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Location: Kentucky, United States

Monday, March 31, 2003

Court day




8:41am I am sitting in the Circuit Court room in the Grayson County Judicial building. The Judges desk, like an altar to the goddess of Justice, looks down on the rows of hardwood benches were the jurors are seated in submission to the ritual of jurisprudence. Portraits of past Judges going back to the 1800s observe with serious expressions, guarding their legacy. The new jurors whisper among themselves as we await the appearance of black-robed Judge, the bringer of confinement or freedom, the symbol of the Rule of Law in our mighty nation. All the while the one thought that keeps running through my head is “I wonder if I am wearing legal briefs or not?”

8:53am The benches, which I mentioned before, are not even close to comfortable. They are hard and unyielding, and so slick that my “boredom kit” (book, notepad, and PDA) will not stay on the bench next to me, so I must hold it. I do not suppose anyone could ever get comfortable sitting in here anyway.

9:00am I am surprised at how many people I recognize here. This is a small community by most standards, twenty-thousand or more, but I did not now that given random picking you could get so many people who knew each other. There is that Six degrees of separation thing again, but I don’t see Kevin Bacon anywhere.

My Mother-in-Law was also picked to serve. At five minutes until nine, she still had not showed. I was beginning to wonder if I would see the State Police bring her in on a warrant. She made it on time though. I do not know how I feel about that. Hope this doesn’t fall into enemy hands.

9:16am They are calling role. I have not been in a roll call since High School. Having a name beginning with “T” means you get to zone out for quite a while. One thing I am surprised about is how many people for one reason or another decided not to show up. Knowing this can end up with the Police showing up at your door makes you wonder if we really need someone that dumb sitting as a “peer” anyway. Most of the people I met in Jail Ministry were not rolling high IQ numbers either, so maybe they could be peers after all.

As for me I dreamt I over slept. I woke up in near panic, and then showed up at the Court House forty minutes early. Maybe I am the dumb one.

10:30am The first Judge has just given us a one hour civics lesson beginning with the founding of our country, including the three branches of government and a complete breakdown of the Kentucky State Judicial system since 1976, all while we squirm on these unyielding hardwood benches. Did I mention how uncomfortable the benches are?

You know the saying “Guns don’t kill, people do?” In the last twenty minutes of the judge’s talk, five cell phones went off in our small pool of prospective deciders of human fate. The first one I could understand, but after that, you have to be thinking, “did I turn my cell phone off so I won’t look like a jerk too?” No one even tried to talk they just dug around until they found their phones and turned them off hoping they would not incur the wrath of the man on high. I mean the judge, not God, but you get the distinct feeing the judge does not know the difference.

11:00am Now we hear from the Grand Jury Judge. He gives us a civics lesson too, but he starts all the way back with the Magna Carta and comes forward from the twelfth century. I fill as if I have been here that long.

He does give the thought for the day though. We have men who are fighting and dieing to defend the system we have in place today. It is not perfect, but it works. There are not many things that your country requires you to do to protect its freedoms, but this is one of those requirements. This is something I can do to show my support for the men and women who are fighting this war in my place. He tells us it is an honor and a privilege to get to serve and from what I have read of the governments in most of the Middle Eastern countries, I do feel honored and blessed to be here today.

So I raised my right hand and took the oath of service, all the while thanking God that I live in a country where we are free and the rule of law still pervades.

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