Gimme your arm

I got called for jury duty last week. Now, for the record, I would really like to serve on a jury. But it seems it’s always just not now. Four years ago I was called for jury duty. I was working in a church in another county. Getting to the courthouse in my county was inconvenient all the way around. But I got bounced off of that one. Perhaps it was because in answer to some question from the judge my response was, “With all due respect, Your Honor, just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.”

Dane Couty courthouseBut jury duty is seldom convenient for anyone. I understand that. The timing should have been perfect this time. But it wasn’t. I was retired. I had plenty of time to do it. My heart was really in the right place. But I was still recovering from a fractured ankle. The courthouse is inconveniently located for a person with a walking stick and pain; there isn’t even a pull out for my husband to drop me off on that first day when I would be loaded into the jury box with 23 other people to find out which of us were among The Chosen.

Turns out, I wasn’t. They don’t tell you why you aren’t among The Chosen. When all the questioning is done, they call off the names of The Chosen who are told to stand. The Rejected are just asked to leave. We file out between the opposing attorneys with the thanks of the judge ringing in our ears.

I had mixed feelings about being among The Rejected. Was it because I’m a member of the clergy? Was it the way I answered questions? Didn’t they like the way I looked? On the other hand, I was so grateful that I wouldn’t have to figure out how to negotiate the parking ramp and get my gimpy self into the courtroom by 8 the next morning.

We were told, as questioning began, about the two charges against the defendant who was seated at a table with his attorney. Beyond that I can only guess what might have transpired to bring him and us to that point in time. Based on the questions from the prosecuting and defense attorneys, I can surmise that there was a knife involved. And law enforcement.

While others on the possible panel may remember other questions posed to us, or remember them differently, I do remember being asked if I had ever been the victim of a crime. They didn’t want to know details, just whether it had happened. I raised my hand. But then I was asked if I was satisfied with how it was resolved. I said no. The follow up question to that was, “Were you satisfied with how law enforcement handled the situation?” This time I answered, “Law enforcement never showed up.” Then he asked something to the effect of “Would that compromise your ability to make a fair decision about law enforcement as a member of this jury?” I replied, “No. I don’t think so. I’m very supportive of law enforcement. I was pretty mad at the Milwaukee police, but I don’t hold that against everyone else.”

Maybe that’s what got me kicked out of The Chosen.

We were also asked if any of us had ever been part of an altercation of some kind. Well, I mean, if you have brothers and sisters, what kind of a question is that? So the wheels started turning in my head and I had to put my hand up again. And again I got questioned. “As a kid, I could throw punches with the best of them,” I said honestly. “But as clergy, my involvement in physical battles has been limited to breaking them up.”

A courtroom in the Dane County Courthouse. The Walk of Shame by The Rejected runs from the jury panel on the right between the prosecutor and defense tables in the middle.

A courtroom in the Dane County Courthouse. The Walk of Shame by The Rejected runs from the jury panel on the right between the prosecutor and defense tables in the middle.

Then I was asked, “Did you ever take sides in these fights?” I assumed he meant as a minister. “No. That is, not the physical ones. But verbal ones, yes.” He responded, “So you’re not a fighting minister?” Well, that’s debatable depending on verbal punches vs. physical ones, but I answered no.

The final series of questions that had me raising my eyebrows had to do with knives and whether we thought they were violent weapons. Somehow, when the first question was asked, the description of the knife seemed to be specific to something that would be used in a violent crime. No one else on the panel appeared to disagree with me that it was a violent weapon. But the second question just seemed ridiculous. “So do you all agree that a steak knife or a butter knife is a violent weapon?” Well, I thought, I would have had a hard time cutting my steak two nights before or buttering my bread that morning without one or the other. Doesn’t the violence of a knife depend on who’s wielding it and for what purpose? But no one said anything and I was tired of answering more questions than anyone else so I just raised an eyebrow, looked quizzical, and remained silent.

The attorneys were studying me by this point. That question alone and my silence relative to it may have landed me among The Rejected.

Ultimately, of course, I left the courtroom in the Walk of Shame among The Rejected.

Later in the week as I was reminiscing about my childhood, I suddenly remembered an incident of violence that I had committed but had not shared in court. I felt guilty. They should have been told.

I was in kindergarten. One of my classmates kept following me around. He always wanted to sit next to me whether it was at a table or on the floor. We had an indoor wooden jungle gym in the class and he was right beside me, rung for rung. I couldn’t shake the kid. So apparently not having a command of the language, I simply said to him, “Gimme your arm.” He obediently extended it. I took it in both hands, held it and then closed my teeth around the skin.

I didn’t draw blood. The kid disappeared.

But the next thing I knew the teacher was calling me to her desk where my former devotee was standing. The teacher said the kid had told her I bit him. “No, I didn’t,” I lied professionally. Then she lifted his arm and said, “Then whose teeth marks are these?”

Rats. I was directed on perhaps my first walk of shame to the corner where I stood for awhile and without remorse. The kid quit following me around. I don’t even remember his name.

Maybe all that stood between me and a life of violent crime was that corner. I don’t know. But now I confess that I did it and today I am sorry I hurt him and probably sorrier I got caught. I’m just glad I didn’t end up with blood in my mouth.

It does beg the question, however, if teeth are always a violent weapon or if their violence depends on who’s wielding them and for what purpose.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11

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