……………………and luckily I wasn’t!
Our plan had been to spend about a month here and return to Rome around the end of April. However, when I arrived here from India and sorted through my mail, I found that I had been summoned for jury selection. I was told that it was a criminal trial involving a murder charge and that the trial could go on for 12 weeks. You can imagine my dismay at the thought of changing all our plans if I was chosen. My friends were full of advice as to how I might avoid being selected such as expressing bias or pretending I was hard of hearing. Being truthful by nature, I was not eager to make up a bias or invent a disability just to get out of it. Also, I actually believe that jury service is a civic duty and I would have been interested to see the courts in action if I was not living partly in Rome.
On the selection date, I made my way to the Superior Court of Justice to find that I was one of a pool of around 350 people. Half of us were in the juror’s lounge while the other half were actually in court. A closed circuit TV linked the two spaces so that we in the juror’s lounge could follow the proceedings. The case was introduced by the judge and the accused as well as their lawyers together with the prosecutors were presented. Since there were five people accused of murdering a fellow inmate in jail, the presentations themselves took a while. Once the pleas were heard (all the accused pleaded ‘Not Guilty’), the selection of the jury commenced. We each had a number and these numbers were randomly called to form a group of 25. This group of 25 was then presented to the court one by one and given a specific return date. Once your return date was set you could leave making more room in court for those in the lounge. After lunch, we all were in court and I found myself directly behind the box where the accused were sitting. I don’t believe I’ve ever been so close to a group of jail inmates ever before and it was a little disconcerting. They were sharply dressed and I noticed that one was wearing Armani spectacle frames when he turned his head. Any time a young attractive woman was called up and there was a sound of clicking heels, their heads swivelled around to take a good look. I guess there isn’t much opportunity for ogling women in prison! My group was the second last to be called so by now it was the end of day.
On the return date, I was most relieved to find out that the jury had been selected from the groups before mine. To my good fortune, it was not a biblical selection where those who are last shall be first! However, we had to return on the day the trial started just in case one of the jurors was sick and they had to select another. We had to wait until the trial was underway and the first witness was called before we were declared exempt from jury duty. Now I’m exempt for the next three years and can book a ticket back to Rome which I’m very happy to do as the weather has not been pleasant here at all. Those little white specks you see at the bottom of this sculpture outside the courthouse is snow!