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Monday, February 2, 2009

A Schnauzer Reports for Jury Duty

I am about to fulfill one of my civic responsibilities. Unfortunately, it will almost certainly be an exercise in futility.

Your very own Legal Schnauzer reports for jury duty this week in United States District Court in Birmingham. Given what I have written about certain judges, lawyers, and prosecutors, we probably will see Sheryl Crow bear Karl Rove's love child before I get selected to serve on a jury.

(That Crow/Rove reference brings some disturbing images to mind. I owe an apology to readers--and especially to the fetching Ms. Crow, who happens to be a splendid singer, a devoted liberal, and a great Missourian. She is from the Bootheel town of Kennett, MO, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri, my alma mater. Kennett, by the way, is near the New Madrid Fault, which is likely to produce a colossal earthquake one of these days.)

This is the third time I've been called to jury duty, so I'm not a newbie to the process--and I have a pretty good idea of what to expect. My first experience with jury duty came when I was among some 400 to 500 people in the pool for the Richard Scrushy financial-fraud case. That's the one that ended with an acquittal for the former HealthSouth CEO; he later was convicted in a corruption case involving former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and currently is in a federal prison in Texas.

My experience with the Scrushy case involved filling out a lengthy questionnaire that asked about our experiences with the justice system and our knowledge of the Scrushy matter. When I wrote truthfully about my experiences with the justice system, I knew we would see Barbra Streisand bear Dick Cheney's love child before I served on that jury.

(Darn, more disturbing images. Again, my apologies--especially to the great Ms. Streisand. By the way, thanks to my wife, I can say that I'm the proud owner of just about every album Barbra Streisand ever made. And thanks to my wife, I can say that I'm the proud owner of the complete Village People collection. Now how many people can say that? How many people would want to say that?)

After filling out the questionnaire, I was free to go. And when I called an automated phone system the next morning, I found that--surprise, surprise--my services would not be required for the Scrushy jury.

I've often wondered how the defense lawyers and prosecutors reacted when they read my questionnaire. It's possible they got a good chuckle out of it. It's also possible their pens caught on fire as they rushed to check my name off the juror list.

My second experience with jury duty came in Alabama state court, at the always lovely Shelby County Courthouse in fashionable Columbiana, Alabama. I've had so many charming experiences at the Shelby County Courthouse it's hard to keep track of all of them. But Mrs. Schnauzer and I caught one of them on videotape, and you can check that out here.

Actually, serving on jury duty was probably the most pleasant experience I've had in Columbiana, which would need a major renewal project to reach the level of "hellhole."

The day I was called for jury duty, the courthouse was packed with personal-injury cases involving car crashes. And in every case, State Farm Insurance was involved. They asked all potential jurors who had State Farm auto policies to raise their hands, and about half of us did. We were all excluded from those cases.

One other criminal case was on the docket, and we hung around for part of the afternoon to see if we might get called for that. Judge Hub Harrington told a group of us that the case involved events that were so horrible that he didn't want to say what it was about. Of course, that only made us want to know more about it. I'm guessing it involved child molestation or abuse, but it didn't matter in the end because the case wound up being delayed and we were sent home.

I don't look for anything that dramatic to be on the docket in federal court this week. And whatever cases come up, it's unlikely that I will be asked to stick around to help decide them.

In a way, that's too bad because I would kind of like to serve as a juror. I think it would be interesting, and I sure as heck would take it seriously. I also would make darn sure the actual law was followed, and I wouldn't cut deals with fellow jurors for the sake of expedience. I also wouldn't pretend that I am clueless about what's going on in the world--and about what goes on in our justice system.

In other words, I would be the "juror from hell," the kind of person that neither side wants anywhere near the jury room.

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