Published Monthly



Did I Get All the Duty off of My Shoe?
May 2006

“You have been called to serve as a trial juror in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County,” the pamphlet reads. “Such service is a privilege, a serious responsibility, and a mark of good citizenship.”

I remain skeptical.

While most of America was preparing to celebrate the unofficial holiday of April 20th, the only day of the year that is revered by hippies, violent high school students, AND neo-Nazis, I was browsing the aforementioned pamphlet at the ungodly hour of 7:30am at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.

First, let me make a quick aside about this whole April 20th “420” thing. I don’t speak stoner, but I’m going to take a shot at it: That is some of the lamest shit I’ve ever heard… man. Seriously, it’s fine that you like to smoke pot, but the 420 thing is something I don’t understand. An attempt to research the origins of the number on the www.concept420.com website only resulted in the information that 4:20pm on April 20th is “a world-wide ‘burn time.’” Well, I feel more informed already. Don’t get me wrong; I regard the annual 311 concerts held on March 11th (of course at 3:11pm) with an equal amount of contempt. I guess I just don’t see where any of this is all that clever folks.

I don’t have any problems with you smoking pot or liking shitty music, and just to prove this to you, I’m going help you with a new “clever” little unofficial holiday: June 9th will now be “Oral Sex Day.” Obviously, this is going to be THE holiday for anyone who likes oral sex. That’s right, at 6:09pm, drop whatever you’re doing, grab someone (that’s right, we’re getting “the gays” in on this, too), and start polishing some genitals with your tongue. You guys can thank me later for coming up with this one, and before you stop me to thank me, please brush your teeth first.

Now that detour has been explored, we’ll return to my initial adventures with the Los Angeles County Superior Courts.

Due to a recent relocation across town, I have been experiencing first-hand just how much the US Postal Service has slipped since the rise in popularity of electronic mail (I believe the kids are referring to it as “e-mail” these days).

My move has somehow proven a daunting task for the Postal Service’s letter forwarding department. Unbeknownst to me, I now live in some sort of Postal Bermuda Triangle; the bulk of my mail has arrived excessively late, and there have been a number of my monthly bills that have simply never appeared at all. Some of the bills’ families still hold onto the belief that they’re alive in a remote jungle in South America. While still others claim that they’ve gone on to do mission work in Eastern Africa. Either way, I have my doubts.

Somewhere along the way, a jury duty summons was not delivered to me, and in early April I received letter that informed me I hadn’t shown up for jury service on March 12th. This was true; I hadn’t shown up because I had not received the summons. Apparently, this is actually a legal offense, and, using some choice legal terms including “incarceration” and “fines,” this newest summons made it abundantly clear that I’d better be at the courthouse on April 20th.

And so I made my appearance. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of sitting in the jury assembly room, it’s the bureaucratic equivalent of waiting to see if you’re going to be sodomized. You cower in a corner, hoping against all hope that your name isn’t called and that you get to go home at the end of the day. I would go so far to guess that even the strictest of atheists spends his or her day praying to God that they don’t get assigned to a case.

At noon, I was relocated to the Los Angeles Traffic Court, which is an housed in an architectural masterpiece of a building that bears a striking resemblance to a large concrete brick wrapped in chicken wire.

Lady Luck is a fickle woman (yes, I realize that is redundant)… no, let me re-phrase that: she’s a filthy whore who threw me to the wolves. Despite all of my prayers, I was assigned to a jury on a very bizarre DUI case. This wasted a week of my life that I’ll never get back, and I’m not going to get into any of the specifics of the case because the only things that could possibly be duller than being there would be reading my account of the ordeal… or being at a Michael Bolton concert.

So, instead, I would like to look at some of the inherent fallacies I found in the judicial system.

First and foremost, may I never suffer the “privilege” of a right to trial by jury. The concept makes sense, but in practice, it’s a bad idea. For starters, you’re supposed to be given a jury of your peers. How often does this really work out? The only things I had in common with the defendant in my case were the fact that we’re both male and drink beer. That was pretty much it. We didn’t speak the same language, hold remotely similar professions, nada. It definitely wasn’t a case of the two of us being complete opposites so I’ll give you a better example.

This past week wasn’t the first time I’ve been called in for jury duty. About two or three years ago, I was in the prospective juror pool on a case involving a woman who was suing her doctor and a plastic surgeon regarding the work they did on her vagina. I don’t know all of the details on that case because ultimately, I wasn’t assigned to the case, but from what I surmised, this woman received some “work” on her vagina that could best be described as being “botched.” Not only was she suing her plastic surgeon for disfiguring her womanhood, but they were also asking prospective jurors if they were comfortable with being shown photos of her disfigured fur burger.

This may come as a surprise to you, but I’ve never had work done on my vagina. Mainly because I don’t have one, but also because I can’t imagine what would posses a person to decided that the exit end of their childbirth chute needs a facelift. And maybe it’s in poor taste, but to be honest with you, the plaintiff didn’t strike me as being the type of lady who had a particularly aesthetically appealing set of “meat curtains” (that’s slang for “the axe wound”) to begin with. Aside from the fact that I’m not giving off the impression of being very sympathetic with this woman’s plight, I wouldn’t exactly call myself one of her peers. What does a middle-aged Hispanic woman with a disfigured vagina have in common with a white male in his mid-twenties with no vagina whatsoever? Absolutely nothing. Well, maybe a fondness for burritos.

And sure, I didn’t get picked for the jury, but that was mainly because before I had a chance to be interviewed, they selected a young African American college student as the last juror. I didn’t ask him personally, but I’m going to go on a limb and speculate he doesn’t have women’s genitalia, disfigured or otherwise, either. How does this guy fit the description of “jury of your peers?” It makes no sense whatsoever. This is like implying that Socrates and George W. Bush can be considered peers because neither one of them ever learned how to correctly say “nuclear” in English.

Also, I felt justice should be dealt out in a building with a more appropriate appearance. This is probably me splitting hairs, as what goes on inside is more important that what the courthouse looks like, but please indulge me. I lightly touched on the aesthetics of the building earlier, but now we’ll go into more detail. And I feel my first complaint is a completely legitimate one: In the event of a fire or some other structurally compromising catastrophe (not that LA ever has earthquakes, right?), most people in the building would be screwed. Big time.

And I’m not talking about the good kind of screwing, either. Not the kind that’s prefaced by statements like, “I’m here to fix your cable,” or “nice shoes,” in those movies your dad hides in the closet. I’m talking about the painful kind that leaves you bleeding and walking funny, all while hindering your ability for easy bowel movements. Well, now that I think about it, they do make movies like that too, and I’m sure some of them include faux cable repairmen.

The windows were covered with large wrought-iron bars, presumably to prevent anyone from escaping the perils of traffic court by leaping out of the window. Personally, I’m guessing they’re there to keep jurors from deciding that life is nothing but pain and ending it all by jumping out of a seventh story window after spending three days listening to testimony.

Since you can’t hop out of the windows, the only way out of the building is to take one of four very sketchy escalators down to the lobby or to run down eight flights of stairs. Heaven forbid terrorists from the Middle East ever fly a plane into the Los Angeles traffic court building in an effort to cripple the city’s ability to issue excessive parking tickets or to do away with broken headlight citations. If that were to happen, there’s no way out of the place, especially if you’re handicapped. I would love to see someone maneuver their wheelchair down multiple flights of stairs. Seriously. I guess I’d be willing to pay upwards of $2 to see that. Maybe I should pitch that as a show idea to MTV. After all, Viva La Bam is still on the air, and it’s a far less entertaining concept.

It really just seems like a cruel design to me. I guess the childhood bullies who do that whole “why are you hitting yourself?” game grow up to be civil engineers just so they can inflict discomfort on the population at large.

Of course, my hypothetical terrorist situation is impossible. John Ashcroft has retired, and do you know why he retired from his position as U.S. Attorney General? Because his work was done. America is safe because that statue-nipple-fearing, “Let the Eagle Soar”-composing, freedom-hating right-wing nut-job says so. And who am I to argue? So any fears of a terrorist attack are completely unjustified. Besides, the lobby of the building had a crack team of security professionals manning the metal detectors. I was waved through after setting it off because I had a nose ring. No once-over with the hand wand or anything.

Come to think of it, the lobby security may have just been aware of how pointless the Traffic Courts are and had simply tired of pretending to care. The old guy with the lazy eye at Costco who checks to make sure you have a valid membership card wields more power than these people.

My largest qualm with being required to perform jury duty is the rate of pay. In Los Angeles, jurors are compensated $15 per day, starting the second day. For those of us who drove to the courthouse, we received a stipend of $0.34 a mile one-way, also starting on the second day.

This is where my love of irony kicks in. I loves me some irony. I gobble up irony like it’s watermelon at a Baptist barbeque. Well, as long as it’s not ironic t-shirt irony. That’s a fashion trend that’s got to stop. Wearing a Scorpions t-shirt with the intention of it being a humorous statement simply isn’t funny.

Hmm… that’s ironic in and of itself.

Anyway, the concept of minimum wage (currently $5.15 nationally, but $6.75/hour in Los Angeles) was pretty much conceived in, and is enforced by… (drum roll, please) the judicial system! That’s right; the very branch of the government who so ardently enforces that you, as an American citizen, must be paid equal to or above a set amount (as my friend Ben puts it, “minimum wage: we’d pay you less, but we can’t”), doesn’t follow their own guidelines. It boggles the mind.

I don’t expect the LA Superior Court system to have the kind of disposable income to pay twelve jurors and two alternates an hourly rate, but their refusal to accept most applications for “financial hardship” as an excuse for jury duty is well, inexcusable. Most people, I would imagine, aren’t so financially sound that they can afford to be paid $15/ day for a full day’s work (just as an aside, that’s only about four and a half gallons of gas). It’s probably not so bad if your employer pays for jury duty, but most, including mine, don’t.

I found that like me, some of my fellow jurors were working night shifts after getting out the court just so they could continue to make ends meet. Fortunately for me, my newfound career as a call girl means that I make far more money on the night shift than I do working during the day. Something about the sun still being up makes wealthy businessmen in the San Fernando Valley a little less open about their deviant sexual practices. But once the sun goes down, they sure let their freak flags fly. Remind me to tell you what asking for a “pump organ” is code for some day.

Where were we?

Ah yes, the IRS’s current rate for fuel compensation is $0.485 a mile, an amount the courts aren’t paying either. Keep in mind that they’re also only paying it one-way, starting the second day. Given that gasoline will soon be more valuable than gold, that means they’re just adding insult to injury.

I spent five days at the court, and drove about fifteen miles each way. What’s my compensation? I’ll get a check for about $80. This is why people sell drugs. The judicial system is making it impossible for us to win “The War on Drugs” because it’s far easier to make a living when you’re not being an upright citizen who’s in good legal standing.

All of this brings up another reason why I don’t want to ever be tried by a jury: the jurors aren’t paying attention and they’re rushing their deliberations. Do you know how I know? No one in their right mind is going to be happy about driving to downtown LA to sit in one of the ugliest buildings known to man, listening to people they don’t care about argue about things they care even less about (even if there are photos of a disfigured vagina involved), for a measly $15/ a day. Strippers with visible tumors and chest hair make more than $15 for a day’s work. That’s right, the judicial system cares far less about you than horny men care about ugly strippers.

So while you’re on trial, hoping that you don’t end up in pro-sodomy prison, there’s twelve people there calculating how much money they’re losing by listening to your bullshit problems. Then they’re sent to deliberate on a verdict, which basically is the point in the case where they all decide to agree on something as quickly as possible so they can go home. The jury I was on found a drunk driver not guilty of a DUI. That’s how efficient the system has become.

America, I think it’s high time that we retire the concept of a trial by jury. I realize that it was one of the cornerstones of our political systyem, but that’s okay. Slavery was once the foundation of our economy, and I think we can all agree that it was a bad idea.

Time to face the fact that the Founding Fathers weren’t always right, no matter how much marijuana they grew


Josh Newell resides in Burbank, California. He is pierced in over 100 locations. He is the proprietor of Josh Newell Recordings and works as a recording engineer.

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