August 19, 2014 in City

Doug Clark: No jury duty in 45 years? No fair!

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Doug Clark
(Full-size photo)

People scratch and moan all the time about how screwed up the judicial system is.

Judges too soft. Lawyers too slick.

And they just don’t make felons like they used to.

Yeah. Yeah.

That’s all well and true. But do you want to know what’s really wrong with our courts?

They’re jury-rigged, that’s what.

Jury-rigged against me, anyway.

Consider the following troubling statistics.

I first dove into the juror eligibility pool back in 1969. That’s when I turned 18 and registered to vote in my first election.

Not once during the last 45 years have I ever been called (asked, invited, begged, cajoled …) to serve on a jury.

I know. I can’t believe it, either.

I am ready, willing and able to convict, I mean serve, in the cause of justice.

But what do I get?

Zip.

It’s like a giant, not-so-secret club has decided it doesn’t want ol’ Doug befouling the roster.

Yet I can’t think of anyone more qualified than I am to browbeat 11 other jurors until they reach the correct decision.

I don’t like to brag, but I’ve watched “The Verdict” a dozen times at least. I’ve also read every novel Michael Connelly has written. What more do you want in a juror?

It would be easier to cope with judicial rejection if I didn’t have it shoved in my beak all the time.

Last week, for example. The mail arrived. My lovely wife, Sherry, discovered she had been called to jury duty – again.

This, I told her, makes the third time that such a thing has happened.

She said, no, it’s only been twice.

Whatever.

OK. I can cope. But sometimes the cosmic smirk of injustice will grind a man down.

That happened Sunday when I opened the newspaper and saw that Mr. T had been called to jury duty.

“I pity the criminals today,” said Mr. T while he waited outside a suburban Chicago courthouse, wearing his trademark Mohawk and an FBI T-shirt and hat.

Gads.

Court officials tell me that 6,098 jurors appeared for Spokane County jury trials in 2013. Add another 640 jurors when you factor our federal courts into the stew.

I’m told that when he instructs potential jurors, Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza addresses the issue of why Uncle Fred gets called to jury duty every year while Aunt Tillie never gets called.

Jury selection, according to the judge, is a random process that involves a computer picking names out of voter rolls, driver licenses and ID cards.

Oh, yeah?

Well, anyone who has ever watched “2001: A Space Odyssey” knows what can happen when you give a computer so much power.

On Monday, I called Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter, Spokane County’s public information officer and an old friend.

“I, personally, would love to have you over for a backyard barbecue,” she told me. “But I’d be afraid that you’d be in the house checking out my medicine cabinets.”

Aha! I knew the fix was in.

Martha Lou, if you’re wondering, has been called twice to jury duty, but has yet to serve as an actual juror.

“Many are called but few are chosen,” she added, with a nod to the Scriptures.

Tell it to Mr. T, Martha Lou. Mr. D wouldn’t know.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.


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