Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One Angry Man

Yesterday was my inaugural foray into the wild, weird world of Baltimore's "one day, or one trial" system of jury duty (which is a breeze if, like me, you're not selected, and at the end of the day you go home, service fulfilled).

I spent nearly eight hours in the jury holding room waiting for something to happen, as did a couple hundred other people. The day kicked off with an informative video, narrated by WBAL-TV 11 News' Stan Stovall, on the history and importance of jury duty. This was followed by check-in, whereby your presence is officially noted and you are issued your stipend of $15 (eleven of which I spent at the end of the day, retrieving my car from the parking garage next to Legal Aid).

The Mitchell Courthouse bears no small resemblance to how one might envision the inside of the Great Pyramid, with its winding, labrynthine passageways and heavy stonework - and, despite being several thousand years the ancient wonder's junior, in similar condition. It really is a beautiful old building, but it's no doubt seen a lot of hard and heavy usage over the last century, to which the water stains and cracked and crumbling stones will attest.

There were two major calls for jurors over the course of the day, both before lunch. The first of which sent jurors 001 through 250 across the street to the other court building where jury selection was being conducted for a trial. A short while later, they began calling what seemed like an arbitrary spread of numbers (303-427), as well as the occasional random individuals.

The rest of us spent the day watching movies. The first feature of the day was MEET THE PARENTS, starring Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, followed by YOU'VE GOT MAIL, a romantic comedy (an update, I believe, of an old Jimmy Stewart flick) featuring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Well before lunchtime (12:30 - 1:45), I had come to the conclusion that all of the questions the clerk and counsel and whoever else comprise the Whole Process are complete and utter bullshit. Indeed. The true test of potential jurors comes in seeing how they react to being placed in a room with approximately 200 other people they'd never otherwise sit down with under their own volition, viewing movies that, likewise, none of them would ever watch.

Nevertheless, over the course of the day I still managed to finish Graham Greene's BRIGHTON ROCK and about the first 70 pages of Barry Gifford's THE IMAGINATION OF THE HEART. All the while, I mentally hashed out a screen treatment in which a bunch of gangbangers, feeling "wronged" by the system, jack a packed city courtroom. The kicker: Steven Seagal, as the jury foreman-with-a-past. I'm not sure what exactly that past is just yet, or that it even really matters. The important things to remember are the movie's tagline ("One Angry Man...") and Seagal's one-line coup de grace upon dispatching his chief adversary: "Court's adjourned."

Indeed, all this for the incredibly low price of $15. I think the city got its money's worth.

Regardless, girl, it's alright...

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