Me, The Jury
By Tony Kornheiser, The Washington Post, Sunday, June 22, 1997
I am being held hostage by the government.
All week long I have been on call for jury duty in the District of
Columbia. But so far I have not been selected. I really want to serve
on a jury, because (1) it is my patriotic duty as an American citizen
and a participant in the democratic process, and (2) you don't go to
work and they have to pay you anyway, hahaha.
I think it's really cool to be on a jury. Take the O.J. jury -- the
people on that jury got book deals, and they got on "Nightline," and
some of them even got to meet Greta Van Susteren! They were always
being written about in the newspapers: "Juror No. 1, a 36-year-old
Caucasian male with a master's degree, who works for a high-tech
corporation." Throw in a line about how "he likes to hunt and fish,"
and you've got "The Dating Game."
I wonder what they'd write about me. "Juror No. 4, a fat, bald, old,
whiny Caucasian man who dresses like a vagrant and has complained
incessantly about the texture of the toilet paper in the jury lavatory."
Emergency update: A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my friend Gino,
whose roof fell in, dumping a ton of carpenter ants into his home.
Well, I am happy to report that Gino got everything back together and
repaired just in time for the big storm Thursday evening. A bolt of
lightning struck in his back yard, toppling a tree, darting through the
ground, up into his house's electrical system, making a beeline for the
room with the new roof, and roaring out and over his surge protector,
frying his two computers, a fax machine and a printer. I will continue
updating this story as it develops. (Next week: locusts.)
Anyway, I have a vision of what I'd be like in the jury room, how I
wouldn't have to say anything at all -- it would be obvious how smart I
was, so the others would naturally elect me foreman. The case would be
murder one, a blockbuster. I would solve it secretly from the jury box,
because of my Sherlockian savvy and a lifetime of judging human behavior
as a journalist. During deliberations, I would bide my time, watching
my poor clueless colleagues steamroll toward conviction, until I finally
swayed them all to an acquittal by showing them the truth: how the
defendant had obviously been railroaded by the Real Killer, his adoring
but secretly faithless wife. Instead of merely delivering the verdict,
I would point dramatically to her in the courtroom with an accusation,
and she would fall to her knees, sobbing, and confess.
Of course, with my luck, I'll get a civil dispute over who owns a
But to use a court term, it is moot. I'll never get on a jury.
I'd be easy to bounce off a jury. Any lawyer could do it with a few
questions. Humor columnists are in the business of writing outrageous,
opinionated, totally indefensible things.
Lawyer: "So Mr. Kornheiser, you think you are without prejudice?"
Lawyer: "Are you aware the defendant is an insurance agent?"
Lawyer (ruffling papers): "May I direct you to a column you wrote in
July of last year, where you said, and I quote: "Insurance agents are
just like big hairy water rats but not as cute, and if one of them is
ever accused of a crime and I get on a jury he will fry like an egg?"
Plus, what if they asked me typical jury-screening questions?
Lawyer: "So, Mr. Kornheiser, have you ever committed a crime?"
Me (indignantly): "No!"
Lawyer: "You mean you never stole anything? Ever?"
Me: "Um, do Dave Barry's jokes count?"
A few years ago I had jury duty, and I never got selected. I spent
three full days sitting in a big room that smelled like disenfectant,
along with about 80 other people waiting for my number to be called so I
could be impaneled. But my number was never called. (I think I was the
only one whose number wasn't called. A Fed Ex guy delivering a package
got called, and I didn't.
I spent the entire day, from 8 to 4, watching the one TV in the room,
which was locked in on PBS. So you can ask me anything at all about the
migratory habits of birds and flying insects in Oceania and I'll have an
answer. Those were the most boring three days of my life. It felt like
I had been chained to Dr. Art Ulene.
I suppose I should be grateful for not being on a jury. What if we were
Being sequestered means that all of us on the jury have to do everything
together. We eat together. We travel together. We watch specially
selected movies that could not possibly prejudice us, so they cannot be
about crime or courts or lawyers or injustice. Basically, it would be
"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," over and over again.
But what I'd really fear is if the other jurors found out I was a
sportswriter. Because as soon as people find out I'm a sportswriter,
they start peppering me with questions:
Who was better, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird? Joe Montana or Joe
Namath? Yogi Berra or Secretariat?
Could Babe Ruth have won gold medal in the giant slalom?
Can you get Michael Jordan to write me a recommendation for college?
Who would win if Joe DiMaggio played ping-pong against Martina
It happens. It drives you crazy.
I'd sooner be on trial.
(c) Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company
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