What I'm reading: Dead Run, by P.J. Tracy
Originally, I was scheduled for Jury Duty today. However, our system has all potential jurors check in the night before to see if their randomly assigned number will have to report. Mine wasn't on the list. I'm disappointed. Unlike most, who will do whatever it takes to avoid jury duty, including not registering to vote (although now they use drivers' licenses for the initial selection) I look upon it as terrific writing fodder, and just plain interesting. (And, who knows -- a place to pick up a few more readers!)
Although I avoid carrying any of my stories beyond solving he crime, I find bits and pieces I can use, although I'd be hesitant to set an entire novel in the courtroom, or even attempt a legal mystery. There are enough authors who know the in and outs from personal experience. Bur my detective consults always explain their process in terms of what they have to do so their cases will stand up in court. As writers, everything is research.
I've served on several juries, including one drug trial in Miami, where they left us with a kilo of cocaine in the jury room. Believe me, what goes on in the courtroom is nothing like what we see on television. Another trial here in Orlando was a very simple "did the defendant know the item he was pawning for a friend was stolen property?' We turned in our verdict, and when the judge set the date for sentencing (which happens later), the prosecutor stood and said that date was unacceptable because the defendant was going to be on trial for murder on that day. No wonder there were some television reporters in the courtroom.
Once I make the initial "report to the clerk's office" cut, if my name is drawn to be on a panel, I'm usually selected. I'm so white bread, the lawyers love me. Although this time, I'd planned to admit to being a mystery writer and having several law enforcement friends. I won't get to see if they'd still love me.
More often than not, however, once the jurors get into the courtroom and the lawyers start going through voir dire, the defendants change their mind about their day in court and make a deal.
But in addition to finding the process interesting, I think it's my duty as a citizen to serve. I mean, if I were in a situation where I'd need a jury trial, I'd want someone like me on the jury. Open minded. On every case where we've had to come to a verdict, I've been impressed with the way 12 strangers from all walks of life were willing to look at all sides of the picture, discuss all the evidence, and do everything possible to be fair.
It's really one of the only remnants of a democratic society. And, I suppose, I'm fortunate enough that I'm not losing money by serving. As a matter of fact, I'd get a whopping $15 for my service. And free parking.
Tomorrow, my first guest of 2010 is award-winning author Terry Spear. She writes paranormal and medieval romances. So what's she going to talk about tomorrow? Teddy Bears, of course. You won't want to miss it!