have you seen The Green Mile? “Yes. I would be able to serve fairly,” I told the judge.

A few minutes later, while looking down at the form that I had filled out, Guardanino said, “Mr. Malek.”

“Yes.”

A huge smile came across his face, and he said, “From Clifton, New Jersey!” It was clear from the way that he said that that he was from Clifton, New Jersey as well. I should explain though that on the form that I filled out, I was supposed to write down the place that I was born. And while I was indeed born in Clifton, New Jersey, I lived there until I was only two weeks old, and then my family moved to West Milford, New Jersey. Those two weeks that I spent in Clifton were pretty uneventful, so much so that I don’t even remember them. I could’ve said all of that to Guardanino, but I decided instead to just let the truth resonate throughout me while I gave him a blank, uncomprehending stare. By doing this, I achieved the desired effect, which is to say that I made Guardanino feel like an asshole. He asked me if I agreed that the burden of proof should rest on the prosecution. I told him that I agreed.

When ADA Walsh voir dired me, he asked, “Mr. Malek, you said that you sell life insurance for a living, correct?”

“Yes,” I said while the vomit once again creeped up the back of my throat.

“What do you like to do when you’re not selling life insurance?”

When I’m not selling life insurance, I like to celebrate the fact that I’m not selling life insurance. No no! Don’t say that! Not only is it not helpful, but there’s a possibility that he might misinterpret what I’m saying and believe that all I ever think about is life insurance, when in fact, I think about many other things, such as The Naked Cowboy getting decapitated and having his head fall into a Con Ed worker’s bowl of soup.

   “I like to read,” I said. Notice that I didn’t mention stand-up comedy. At the time, I was holding a book in my lap.

“What book is that that you’re reading?” asked Walsh. If I was clever, I would’ve said, “The Juror by John Grisham.” But I’m not clever, so I told him the truth.

“The Rum Diary.”

“Hunter S. Thompson?” he asked.

“Yes.”

Fuck! Why did I say that? It was the truth, but like I said, I wanted to serve on this trial. And since Hunter S. Thompson was out of his fucking mind, I assumed that this was grounds for automatic dismissal from jury duty. On the other hand, since I had told the court that I like to read, I hoped that I had tricked them into thinking that I was intelligent. It obviously worked, because I was selected as Juror #10. It bothered me that I wasn’t Juror #1, because that’s the juror who gets to read the verdict. And I desperately wanted to read the verdict because, while looking down at the piece of paper, I was going to say, “And the Oscar goes to…”

 

 

October 4, 2006

 

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