Not to tell anyone anything

by ericavanhorn

14 April Thursday

I have been called up for Jury Duty.  I had the letter some weeks ago but now the time is nearly here. I told this to the hairdresser while I was having my hair cut. I asked him if he had ever been on a jury.  He said he was called up once, but he got out of it.  He had his doctor write him a note. He said if he gets called again he will get out of it again. I told him I believed in the jury system as a way for everyone to get a fair trial. I said I was not very eager to do it but since I believed in it I guess I should be willing to do it.   I asked him why he would not to do it. He said he knows everyone in the town and he is related to most of them.  And on top of that, he works with the public everyday.   He whispered, “I am in a position to Overhear Things.”

15 April Friday

Geraldine had been away for a few years. When she returned she was no longer as chubby as she once was. The Parish Priest saw her and declared “You are nearly not yourself! You look like a Rasher!”

16 April Saturday

There was a bunch of keys left on the counter near where we were paying for our breakfast. I picked them up and handed them to the girl at the register.  She said, “Oh, they must belong to the couple who just went up stairs.” She threw the keys onto our tray. She said, “You’re going upstairs yourselves.  You take them.”

17 April Sunday

The boreen is a terrible mess.  The winter has been long and there has been so much rain. Huge holes have been gouged out by rushing water. Water poured off the fields and onto the track. Water poured downhill from wherever was above to wherever was lower.  Water poured out of the sky. There are deep holes and there are shallow holes. Some are long cracks and some are enormous and deep like sheep dips. It is not unusual for all four wheels of the car to be in holes at the same time. There are more than enough holes for there to be one for each tyre at any given stretch of the road. It is nearly impossible to swerve a little and avoid the ruts and the ripped out places as we drive in or out. This might well be the worst it has ever been. It is a new low in terms of road damage.

22 April Friday

I reported to Jury Duty on Monday.  I did not want to be chosen but I was indeed chosen and put onto a jury.   Several people were eliminated because they knew a witness. Eventually we had a complete jury all sworn in. Four men and eight women.  I was the only one who asked to be sworn in without the Bible. I was the only person without an Irish name.  The judge sent us into a room to choose a Foreman.  A Garda accompanied us to the room which had a long table and twelve chairs.  No one volunteered for the job of Foreman.  There were twelve spiral bound pads of paper and a plastic box of red pencils on the table. Most of the pencils were not very sharp. We folded little pieces of paper and wrote numbers. Someone emptied the box of pencils and we put the numbers into the box and a woman picked a number.  The woman who was that number in the order around the table shrieked and said she just could not do it. Another number was picked and the young man whose number that was said he would do it as someone had to do it.   We rang our bell which was behind the door and the Garda came to fetch us and lead us back into the courtroom.  The judge assured us that the case would be finished by Thursday afternoon at the latest.  We were instructed about the case and the charges and told not to tell anyone anything.

Then we were sent home and told to return in the morning.  We were told that we must enter and exit the courthouse by way of a back gate.  A buzzer was present to let us in and to let us out.  We were also told that lunch would be provided each day.

I met an older woman in the car park who recognized me from the jury selection. She had been there in the initial group but she had not been chosen. She was deeply disappointed.  She said she was envious that I had been chosen. We talked for a few minutes and then she wished me luck.  As she turned away she said, And You, you are not even Irish. I was not sure if that was simply an observation on her part or if she felt that someone born in the country should have priority in these situations.  I decided not to ask what she meant.

The next day we spent a lot of time in our room. We had tea-making facilities and a water cooler.  There was one loo for men and one for women. The smokers could step outside the door for a cigarette. We were called into the courtroom and then after a little while and a few questions to witnesses we would be asked to retire.  We spent more time in our room than in the courtroom.  At lunch time we were invited to choose between chicken and lamb. Four lamb, seven chicken and one vegetarian.  Our Garda had to swear on the Bible to take care of us and not to let us discuss the case with anyone. When lunch was ready, we were led across the street.

Lunch was upstairs in a building which is a learning centre for people with special needs.  There is a coffee shop on the street level run by the students.  I went there once and it seemed to serve a lot of cakes and things made with jello. We were led up a flight of stairs and deep into the back of the building.  We went into a room where two long tables had been pushed together to make a large square table.  Twelve places were laid on the oilcloth cover.  We sat down and one lady served us all from a big hot stainless steel tray thing on wheels.  The Garda had his own table and sat by himself and ate by himself.  There was an enormous amount of food and two kinds of potatoes and three kinds of vegetables which kept being replenished on big platters.  We ate and ate.  Then we had huge slabs of cake and coffee and tea and when we were finished we were led out and back across the street and in through the back gate.  This everyday food for the jury was as plentiful as though we were working hard out on the land.

We spent a lot of time getting to know one another and discussing the case and mostly discussing how little we knew. Each morning we all had theories about the things we did know. The accused was defending himself and never seemed to have more than one question for each witness. It was frustrating to spend so much time not in the courtroom. It was frustrating that the things happening in there were not things that we were being told .

By the time the defendant changed his plea from Not Guilty to Guilty and the judge dismissed us for the last time, we were exhausted from several days of so much waiting and hanging around.  We were exhausted from the limbo of it all.  We all shook hands and said good-bye.  Most of us will never see one another again.  We came from all over the county. There was one man from way up in Nenagh.  We might bump into one another somewhere but we might not. I do not know if the order for us not to tell anyone about the case is still in effect or if we are now free to tell whatever we want to tell about it.