The reception area: Loads of bemused neophyte jury panellists. Several security men at the checkpoint. Nobody running dramatically running round in wig and gown ( ). The security men don’t actually look at you. The building is circular, the lobby is broad and round. The effect when you look up and around is of being inside a silo with a load of beetles skittering around the walls. The interior designer may be a Kafka fan. But at least it’s bright.
Jury Minders: They are a lot like tour guides. They shepherd the neophyte jury panellists round with nice smiles and reasonably well-hidden boredom.
The jury minders swiftly herd the bemused ones into a jury reception area. There are several S shaped swirly seating units that to be quite honest made me feel sea-sick. One side of the room is all glass, looking out onto an old brick wall and a depressed-looking paved garden with some lopped back old trees, that may or may not struggle to put on a few leaves over the next few weeks. Let’s hope I’m not still there to see that. The grey look is completed with a metal ramp of some sort, I’ve no idea what it’s for. The gardener probably studied Kafka at some point. So far I have not started morphing into a beetle.
Coffee Machine: Don’t be put off by the price on the machine, the coffee really is free. However, because of some gunther I suppose had to be done to allow the machine to give its contents away, you have to press the “sugar” button to get your fix. Don’t worry, although it doesn’t say so anywhere, the machine does not actually put sugar in your beverage. Perhaps the person who installed it was reading Kafka at the time.
Smoking: Joy! There is a smoking area. One of the minders indicates the location. It’s the depressed-looking paved garden. She says that’s where everybody makes friends.
Roll Call: Depending on the colour of the reminders (mine was yellow), the bemused ones are herded into separate pens (I mean rooms). Numbers and names are called out. There’s that Kafka theme again. I count my limbs, still just four, and I haven’t got any desire to eat shit or my fellow insects – yet. Although the room was full, people were standing round the walls and sitting on the windowsills, almost half the numbers/names on the roll call were not present. The name of a well-known actor who played Batman was called out. He was present, but not in uniform. A David Kelly was not present, I wondered was it the wonderful David Kelly RIP who quietly slipped away yesterday, his passing almost hidden by the wave of Whitney Houston mourners out there in e-world.
Tip No 3: The windowsills are not very comfortable.
So, what actually happened?: If you haven’t already guessed from the opening of Jury Duty for Dummies – Part 3, not a whole lot. The Clerk briefed the bemused ones about the fire exits, turning off mobile phones when the judge is speaking, and coming when their numbers/names were called. The judge for our court (we have our own court!) would address us through a large monitor. Worryingly, there is a camera fixed to the monitor. I sat up straight on my windowsill and tried to make sure it would get my best side. Then the Clerk departed, presumably to go through the same thing with the green bunch.
There’s no clock in the room, everybody is doing their best to look at nobody, and all eyes are averted from the monitor, or rather the camera above the monitor. After what seems like forever, just when my back end is going numb on the windowsill, the head minder moves to the top of the room and stands beside the monitor. Which draws everybody’s attention to the screen, just as an image of a roomful of bemused faces flashes on the screen – it’s true! THEY’ve been checking us out from the courtroom!
The screen flickers again and the judge appears. She gives us the rundown on who is eligible for jury service, and who is not. An exemption I don’t recall from the original hand-out is members of the reserve defence forces who are being paid. Note – who are being paid. It seems like the Department of Justice has done a deal with the Department of Defence. Pity they didn’t do a similar deal with small businesses and self-employed workers. This week, there will be no jury trials held on Friday. Good news for anybody who is not selected as a jurist. If we have any connection to the defendant, the defence or the witnesses, we should withdraw. If we are “challenged” (one of the legal eagles doesn’t want us on the jury) we should not be offended. The judge signs off, telling us that the list for the day will now be discussed, and then numbers/names will be called for selection.
Another long silence ensues. I looked around the room, wondering which of my fellow bemused ones could I stand spending an indefinite time with a ’la 12 Angry Men. At this point, there are no favourites. After about 1o minutes that felt like 1o years, the screen flicked on, another quick flash of the bemused ones, and the judge reappeared, to tell us that the court did not require a jury today. She’ll see us all tomorrow – same time, same channel. I was almost disappointed.
PS: later this evening I got a text from a friend to tell me her brother had seen me at court this morning. He must have been one of the green group – he’s just been chosen for a trial that is expected to run for three weeks. I’m definitely not disappointed now.