Not a venireman this time
My number wasn’t called.
I had hoped to be on jury duty today. Having just started on a biography of Judge Learned Hand, I looked forward to a whole day in the quiet room to make some progress with it. But they only summoned jurors up to number 600, and I was above that.
The reason I felt assured of a day in the quiet room is that I, as an older white guy wearing a suit and a bow tie, have better odds of being elected a bishop* than serving on a Baltimore jury.
(Oh, there was one occasion a couple of years ago when I was selected. I found out, when the defense attorney talked to us in the hallway after the acquittal, that she wanted a journalist on the panel to be assured that someone would be skeptical about the thin evidence the prosecution was presenting. Odd that she didn’t seem to understand that all Baltimore juries are skeptical of police evidence.)
That attorneys for defendants, usually African-American, would exclude me looks suspiciously like racial profiling—white guy + gray hair + suit + bow tie = racist. But in the absence of those jury consultants whom only the wealthy can afford, it seems likely that prosecution and defense attorneys rely on stereotypes.
Years ago, Clarence Darrow wrote an article for Esquire on the science of picking a jury that relied on the crudest of stereotypes. Defense attorneys should pick Catholics and Jews, he wrote, because they are emotional and easily swayed. He may have been puckish—avoid Presbyterians, he advised, because they know right from wrong but seldom find anything right—but he knew his craft.
No doubt my readers at the bar can advise whether the science has advanced much since Darrow’s day.
In the meantime, I will instead be going in to the plant this afternoon. Time to make the paragraphs.