11 Oct 2019

Jury's out

Disclaimer: I’m not going to talk about any of the details of the trial here so if you’re looking for those juicy nuggets of trauma, sorry. Netflix is your friend. 

I walked past someone who I did jury with on my way home from work today. Weird. She didn’t see me. We were crossing the road in opposite directions, and she was holding the hand of her ‘my little girl’ as she kept calling her with a smile in our two weeks together. 

My reaction was… extreme. It was like parallel universes crossing with nails-on-blackboard friction. My legs went, my bum felt weak like my insides were about to fall out, and the world seemed to bubble in my ears for a split second. I was, essentially, on the verge of a panic attack.
I quite desperately wanted to say something, get her attention. My instinct was to touch her shoulder - my arm twitched as we passed - but I thought 1) that’d be weird, and 2) she was very much back into her normal routine of being a mum and I didn’t want to disturb that. 

When I got my jury summons back in July, people were very jealous. That was the main reaction. They’d always wanted to do it, hoped I got a juicy case, and wanted to know everything once it was done.

‘I hope it’s a big case but, like, not traumatic,’ and I ended up saying the same. I wanted the Hatton Garden boys, but expected fraud. Those who had already served their time recommended bringing a book because I was in for a lot of boredom, apparently. 

I was put on a case within an hour of turning up on my first day. Obviously. I felt a bit cheated, I hadn’t even opened my book.

There was very little preparation for what happened next. I’d sat on the loo at home reading the shitty A4-paper-folded-in-half ‘Getting Ready for Jury Service’ booklet, written in five different fonts in various sizes, either in too complex language or too patronising. At the end was a little paragraph about what do if it’s a traumatic case and you ‘feel affected’: ring the Samaritans. 

Good. Thank you.

There are no trigger warnings with jury duty. No words of warning, no comfort, no prep. You’re plucked from the public, drawn from a hat for your case, and plonked in front of a judge and real life human beings on trial. You’re sworn in. The charges are read. 

That is the first time you hear what your case is about. And all the blood in my body fell to my feet.

There’s no opportunity to flag to the judge if you’re ‘unsuitable’ in any way for this case. If you have experience in the subject, if you’ve experienced trauma, if you ‘feel affected’. Did I expect there to be? Should there be? I don’t know. But if there’s not, there should a whole lot of fucking support before, during, and after your service.

There is none. Two weeks after I first sat in that courtroom, we were let go. We filled in our expenses paperwork and we were free to go. That was it. Drop-kicked back into the world, having experienced a whole fucking lot.

In our second week, the jurors in the court opposite ours came out and said, brightly, 'We've got fraud! Started yesterday, will be done tomorrow! How about you?' We looked back at them like the wilting polyps Ursula turns merpeople into in The Little Mermaid.  

Jury service is a bubble. The jury is the last in and first out - as far as we knew, the people in that courtroom could have not moved for two weeks. They were permanent fixtures. I knew the courtroom wasn’t cleaned for two weeks because the bits of my nails I chewed off stayed on the floor by my seat. Gross, I know. Sorry Mum. 

You’re not allowed to talk about your case with anyone. Obviously. And that’s a lot to keep in, that’s a lot of weight of someone else’s baggage that is absolutely now your baggage. You carry it. You decide what happens to all this baggage. No pressure. And I’m a talker. All I wanted to do was offload but y’know, the contempt of court thing.

Interlude: my grandad told me that when he did jury service, another juror knitted throughout and at the end, the judge asked how many rows she’d knitted. He fined her £10 per row. 

Even when I did talk about how hard it was, even as I write this, I feel guilty (lol). This case was not about me, it’s not my thing. Those involved have it oh so obviously so much harder. Woe is me, right? Two weeks off work, didn’t need to be there until 10am, was always home by 5pm. Wasn’t in court Friday and Monday so had a long weekend. Poor thing. I know. The guilt is strong but I feel what I feel, and being on a jury for a case like this is hard. It’s tough. It’s so painfully and bafflingly unsupported, I just couldn’t get over it. It was a constant punch in the face every day, I was exhausted. 

How on earth were we meant to just… get back to our own lives after all that? To leave the 11 other jurors? We didn’t want to leave each other. After two weeks (and the last two days of it being trapped in one small room, our only breaks allowed with the jury bailiff in a tiny outside space in the basement of the court) we'd bonded. We had such a strange, close attachment to each other, we didn’t want to leave the court, despite that being all we wanted to do. We didn’t even know each other’s names. 

I dreaded going back to work for the inevitable questioning. It was my turn. I didn’t have the patience for anyone asking if it was juicy, outright asking for the details, talking about me having a free two week holiday. And I especially didn’t have the patience for anyone being jealous. Don’t be jealous. It’s not fun. It’s not like TV. Apart from when it is but you can't turn it off, because it's real life and these are real people going through the very worst time of their lives and you decide what happens next, without getting a 'one year later' update to close the loop after getting so damn invested.

Anyway, maybe you'll get fraud.  

Regards, Juror #2

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