The Suburban Buffoon’s Complete Guide … Pt 4
The Suburban Buffoon’s Complete Guide to Fucking Up an Obvious Assault I Conviction Pt. 4
By Mark Driver
I don’t really remember the next 24 hours. As I exited the courthouse, blind rage swam behind my eyes. I did not want to come back for another day. I remember jaywalking egregiously and giving a double-fisted flip off to any car that honked. I remember kicking the shit out of a new condo complex’s sandwichboard advertisement (why pay $700 a month to rent when you can buy a one-bedroom apartment for $375,000 and only pay $550 a month in additional fees?). Somewhere in those 24 hours, I think I fell asleep. Somewhere in those 24 hours I must have drunk a bunch of cans of Sparks, because there was sticky orange shit covering the contents of my backpack … which was mostly empty cans of Sparks. I don’t technically remember working my shift at the bar, but the bossman’s less-than-cordial messages on my machine the next day concerning banal subjects such as half-ass closing paperwork, unset alarms, and a missing bottle of Sapphire—as well as $130 in tips in my jacket pocket—led me to believe that I had indeed autopiloted my way through another shift.
Whatever I did, it felt like I blinked my eyes twice and was back in that deliberation room. Like a Groundhog Day nightmare. Unwashed, unhappy, afraid of what I might end up doing to someone.
We sat in silence for the first half hour. And then dumb Juror #2 said, “I want to ask the judge a question.”
We were instructed that if we had a question for the court, we should write it on a piece of paper and ring for the bailiff. The bailiff takes it to the judge. The judge calls the prosecutor and the defender. The defender calls the defendant. If the defendant is in jail, the defendant is taken out of his prison clothes and poured into a suit. All parties come into the courtroom. The jury is led in. The foreman reads the question to the judge in the presence of everyone. The jury is then led out of the room. A discussion is held between the judge and the lawyers. The jury is led back in, and the judge answers the question. The jury leaves. Everyone goes back to what they were doing. The whole process takes about an hour.
So, of course, brilliant Juror #2 wants to ask this question: “What if one person does not agree with the decision of the juror?”
Crap, at least get the words right. Winston tells him the answer. I tell him the answer. Donahue tells him the answer. Chocolate-chip cookie lady tells him the answer. We need a unanimous decision. If one person won’t agree to convict, the defendant goes home a free man.
The entire jury begs and pleads for his vote on Assault II. And then we beg and plead for him not to ask his stupid question.
“It’s my judicial right to ask a question,” he says, folding his big fat arms across his big fat belly. “I know what your answer is. I wanna hear what the judge has to say.”
So, as we all grunt and piss and have a new person to hate, Winston writes down the question and passes it off to the bailiff. The bailiff rolls her eyes and almost answers on the spot, but she knows the formalities involved so she sighs and limps out of the room and we sit there in silence for an hour before the bailiff comes back in and leads us to into the courtroom. The prosecutor looks stressed, the public defender is grinning like a gopher.
The judge repeats what we had been telling Juror #2 for the last four hours and sends us back into the jury room. No one says anything for fifteen minutes.
“Ask him again,” Juror #2 finally says. “That’s my right. I want to ask him again.”
“Ask him what?”
“What if one person does not agree with the decision?”
“You want to ask him the same question again?”
“It’s my right.”
By this point we had all given up. I banged my head on the table three times in an attempt to knock myself unconscious.
“Can I hand him the same piece of paper?” Winston asked with a sigh.
“Rewrite the question.”
“The same question.”
“It’s my judicial right. I know my rights.”
If this column is dragging on and on … good! That’s what I’m trying to do. This trial stole three weeks of my life. It was an absolute nightmare. If, on the other end of it, I could claim some sort of victory or feel like justice had been served, it might have been worth it. But, in the end, all the hours of explanation, of evidence, of testimony, of logical conclusions, of deliberation—it all came down to this one line, spoken by Juror #3:
“He reminds me of my cousin. Not guilty.” Spoken by an unintelligent glob who got her feelings bent out of shape.
“Why even bother to have a fucking trial,” I said during one of my unhelpful tirades. “Why not just put a picture of that jackass on a big poster and say ‘does this person look guilty? Does this person remind you of someone you know?” I mean, what is the value of a system whose nexus rests on some lady who can’t figure out how to get out of a locked car? My friggin’ dog can get out of a locked car!
None of this helped. I blew it with Mr. Fake Brain, but with the saggy broad, I thought that if I was mean enough, I would break her down. Wrong again, dumbass. Her mind was already closed—and she’d probably had way worse from her ex-husband anyway. I was probably opening old wounds.
I’ll admit it. I’m not always the best guy to solve a problem, but hey! That’s me! I’m Mark Driver, a total jackass who’d rather make a bunch of noise than actually fix anything! Right? Duh! It’s way more fun! And tons easier!
My favorite reoccurring email:
“Dear Sir, what are you doing to change these situations you constantly complain about?”
Good point! I mean, I didn’t stop the war, did I? It still happened, right? I guess I just didn’t try hard enough, but at least I was right! Ha! Ha! ha—oh wait, I shouldn’t laugh so close to that huge pile of mangled American and Iraqi corpses you all insisted on.
That question sounds about as intelligent to me as:
“Oh sure, you bitch about your city’s baseball team, but what are you doing to improve their situation?”
But lo, I’ve been convinced, so I’m here to pass on the truth: Trust your leaders. Everything is fine. They’re all decent people doing the best they can. The only thing worth getting passionate about is sports. Please go about your business and don’t worry so much (It’ll give you wrinkles! 🙂 ). And hey, buy something! It’ll help the economy!
Your grandkids are so fucked.
In the end, Juror #2 finally gave in, and we got Assault II. We were led into the courtroom and we passed in our verdict. The judge read the verdict, the defense yelled hooray and—I’ll never forget this—the rat bastard defendant looked over to Juror #3 and mouthed “thank you.”
She said, “You’re welcome,” on the verge of tears. She thought she had done something amazing. She was all choked up. She thought she was being motherly.
I hope it’s her kid that gets his head split open next.
I went into jury duty with assumptions. I assumed that the court would be unabashedly pro-cop. That the trial would be a mere formality. That the judge and the prosecutor shot golf and fucked each other’s wives on the weekends. Always one to complain vociferously even if there’s not the slightest reason, I went in determined to sniff out a rat somewhere in this process. But everything I witnessed was appallingly legit. It was a fair trial. I can’t speak for other courtrooms in other cities and other states and other countries, but what I witnessed was civilized, polite, and absolutely fair. It actually gave me pause. The extreme level of formality and procedure was taken amazingly serious by all involved. There was no question that every fairness-promoting step had been taken. Though there were corrections officers standing by the door with cuffs ready for the defendant, the defendant was not led in with cuffs on. The cuffs were removed and reapplied in our absence. There was no orange jumpsuit. He got a shirt and tie. He didn’t have the best lawyer in the world, but he had a free one who knew the law (“Wait,” says Outraged Taxpayer, “these bums get free lawyers? They break the law and I gotta pay for their lawyer? Once again, I am outraged!”). During the course of the trial, I looked around the courtroom and actually felt something surprisingly close to civic pride. Civic pride that was eventually shredded like hot pork barbecue in the face of reality, but I felt it nonetheless. Maybe we aren’t completely doomed.
But then I think to the jury of my peers. If those twelve people were a random selection of American citizenry, I can’t say I’ve got too much hope for our nation’s future. No wonder we’re in freefall for the shitcan and most folks just wanna watch it all happen on TV. I saw unwillingness to participate in discussions, unwillingness to speak up or hold independent opinions. I saw an inability to think clearly, or even follow simple directions. I saw lazy, ineffectual, disinterested blank stares with poor memories and miniscule attention spans. It’s equally fascinating and depressing. It makes me want to start an advertising firm, or dream up some new religion. People are easy! I’ll guarantee that if Winston and I went back into that room and said “Not Guilty,” on the first day of deliberation, those seven in the middle would have gone along with it.
These are the people who hold up “Honk 4 War” signs for news cameras. These are the people who believe Saddam flew a helicopter into the Empire State Building. These are people who quietly vote for candidates promising tax cuts, and never figure out that the taxes on the little (or middle) guy never actually go down (“Hey Maw, President Bush just sent me $75 in the mail! No other prez never gave me nuthin’!”). These are the people who believe gay marriage and rap music are bigger threats to their existence than corporate looting, environmental pillaging, shit food, and thousands of jobs getting shipped to Bangladesh. These are the people so terrified by the specter of terrorism, you can make them agree to ANYTHING. (Hey, anyone know where I can get that smallpox vaccine we all needed last summer?)
These are the morons who punished me with 45 minutes of hippie sing-a-longs just because I wanted to see what Howard Dean had to say at his Seattle stop off. These are uninsured people happy to let their kid go deaf from an ear infection because some radio talkshow host convinced them that cheap basic healthcare is a socialist conspiracy. These are people who believe that taking the shotgun out of my home will somehow better protect me from the evildoers. These are people who protest contraception and abortion while voting to cut social services for poor children. These are people who believe they have won contests, who buy timeshares, who give their credit card numbers to strangers on the phone, who worry about West Nile virus because of the news show, who can’t handle talking on a cellphone and driving at the same time but do it anyway, who read People magazine, who get all worked up over celebrity divorces—
In the end, any system is only as good as the people involved … and that’s why we’re totally fucked.
I try to comfort myself with the thought that it’s always been this way. That these are not unique times. That there have always been people to cheer on lynchings, witch burnings, Inquisitions, genocide, putsches, crusades, tyrants, butchers, insane kings, unholy popes, etc. Genghis Khan had friends. Stalin didn’t do it alone. There were plenty of people who volunteered to fight for the fascists in both Spain and Italy. Humanity has always been a dull spoon intent on marching towards its boring doom, shitting where it sleeps and killing something to celebrate. Can you expect more from a planet of hair-covered, fluid-regulation systems convinced they are mini-Gods serving some higher purpose? Perhaps our consciousness is just DNA living for its own glory, deluding the carrying host long enough to replicate—so fuck everything else. We are meat computers, programmed to ring registers and believe at all times that we are the good guys. That what we do is constantly observed and—due to particular geo-political boundaries—blessed by an infinitely just sentient Master being.
Instead of being personally offended by the stupidity around me I should shut up, join the game, and try to make some bucks off the flock like all the other annoying know-it-alls. Kill my conscience and become vice-president of something profitable. Instead of being happy making a few people laugh and maybe think a little, I should look deeply into their eyes and then sell them something expensive. Live high on a hill with a view of the ocean. Stare at a screen, weep without pity, grow old and irrelevant in a comfy leather chair.
But then I think, “Christ, dude. It’s only jury duty. And it’s over.”
So I wipe the foam from my lips and celebrate with people I have not seen in weeks. Oh, if nations could be run by a big booth of friends and three pitchers of beer. We could elect a plate of cheese fries President and pursue a policy of being really loud. Of course the FBI would be in charge of getting us laid, all branches of the military could be deployed to explain to our bosses why we wouldn’t be coming into work YET AGAIN, the Commerce Secretary could keep VISA off our backs, the Drug Czar could hook us up with some killer mushrooms, and the Surgeon General would gladly fix our sadly neglected teeth. Perhaps the Poet Laureate could make some sense of our existences, but then we’d be forced to impale her for destroying our lovely fictions.
Interpretation is murder.
The Attorney General, of course, would be put on charge of making sure none of us ever had to serve on a jury again…
*In the “New Low/High for Freelance” category, I just built a website for an organic food co-op in trade for two racks of lamb and a 1/4 side of beef, with future promises of lentils and cabbages for doing updates. Yay for me(at).
*Thanks for all you crazy bastards that showed up for my birthday. You guys are FUCKED and welcome anytime. And by the way, ladies, that’s not my real phone number. Heh, heh.
*Book Update: Off to the printer…buy me!