Fun_People Archive
30 Oct

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 30 Oct 97 13:51:08 -0800
To: Fun_People
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Subject: Juries

Forwarded-by: Nev Dull <>
Forwarded-by: "Keith E. Sullivan" <>


Just before a trial in St. Paul, the defendant's mother complained that she
overheard a juror making nasty remarks about the defendant to another juror.
Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin asked the talkative juror
whether the mother was correct.

"Not exactly, Your Honor," said the sheepish juror.  "We were talking about

Paul Gustagson in Minneapolis Star Tribune

	By Tony Kornheiser, The Washington Post, Sunday, June 22, 1997

I am being held hostage by the government.

All week long I have been on call for jury duty in the District of Columbia.
But so far I have not been selected.  I really want to serve on a jury,
because (1) it is my patriotic duty as an American citizen and a participant
in the democratic process, and (2) you don't go to work and they have to
pay you anyway, hahaha.

I think it's really cool to be on a jury.  Take the O.J. jury -- the people
on that jury got book deals, and they got on "Nightline," and some of them
even got to meet Greta Van Susteren!  They were always being written about
in the newspapers:  "Juror No. 1, a 36-year-old Caucasian male with a
master's degree, who works for a high-tech corporation."  Throw in a line
about how "he likes to hunt and fish," and you've got "The Dating Game."

I wonder what they'd write about me.  "Juror No. 4, a fat, bald, old, whiny
Caucasian man who dresses like a vagrant and has complained incessantly
about the texture of the toilet paper in the jury lavatory."

Emergency update:  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my friend Gino,
whose roof fell in, dumping a ton of carpenter ants into his home.  Well,
I am happy to report that Gino got everything back together and repaired
just in time for the big storm Thursday evening.  A bolt of lightning struck
in his back yard, toppling a tree, darting through the ground, up into his
house's electrical system, making a beeline for the room with the new roof,
and roaring out and over his surge protector, frying his two computers, a
fax machine and a printer.  I will continue updating this story as it
develops.  (Next week:  locusts.)

Anyway, I have a vision of what I'd be like in the jury room, how I wouldn't
have to say anything at all -- it would be obvious how smart I was, so the
others would naturally elect me foreman.  The case would be murder one, a
blockbuster.  I would solve it secretly from the jury box, because of my
Sherlockian savvy and a lifetime of judging human behavior as a journalist.
During deliberations, I would bide my time, watching my poor clueless
colleagues steamroll toward conviction, until I finally swayed them all to
an acquittal by showing them the truth:  how the defendant had obviously
been railroaded by the Real Killer, his adoring but secretly faithless wife.
Instead of merely delivering the verdict, I would point dramatically to her
in the courtroom with an accusation, and she would fall to her knees,
sobbing, and confess.

Of course, with my luck, I'll get a civil dispute over who owns a

But to use a court term, it is moot.  I'll never get on a jury.

I'd be easy to bounce off a jury.  Any lawyer could do it with a few
questions.  Humor columnists are in the business of writing outrageous,
opinionated, totally indefensible things.

Lawyer:  "So Mr. Kornheiser, you think you are without prejudice?"

Me:  "Sure."

Lawyer:  "Are you aware the defendant is an insurance agent?"

Me:  "Sure."

Lawyer (ruffling papers):  "May I direct you to a column you wrote in July
of last year, where you said, and I quote:  "Insurance agents are just like
big hairy water rats but not as cute, and if one of them is ever accused of
a crime and I get on a jury he will fry like an egg?"

Me:  "Er."

Plus, what if they asked me typical jury-screening questions?

Lawyer:  "So, Mr. Kornheiser, have you ever committed a crime?"

Me (indignantly):  "No!"

Lawyer:  "You mean you never stole anything? Ever?"

Me:  "Um, do Dave Barry's jokes count?"

A few years ago I had jury duty, and I never got selected.  I spent three
full days sitting in a big room that smelled like disenfectant, along with
about 80 other people waiting for my number to be called so I could be
impaneled.  But my number was never called.  (I think I was the only one
whose number wasn't called.  A Fed Ex guy delivering a package got called,
and I didn't.

I spent the entire day, from 8 to 4, watching the one TV in the room, which
was locked in on PBS.  So you can ask me anything at all about the migratory
habits of birds and flying insects in Oceania and I'll have an answer.
Those were the most boring three days of my life.  It felt like I had been
chained to Dr. Art Ulene.

I suppose I should be grateful for not being on a jury.  What if we were

Being sequestered means that all of us on the jury have to do everything
together.  We eat together.  We travel together.  We watch specially
selected movies that could not possibly prejudice us, so they cannot be
about crime or courts or lawyers or injustice.  Basically, it would be
"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," over and over again.

But what I'd really fear is if the other jurors found out I was a
sportswriter.  Because as soon as people find out I'm a sportswriter, they
start peppering me with questions:

Who was better, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird?  Joe Montana or Joe Namath?
Yogi Berra or Secretariat?

Could Babe Ruth have won gold medal in the giant slalom?

Can you get Michael Jordan to write me a recommendation for college?

Who would win if Joe DiMaggio played ping-pong against Martina Navratilova's

It happens.  It drives you crazy.

I'd sooner be on trial.

	Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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