“Mr. Conner, is there any reason I shouldn't have you arrested?”
“No. No reason at all.”
Yes, that was my answer to a very furious judge. I can only suppose that such an answer to such a question was a very brave (or a very foolhardy) thing to do; the judge did not have me arrested for such a candid answer (much to my and the bailiff's relief).
So, how did I, on day two of jury duty, find myself standing in front of an irate judge ready to arrest me?
You see, it all started when I failed to set my alarm clock correctly. We were instructed by the judge to return today at 9:00 am. I thought I set my alarm clock for 7:00 am, but I missed one small little detail: 7:00 pm.
I woke up and noticed it being brighter than I expected. I took a look at the clock—9:23 am.
Ten minutes later I was showered, dressed and putting on my shoes when I received a call from the West Palm Beach Courthouse asking where I was. I apologized profusely and said I was walking out the door.
The drive was stressful, hitting every light, stuck behind every slowpoke. I was almost to the I-95 on-ramp when I realized I forgot my jury badge.
It was one of those “damned if I do, damned if I don't” type decisions—do I need that badge? Will not having it be more trouble than being even later? I erred towards having it. That cost me quite a bit of time.
The traffic lights slowed me down.
So did the traffic.
And the rail road crossing with the non-existent train crossing.
It seems my karma got mauled by dogma. Or something like that.
By the time I arrived at the court room, it was 10:31 am.
Now, when the courthouse called, I was instructed to report directly to the courtroom. But when I got there an hour and a half late at 10:31 am there was no one outside. I cautiously entered to find the trial well under way.
As the bailiff led me to the benches in front of the court, the judge called a five minute recess, and then had the bailiff escort the jury to the jury room. After they left, he asked if all the jurors had been escorted out of the room. Um, I thought, aren't I a juror? I raised my hand and made some form of noise—
“Quiet,” said the judge. “I don't want to hear from you.” He leaned back. “No, not you,” he said, talking to the defendant. The courtroom was quiet for a minute. “Bailiff, please escort Mr. Conner to the podium.” Pause while I was escorted. Once there, the judge rattled off contempt of court charges, which included a month of jail time and fines, and would I like to explain what exactly happened?
After I spoke, well … that brings us up to the start of this entry.
The actual punishment dealt out to me by the judge was about as bad as internal detention one would get in high school. I had to go back to the Jury Assembly Room and sit there for the rest of day to reflect on my actions of this day.
And boy, did I reflect. I felt awful, having wasted not only the judge's time, but that of the defendant and other jurors (the lawyers, not so much since they're probably earning a few hundred bucks per hour). By the time I got to the Jury Assembly Room I was in tears.
Horrible experience. Although I did call my friend Hoade (using the Stupid Cell Phone Trick of dialing 800-FREE-411 to get his number. Talking to Hoade will always cheer me up.
But that's it. I technically served my time as a juror, and, given what happened today, I would be surprised to find myself called anytime soon.