The Daley Center is probably best known for the Picasso sculpture outside.I am not a very civic minded person. When my name came up in the magical lottery of jury pool selection I received a letter informing me that I was a backup juror. All I had to do was call at a certain time and on a certain day to see if I made it into the jury pool. Being so intensely passionate about court service I promptly forgot about the letter and forgot to make the call, which resulted in a second letter some weeks later informing me that "Bitch you ARE on jury duty now". I was served like a fool on the dance floor and had a healthy reminder that I had to follow through this time or else face fines and contempt of court charges. Horrifying daydreams of being part of a sequestered jury for three months ran through my head and for weeks I looked with dread towards my scheduled day of civic service.
I arrived at Daley Plaza - Chicago's immense court nexus in the heart of the Loop - bright and early at 8:00 AM. I passed through the large and heavily staffed security checkpoint and up to the 17th floor where I was assigned a "panel number". This meant that I was part of a group with a few dozen other potential jurors who would be called and reviewed to see if we're up to snuff for a given case. Most of the Daley Center is extremely nice on the inside, with impressive views of downtown and wide open hallways. The jury pool area is not like this. In fact it's like a massive and really crappy bus station, where half the seats are metal folding chairs, the one TV is just sound without video, and the bus you're waiting for may or may not arrive in the next eight hours. I was fortunate enough to only have to wait in the jury pool for about two hours before my panel number was called.
The courtroom was packed full of prospective jurors and 14 at a time they were called by name and arranged in the overflowing jury box. We were given the information that the case was about a guy in a car accident who was trying to sue the person responsible for the accident for damages. Despite my best efforts to blurt out information that would invalidate me as a juror I was selected as the 12th and final member of the jury and sent back to the jury room. Thus began my role in the case of Megahead Badneck.
The Case of Megahead Badneck
Bighead's giant noggin' and terrible injury get his neck shaking once again.Overview: Megahead Badneck is a man with a very large head and shiny head. He was involved in an automobile accident in which his vehicle was rear-ended by the defendant. The defendant was traveling no more than five miles per hour and no vehicles involved in the accident sustained any damage whatsoever. EXCEPT Megahead Badneck's car seat, which fell back into the reclining position violently and, due to the immense size and weight of his head, caused delayed reaction neck trauma! Yeoowwwch! Poor Megahead went home unaware that he was injured and even repaired his car seat completely before realizing that his neck hurt terribly. Fortunately he found a chiropractor seven days later who was willing to treat him 25 times for his neck injury and then vaguely testify that poor Megahead's giant head caused whiplash in the accident. Megahead Badneck was suing the defendant for injuries resulting from the accident, including theoretical medical costs that would arise from his permanent neck trauma.
The Attorneys: Hotshot McAllstate represented the defendant and was the sole person present for the defense. I guess the actual defendant was probably too busy out being a menace to the road with her reckless five mile per hour drag races. Hotshot was a well groomed and well coifed young man who was a good speaker, did not spend too long pontificating or cross examining, and offered up a concise and clear view of events. His opponent was Methuselah Mummy, a Crypt Keeper-like old man whose suit looked like it weighed more than he did. Methuselah was very passionate about Mr. Badneck's serious injury, and although he could never get his story straight he sure loved to talk about it at length.
The Witnesses: The only witness other than the plaintiff to take the stand, by deposition, was the chiropractor who treated Megahead Badneck. The deposition, for those of you not in the know, was a sworn statement and cross-examination taken by both attorneys outside of the courtroom. The part of the chiropractor was played on the stand by one of the lawyers from Methuselah's law firm.
The Case: At the beginning of the trial we were informed by both lawyers that the defendant had admitted fault in the accident. The story went that the plaintiff was pulling into a left turn lane and inching forward to turn when the defendant, also in the left turn lane, inched forward and did not stop in time. Initially Methuselah described the impact as "substantial" and "packing a lot of power" and claimed that as the car slammed into Bighead's like a hurricane it crushed the seat and broke it, sending Bighead plummeting to the floor of the car. The way Methuselah described it Bighead fell as if he had taken the uppercut express off the walkway on the spike level of Mortal Kombat.Skeletor's got somethin' to say!The defendant countered that Bighead had told police on the scene he was fine, despite his immense head, and drove his vehicle home. He showed us photographs of the plaintiff's car and they displayed absolutely no damage, not even dents or scratches on the bumper. Bighead never visited a doctor, his attorney did not have anything but the chiropractor's deposition saying that Bighead was even injured, and that was vague.
Speaking of the deposition, watching someone read a deposition is possibly the most horribly dull thing you can experience in court. Both lawyer and stand-in witness read directly from the printed copy of the deposition and act like they are having a normal witness examination. The thing is, none of them actually act, they read without rhythm like a bunch of fourth graders rehearsing a school play. Halfway through the testimony I was expecting the guy on the witness stand to get up and start telling us what the American flag meant to him.
"The flag is America. It means freedom. It is very nice in this country. America was created in 1776. It is the greatest country in the world."
The best part of the deposition - the only thing that made it worth hearing - was that the doctor actually testified that Bighead had a giant head. He said "His injury was probably exacerbated by the large size of his head. I mean, he has a really big head." I spent the next ten minutes ignoring the deposition and trying not to laugh at the sun-burned dome of Musk Mellon over at the plaintiff's table.
The only other person to take the witness stand was the plaintiff himself, and he admitted under cross-examination that he had visited chiropractors frequently before, that he attended work and played golf without interruption, and basically that he was asking for thousands of dollars to pay for his massages and hopefully to pay for future massages. I had made up my mind by the end of the day that Bighead was an enormous retard for even trying to bring this case to trial. He had no decent evidence that he was injured and he was asking for a ridiculous amount of money. His lawyer, either because of lack of evidence or senility, was also a train wreck and the entirety of his case came down to the fact that he had visited a chiropractor a week after the accident so obviously it was the accident's fault.
Unfortunately for those of us in the jury the trial did not conclude on day one. The lackluster closing arguments and jury deliberation would be saved for day two.
When we returned the next day we heard the closing arguments from the attorneys. Now, I said I had pretty much decided my vote on the case, but I was willing to listen to Methuselah's closing arguments with an open mind. Instead of undoing any of the damage his client's case had suffered during his own witnesses' testimony Methuselah went on a self-destructive rampage. He babbled for nearly 45 minutes about cluster headaches, electrical muscle stimulation, the extreme trauma that collapsed the seat, and ultimately it was he who mentioned the speed of five miles per hour. Hotshot followed up with his closing statements that lasted less than ten minutes and were pretty much a summary of how awful the plaintiff's case was. We returned to the jury room for deliberation.
Before I get to our exciting verdict I took some notes on some observations I made during the case and smuggled them out after the trial. These are just things I thought were amusing or interesting and jotted down to share with you fine folks.The Plaintiff's head was so greasy that roughly three-fourths of his forehead was composed of a bright reflection. He also had this weird dimpled bulge in the center of his forehead like maybe he had given birth to a child through his face much like Zeus.Much to my chagrin not all of the other eleven jurors had reached the same logical conclusion as I had. Three of them, including the jury foreman we had randomly selected, believed that the plaintiff actually had been injured because of the accident and was due some compensation. Even they knew he didn't deserve the "40-60 thousand" that his lawyer had mentioned, but they suggested the defendant pay for the chiropractor visits he had already had. Our discussion of the meager evidence provided lasted for more than two hours before we convinced the three hold-outs that Bighead didn't deserve a dime.
Whenever the judge would come to the jury room during our deliberation to answer a written question his response - after conferring with the lawyers - was always "you have all the evidence on which to base your decision". I made fun of this Magic 8-Ball response to the judge's face and he did not appreciate my humor.
The judge looked like Clarence Boddicker from Robocop. The court never instructed bitches to leave.
I fell asleep four times in the jury room.
One of the rejected jurors was a Hasidic Jew with a four foot long beard who answered all of the judge's questions with five minute responses that had to be interrupted. Thank G-D he was rejected.
When Methuselah was doing the deposition he actually forgot his own copy of the deposition to read from and was going to cause a long recess to have his office print and collate a new copy until the defendant's lawyer reluctantly agreed to share. When Hotshot agreed to share his copy he stared pointedly at the jury. I think this is illegal or something.
When the foreman read the verdict the plaintiff's lawyer bolted up from his seat and looked like he was going to run out of the courtroom in tears. I had expected a reaction but not one so pathetic and extreme. He managed to calm himself enough to keep from fleeing and instead pace nervously next to the jury box while the judge polled the jury. That's where they ask each of us if our verdict is the same as when we were in the jury room. We were unanimous and the case came to a close.
For my two days of jury duty I was paid $34.40. The money won't last long, but the memories of those two days in court will last a…well…a couple months anyway.
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