The Supreme Court of Kings County Brooklyn makes me proud of this nation. I served jury duty today and the experience was delightful and educational.
It snowed in Brooklyn this morning. Winds downtown exceeded 30 m.p.h. As I rushed across Flatbush Avenue on my way to court, I frightened a large flock of birds feeding upon a bagel that had been dropped in the snow.
I couldn’t see a thing and accidently appeared at 360 Adams Street because the return address on my Jury Summons indicated the Adams Street courthouse and I didn’t read the fine print. I assumed I would serve jury duty on Adams Street because five years ago, I reported there.
“You have a purple stub,” a guard at 360 reported. “Take it across the street to the tall green building– the Supreme Court.” Little people, minor jurors with yellow stubs standing in the cold outside the civil courthouse a half hour early were trembling. Their hands, covered practically in mittens and gloves, all displayed the correct color of stub for that particular judicial branch to the courthouse guard. Only I had a purple ticket.
I’ve always wanted to serve on a jury. As I walked across Adams Street with my feet turning wet from the snow, I suddenly realized that I could be selected to participate in a trail involving a rap artist like Lil Kim, or perhaps a mystery trial involving drug lords. This was the Supreme Court of Kings County!
Courthouses remind me of church. There is something so clean and silent about the interiors. I wished I had worn the boots my lover B bought me for my birthday last Friday. I wore my tennis shoes instead, the ones I wear to the gym. I twitched and squeaked my way to the guards and metal detectors.
The Adidas sneakers have small holes along the seam of where rubber meets leather, at the point upon which the balls of my feet protrude into the elements because I walk on the tips of my toes and have worn those shoes out! They are incredibly comfortable though, and I refuse to dispose of them.
In my left hand was a book I’ve been reading. My right hand remained inside the pocket of my red coat because my fingers were freezing. I remembered that I had worn my Armani Exchange belt with a silver buckle. I was ordered to take off my coat and send it through the x-ray machine. I pulled off my leather belt with a silver buckle and tossed it into a plastic tray along with my Newports and lighter but didn’t trust them with my wallet.
As I looked to the glossy marble floor before stepping through the metal detector, I realized that my wet prints were like the markings of an animal with paws. I was grateful that I was not asked to take off my shoes.
We watched a short film hosted by Dianne Sawyer. She spoke of the American judicial system, how it works and why we were called as jurors.
The coffee machine in the Kings County Court House makes excellent instant cappuccino for only $1. Although the foam infused beverage is nothing like a cup of Starbucks would have been this morning, the beverage stunned me. My mind sank quickly into John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” while waiting.
My name was called as a potential juror within minutes. I was escorted to a large courtroom with approximately fifty others.
Jurors gave excuses for reasons why they could not serve.
Nearly one quarter of the jurors had been weeded out.
A prison guard approached a BINGO-like basket to the left of the judge and spoke into a microphone–
“Is Janet Taylor here?”
There was no response. I knew Janet had left the room earlier, as she had given an excuse, and the judge released her.
“Is Charles Taylor here?”
I raised my hand. She solved the paper-work crisis and tossed a card with my name into the bin and spun the wheel.
I was called as Juror #5 on a panel of twenty-four and was seated inside plush juror boxes, next to a thin microphone that reminded me of the long one that Bob Barker used on The Price is Right. It balanced directly in front of me. There was just one juror microphone.
A judge asked us questions– Where were you born? What do you do for a living? Are you married? Do you have kids?
Our honor went down the row and when he got to me, the microphone picked up my voice and like in the God we trust, my deep sexy tone rattled throughout the wooden interior chambers of Kings County Supreme Court. The courtroom erupted to attention.
I have a cold and I sounded sexier than Antonio Bandaras in that microphone. I didn’t shave and knew I fit the mold of just a typical, juror dude from Brooklyn.
Juror number five…Charles Taylor
Where are you from?
Who do you live with?
A domestic partner.
What are your hobbies?
What do you write?
We were cross examined by both sides. We were asked BY THE PEOPLE– a skinny, fake-blond District Attorney, if we would have difficulty in accepting testimony from an individual who had taken a plea bargain and who would offer witness testimony against the defendant.
“Would you accept witness testimony from one who had taken a plea bargain?”
I thought of Bernard Madoff and replied–
“That depends on the context of what he had to say as testimony,” I delivered like an impartial Dan Rather into the microphone. “I just don’t know yet. You’ll have to pick me to find out.”
The courtroom erupted in laughter. I knew that if I were selected and the trial went to a movie, I’d have a decent supporting actor part.
The D.A. blinked at me, surprised at my keen knowledge of the law perhaps, and went on… “So does this mean, so and so…”
“Your Honor. I object….” the defense attorney shot to the judge while she was asking me another question.
“Over- ruled… Continue…”
I lost my train of thought. Before I could continue selling myself as the perfect juror, the D.A. went on to the next juror, not permitting me to finish my point.
I wasn’t selected, but had a blast, made a name for myself as a writer of fiction, and learned a lot in regards to the American judicial system.
A cute Puerto Rican dude who sat next to me didn’t get picked either. As we waited for letters certifying our participation in Jury Duty he noted to me that he was surprised that I did not get picked because I was the only white guy who made the top 24.
I told him that I was surprised too and wanted to tell him my fantasy of being picked and sequestered in a hotel with other jurors, but I figured it wasn’t worth mentioning now that the opportunity, like jury duty, had just passed us by.