It’s a long way to Dallas.

I served on a federal jury several years ago. I didn’t even mind because it got me out of my classroom for three weeks, and it was a particularly tough year. I wrote some musings about my experience once the trial was over. A friend reminded me of that collection of thoughts the other day. So, here is a resurrection of my memories of that good ol’ time. Enjoy.

Things I learned while on jury duty:

  1. It is a long way to Dallas.
  2. It pays to be nice and make friends. I left my purse at home one morning, and Pedro, the attendant of the lot I used each day, let me park my truck there for free until I could find someone to borrow the money from.
  3. Women in Dallas have only one toe, and it is right in the middle of their feet. I know this to be true because of the pointy-toed, spike-heeled shoes they wear. There is not room in those shoes for more than one toe.
  4. Reading glasses make a very effective crowd-control tool when used correctly. I learned from observing Judge Lynn if you perch them right on the end of your nose and glare menacingly over them, you don’t have to actually say anything. This maneuver is particularly effective on jurors who return late from lunch (not me!).
  5. It is a very long way to Dallas.
  6. You can ride the train to Dallas, but you must be at the Vickery Street station at 6:15 am to get to the courtroom on time.
  7. If you walk around the Vickery Street train station at 3:30 pm to familiarize yourself with everything so you won’t miss the train the first time you ride it the next day, you’ll feel like you’ve just stumbled into the Stephen King book The Stand, because there will be no one around but you.
  8. Walking around in a marble-floored, high-ceilinged, empty train station building in broad daylight is creepy.
  9. If you pee against the protective shelter while waiting for the train (not me!), the train conductor, who spies you doing this while he waits for the scheduled time to head to DFW airport, will not be happy and he will call the Transit Police. The Transit Police will come and take you off the train while everyone else looks on, handcuff you, and take you away.
  10. Riding the train was not as much fun as it was cracked up to be, despite it being a very, very long way to Dallas.
  11. The Spanish word for before is antes (pronounced “awn-tez”).
  12. The Spanish word for after is despues (pronounced “dez-pwez).
  13. The Spanish word for tools is heramienta (pronounced “air-raw-may-en-ta”).
  14. The Spanish word for cocaine is cocaine (pronounced “co-cah-een-ah”).
  15. The Spanish word for heroin is chivas (pronounced “shee-vas”).
  16. The Spanish word for well, as in, “Well, when you spoke to the FBI, you lied to them, didn’t you?” is bueno (pronounced “bway-no”).
  17. The Spanish word for o.k., as in, “O.K., let’s look at your testimony again,” is bueno (pronounced “bway-no”).
  18. The Spanish word for good, as in “Good, we’ve established that you lied to Mr. Delapaz,” is bueno (pronounced “bway-no”).
  19. The Spanish word for no (duly reported and translated each and every time) is no, (pronounced “no”).
  20. You can get a crick in your neck driving for 30 minutes along I-30, trying the whole while to position your head in just the right spot behind your rear-view mirror so you don’t have the sun glaring straight into your eyes. This, however, is an advantage when you walk around at lunch as it forces you to hold your head at a snooty, self-important angle, which lets you fit right in.  It also helps if you’re wearing pointy-toed, spike-heeled shoes.
  21. The Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” now lives in Dallas and owns a Greek restaurant two blocks from the courthouse. Be ready with your order when it is your turn and, whatever you do, do not ask a question about the menu.
  22. Courtrooms are very cold.
  23. Blankets, coats, and mittens are allowed in courtrooms.
  24. Cell phones are not allowed in courtrooms.
  25. You can sneak your cell phone past the security guard on the fifteenth floor if you keep it in your coat pocket (accidentally, of course) if you wait until there are several important attorneys all trying to get through at the same time you are.
  26. It is a very, very, very long way to Dallas.
  27. It is extremely hard to not watch the news, read the paper, or listen to NPR (even if you don’t normally do so) when someone tells you not to.
  28. It is extremely hard not to talk about something that totally consumes your every waking moment for three weeks.
  29. It is imperative to not wear pants that have become ever-so-slightly too small for you when you are forced to sit still for eight hours.
  30. A certain lethargy steals over your body around 1:30 – 2:00, forcing your eyes to flutter as you valiantly fight to stay awake. This will happen every day, like clockwork, and will last approximately 20 minutes. It will also earn you a glare from over the reading glasses.
  31. Vitamins, a Gingseng-Gotu Kola capsule, and an Arizona Energy tea at lunch will help combat the early afternoon nap syndrome but will not completely alleviate it.
  32. Wiggling around a lot will help you stay awake.
  33. Tapping your knuckles repeatedly—and hard—with your pen will help you stay awake, although it tends to annoy jurors sitting next to you.
  34. Chewing the inside of your cheek will help you stay awake.
  35. Taking a water bottle in with you and drinking from it will help you stay awake.  Unfortunately, you only get one bathroom break after lunch, so this maneuver has its pitfalls.
  36. Frowning with intense concentration and looking back and forth between witnesses, interpreters, and attorneys will help hide the fact that your eyes are fluttering.
  37. Listening to a trial where you learn the names of a lot of Hispanic people—many of whom have the same first name; many of whom also have a nickname; many of whom have two last names, either of which might be used by any given witness at any given time—is sort of like reading a Tom Clancy novel.
  38. Making a flow chart helps keep everyone straight. It can also be recopied each day from 1:30 – 2:00 to keep you awake.
  39. Being a teacher gives one excellent practice at picking out when someone starts to lie.
  40. Swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth (we don’t say, “so help you God” anymore) doesn’t have the effect one would expect on the veracity of testimony given.
  41. Lawyers aren’t necessarily good at math. We waited a moment or two for our prosecuting attorney to do mental math and figure out what 30 kilos times $20,000/kilo is.
  42. Jurors are not permitted to call out answers.
  43. It’s an extremely long way to Dallas.
  44. Restating a question five times by changing the first few words will not magically make a different answer come from the witness’s mouth. For example,
    1. “Mr. S, you were afraid of R. A., weren’t you?”
    2. “But isn’t it true, Mr. S, that when you found out E. A. and J. R. were going to set up R. A., you got scared?
    3. “But in your grand jury testimony, Mr. S, when you said, ‘Are you crazy?’, it was because you were afraid of setting up R. A., a known drug dealer, wasn’t it?”
    4. “But Mr. S, didn’t you walk out of J. R.’s apartment that night because you were afraid of R. A.?”
    5. “You were frightened of setting up a known drug dealer, weren’t you, Mr. S.?”
  45. Witnesses, even when they are self-confessed drug dealing, conspiring, scam artists, can be funny and smart-alec when they answer, “For the fifth time, dude, the answer is no.”
  46. Jurors who snort with laughter at funny, smart-alec answers made by self-confessed drug dealing, conspiring, scam artist witnesses will earn themselves a glare over the reading glasses.
  47. Jurors are not allowed to make objections, even when a question has been re-asked five times and answered the same way each and every time.
  48. Jurors from Mississippi use the phrase, “He musta been fed with a sling-shot when he was a baby,” to describe very focused, intense, no-nonsense attorneys who repeat questions five different times in an effort to wring out a “yes” from the witness.
  49. Never, ever, ever take your car to an auto repair shop that has any of the following characteristics:
    1. It is made of corrugated tin.
    2. It consists mostly of a field, a fence, and a shed.
    3. It looks like it has been repainted several times with very brightly colored paint.
    4. There aren’t many cars sitting around waiting to be fixed or cleaned, and the people running it don’t look very busy.
    5. There is a pick-up truck parked anywhere across the street with a person using binoculars sitting in it, watching.
  50. In fact, never, ever, ever take your car to be fixed anywhere besides Christian Brothers Automotive or Pep Boys, just to be on the safe side.
  51. When people get busted in a drug raid, everyone there gets busted, so don’t ever, ever, ever take your car anywhere to be fixed other than Christian Brothers Automotive or Pep Boys.
  52. It’s okay to use the f- word in a courtroom, and it won’t even earn a glare over the reading glasses.
  53. It’s sort of creepy to sit five feet away from a drug dealer and watch him get mad and start using the f-word when the defense attorney hammers away at his testimony.
  54. It’s a long way to Dallas.

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