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Jury Duty

Margie Smith is a retired journalist, formerly assistant editor of the Grosse Pointe News. She writes for Grosse Pointe magazine and is working on a novel and several short plays.

Remember the  multiple indignities of Junior High School?

The cliques. The  boy-girl dances. The animated cartoon that was supposed to explain menstruation.

Gym class was the pits and team selection was particularly distressing. The teacher would pick two captains. The captains would take turns calling the names of girls they wanted to populate their teams.

The athletic, competitive, popular girls were chosen right
off. Next, the athletic popular girls. Next, the athletic but less popular girls. Next, the athletic unpopular. And last, the girls who didn’t have any friends and couldn’t throw a softball or catch a basketball in an oversized trash can.

Thankfully, I usually wasn’t  one of the last-picked. I wasn’t popular or athletic. I was passable, probably because I was freakishly tall and looked like I might be strong or might be a tenacious fighter, even though I proved both suppositions incorrect.

But I felt sorry for those who knew they would be one of the last chosen. The overweight, the clumsy and the unattractive kicked the toes of their blue canvas Keds against the wall, pretending they didn’t give a damn. They slouched and shuffled and waited.

I was summoned for jury duty recently and was rejected, which brought those long-ago loser dud-like feelings back into focus.

I really really want to be on a jury. I want to see how the jury system works. I can be impartial. I  can do it right. I can. Yes, I can.

But nobody picks me.

I’ve been called three times but never selected. The first time, the case was settled out of court. The second time, I got as far as an actual courtroom, answered the questions truthfully, but was dismissed.

Two weeks ago, I almost made it. As one of more than 200 people in the jury pool that day, I made the cut on day one for an armed robbery trial. Yay! On the morning of the second day, the assistant prosecutor had one more peremptory dismissal left.

I was  it.

While spending a day and a half in Michigan’s Third Judicial Circuit Court --  the criminal court --  I racked  up some 12-plus hours of people-watching, mostly while sitting on a hard wooden  pew-like bench in a dimly-lit, grimy hallway on the fifth floor of the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in downtown Detroit.

To make the experience even more frustrating, the drinking fountain was broken and we didn't have enough time to go out for lunch.

I observed people of all ilk. Some, nicely turned out. Some not. I was surprised at the blatant display of breasts, belly buttons, butts and dirty feet.

Were these people unaware they were going to be in a
courtroom that day?

I saw piercings in  every visible body part fleshy enough to hold a ring or a stud. Some of the people roaming those gloomy halls wore rubber flip-flops, short shorts, backwards baseball caps, sweatshirts, sleeveless T-shirts and – well, I can’t  list all the variations of unacceptible courtroom clothing.

What about dress codes? When I was in Junior High School, I’m sure courthouses had dress codes. People who were summoned to court were instructed by their parents or their lawyers or by the judges who ruled  courtrooms to dress appropriately, for Pete’s sake. It's a court of law.

Jurors summoned to report on the day I was there had received  a letter reminding them not to bring certain items into the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. These things included the obvious  such as guns, illegal drugs, explosives, knives, brass knuckles and alcoholic  beverages.

The two-page  do-not-bring list also included  cell phones, cameras, batteries, curling irons, combs, make-up, oversized purses, glass bottles, mirrors, highlighting pens, noisemakers,  paints, pencil sharpeners, dental floss, safety pins and tweezers.

No dress code.

Am I showing my age?

Why weren’t these people told that  beach attire was not appropriate or that when in court, as in church, one is expected to button up her blouse, pull up his pants and put on some shoes?

OK. I AM showing my  age. But I’m not alone.

I Googled information about dress codes for the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice and someone identified as A Google User wrote,

“OMG, I cannot believe this place. First of all who lets people come into a courthouse dressed the way some of these people are dressed? Most of them look like bums, hookers or straight up thugs. Second, security  really needs to come up with a better system. I say this because people, or should I say thugs, were taking off their shoes and pulling out cell phones and small knives. Third, the benches are falling apart, bathrooms are filthy and it’s pretty much a dump . . . This place needs to make some serious  changes.”

Hear  ye. All rise.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Katie November 12, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Margie, take heart, the reasons you probably have not been picked are because (1) you look like a typical Grosse Pointer and (2) No you're not old, but your shock of reality outside the bubble shows.

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