I was summoned for jury duty in district court yesterday. I wasn’t looking forward to going, wondering if I might be able to get out of it by promptly shouting “Guilty!!” upon entering the courtroom, before anything was even underway yet, thereby calling into question my ability to be impartial, not to mention my sanity. Having no idea of what the day would have in store, but anticipating a lot of waiting around time, I packed light, bringing with me only a pen and small notebook. Over my four-hour stint in the newly renovated courtroom #3 I then proceeded, to my delight, to fill pages upon pages of it with my observations, factual information, musings and wandering of the mind.
A writer revels in new locations like a builder scouting for virgin land. With a pen and paper in tow, even mundane surroundings come alive – my attention held in the details, goings-on, faces and mannerisms around me.
What color is this carpeting? Warm burgundy? Dark salmon? Red brown brick meets sunset? Crimson? Wine? Crimson wine? Autumn leaf? What sort of creative but poorly understood name would it boast on a paint swatch? Jovial Friend Time? Lollipop Station? Squirrel Picnic? Luscious Horse Field?
I love the art and function of writing. To attempt the capturing of moments into unobstructed words. Being a writer supports my mindfulness practice, too. It affords me the ability to tune into certain things I might not otherwise take notice of. And, in the case of jury duty yesterday, having a love of writing allows me to turn an unwanted situation into an experience of captivation and interest.
Displayed at the head of the courtroom lies a mural of three lovely Romanesque ladies of justice, in pleasing earthen tones. The blue-skirted one on the left holds a dove, the middle pink-skirted one holds two rock-like round balls, one in each hand, and the arbor green-skirted one on the right is blindfolded, holding a scale. Above them, from left to right, reads: Freedom, Equality, Justice.
Pillars flank the courtroom topped in golden flourishes, pearl-globe chandeliers hang from the ceiling. A flag is nowhere in sight. Ornate crown molding surrounds the room. A grandfather clock hangs on the wall, keeping inaccurately slow time with its overtly bulky brass pendulum.
Connected wooden seats, with a place to put your cowboy hat underneath, fill with equally summoned citizens called to perform their civic duty – an inordinate amount of us, if you ask me: around 80! 80 relative strangers, who share our residence in Missoula county and a fondness for mountains, sitting elbow to elbow in a packed courtroom. They only need to select 12 of us, with one extra as an alternate, for the trial that will start after lunch, regarding 110 counts given to a woman alleged to have broken a restraining order by way of text messages (110 of them to be exact). A woman, I might add, who’s present in the room for this process of jury selection. Does she get a say in who is chosen? It seems odd that she would be involved in this.
They must be expecting the need to weed out a bunch of us with their procedure of questioning. Questions like: Does anyone have cataracts or glaucoma, rendering it difficult to see clearly? Does anyone have a family member who’s in law enforcement? Did anyone receive the jury summons and think of not showing up? Does anyone know anyone else here in the jury pool? Does anyone have an issue with text messaging (morally speaking or for other reasons)? Does everyone understand what ‘reasonable doubt’ means? Is there anything going on for you in your life that will hamper your ability to focus on the trial?