this juror’s story
Along with eight other good citizens, I made it through our 8-day trial and now I can tell you all about it.
The nine of us were culled from a pool of 45 potential jurors. I have to say, the lawyers and the judge did a commendable job of weeding us out, they managed to get nine sane, reasonable, and intelligent people. Trust me, there were some people I saw in the larger group who were far removed from sanity and intelligence!
As I mentioned back on August 31st, I had a suspicion that there were nine of us, instead of the usual eight, because of me. And then again, on September 3rd, I told you how I had been called into the judge’s chambers… well now I can tell you the whole story.
On that first selection day, after going through the potential juror questionnaire with all 45 of us, the judge said that if any of us felt the need to add something, in private, to raise our hands. My hand flew up, I was hoping for this opportunity. This was a civil case, not criminal, like many of you may have assumed. A case of malpractice where a woman and her husband were suing her OB/GYN. From the very moment we walked into the courtroom and learned what the case was about, I knew I may have a problem. And the reason I wanted to speak of it in private was because I didn’t want to share my issue with 44 complete strangers. And some of them were very strange! So why don’t I mind sharing it with you? You know me, and you care about me, and you’re not strange at all! Additionally, it was so appalling to watch these people try to squirm their way out of service, that I did not want anyone to perceive that that was what I was trying to do. I didn’t have a problem serving. I mean for as much as I may have complained about it here, I would certainly want competent people there for me, if I was ever in need. And I completely respect and appreciate the process and I am grateful, especially on this poignant weekend, that I live in a country where you are judged by a jury of your peers and have an opportunity to prove your innocence! ….. I just didn’t want to pass out while doing my duty.
You see, I have an extreme and uncontrollable physical reaction to the visual and especially verbal descriptions of the inner workings of the human anatomy. I really don’t know how else to describe it other than that. Possibly a few actual examples of my life experience will show you just how vulnerable I am. Here we go…
I first discovered “my problem” when I was about 12 years old in elementary school gym/health class. Instead of outside P.E. one day, the girls were sent to one classroom and the boys to another. The nurse was our teacher, instead of Ms. Kelson, who was our evil taskmaster P.E. teacher. Remember, I am a native Arizonan, so being inside, sitting at a school desk, instead of running a mile in the heat (yes, we ran a mile everyday, with a timed mile on Fridays) was a big-time treat! The nurse explained that she was there to talk to us about our menstrual cycles. Fine, whatever, we are inside and I am happy. Happy that is, until she turned on the movie projector and began describing the pictures. The pictures and illustrations, along with the explanations, had me sweating, feeling sick to my stomach, and going dizzy within seconds, until it all went black and I found myself looking up at concerned faces staring down at me.
The next incident that I vividly recall happened when I was about 20 and worked as a legal secretary at a large firm in downtown Phoenix. My bosses were an older and exceedingly kind attorney (Mr. B) who wasn’t in the office much, as he was semi-retired… and a young handsome attorney (Mr. F), who I had a major crush on. Mr. B had been out of the office for a couple of weeks for surgery. When he returned, I rushed into his office to see how he was feeling and welcome him back. He had some work for me to transcribe, and asked me to sit down in one of the chairs in front of his desk. Before we got to work, I ask how he was feeling and he began to describe the eye surgery he had and surprisingly he went into detail. I immediately knew I was in trouble, the room was getting smaller, the floor was spinning, I was sweating. I didn’t want to pass out in front of him. So I apologetically interrupted him and began making excuses as I backed out of the room. Once in the hallway, I leaned against the wall and tried control myself, but I was too far gone, I slid right down the wall, laying flat out on the floor, wearing a dress and sprawled, for all I know! As I came to, I saw cute Mr F. staring down at me and yelling for another secretary to call for an ambulance. I was able to convince them to not call and that I was going to be alright and poor Mr. B never forgave himself. He felt awful and apologized to me daily for weeks.
OK, I’ve saved the best for last. There are many more instances, but this one – yeah, it’s classic. Before I had kids, but after I was married, I was in the doctor’s office having my annual exam. After the exam was finished, but while I was still sitting up on the table, naked, with the lovely paper cloths draping me, my doctor asked if I routinely did my own breast exam. I thought about lying and just saying yes, like when the dentist asks if you floss regularly – but I told the truth – no I did not do self-exams. He then went in a detailed account of another young patient, about my age, who was in the throws of chemo and radiation because she didn’t do self-exams and a lump was discovered during her annual exam. He went into detail about finding the lump, the surgery, etc. He didn’t get too far before…. you know, the room was spinning and I couldn’t breath. And you guessed it, I fell off the table – paper clothes falling away, sprawled out on the tile floor. He actually did catch my head before it hit, but OMG! Naked and getting an exam is one thing, naked sprawled on the floor because you can’t take hearing about normal body stuff… embarrassing and humiliating!
Maybe I should have broken this down into 2 posts, it’s getting quite LONG!
So back to the court. I explained (not in as much detail and without the benefit of drawings!) my problem to the judge, the five attorneys, the bailiff, the court reporter, the defendants and plaintiffs, (so much for a private conversation with the judge) and they still picked me! What’s up with THAT!?!
Sure enough, on Day 1 of the trial, there is an expert witness, a doctor, going on and on about the medical procedure in question and showing operation videos (I did not watch, but I could hear!) and pictures and…. I’m feeling dizzy and the room is closing in on me. I stand up and begin walking to the door. It is locked, I look at the judge in desperation as he is buzzing for the bailiff to come open it and is saying to the court, “We are going to take a short recess, please don’t go too far…” That’s all I hear because the door opens and I stumble out into the hall and put my head between my legs and just try to breath. After 10 or 15 minutes, I compose myself and we resume, all eyes are on me and I feel like an idiot.
The next morning is when I was called into the judge’s chambers, there sat the judge, and both sets of attorneys. Turns out they were staring at me the day before because they were worried and asked if I could go on. I told them I would do my best and put my “big-girl” pants on. They laughed and let me go back to the jury room. They played that damn video several more times and would announce it each time, no doubt for my benefit. Day after day I would try to listen as much as possible and also try to tune it out when needed, to protect myself. The only person on the jury who knew, was Juror #8, she sat next to me and would say, “Don’t look” whenever needed. And I would not look! And when an attorney or witness would say words like endometrial ablation or tubal ligation or describe the veress needle or trocar or the perforated intestine … I could go on and on about stuff that is too disgusting to mention here. I would do my best to tune them out and go to a happy place. That is how I got through 8 full days without passing out.
In the end, the judge did not excuse any one of us as an alternate. Maybe because my head never actually hit the floor. And we found the defendant (the doctor) not guilty of negligence. We determined from the evidence that it was a tragic accident and an inherent risk of the surgery, not malpractice. It was a unanimous decision and was made on the very first anonymous vote we took before we ever had any discussions.
There you have my story of jury duty. Now back to posting about the good stuff, FOOD! This is my 80th post in a row. I have decided on a goal of 100, that gets me to September 3oth. Cheer me on, if I can sit through 8 days of that, I can do this!
All Artwork graciously provided by Connor Hopkins.