My favorite jury duty
I’ve been on jury duty 3 times, once spring of 1988, another time in 2016, and my favorite, Monday, February 25, 2002.
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember the Columbine High School mass shooting. It was April 20, 1999. Some dude I worked with had a daughter at Columbine that day. Fortunately, she wasn’t killed or injured.
The evening of the Columbine shooting, my then-wife and I met some friend of ours at the neighborhood Italian restaurant, Gaetano’s, at 38th and Tejon in north Denver. The non-smoking section (1999, remember?) was 2 booths by the bar, so we sat in the back room, by the wall painting of the nearly nude woman. The other couple had an infant, Sam, who was old enough to sit in a high chair. We were talking about the Columbine shooting because the husband of the other couple had actually gone to high school there, and was not at all surprised that a shooting took place.
The waitress took our orders, and then came back with salads. Her hands were shaking. Apparently, there’d been a shooting on the corner just outside the door. We had heard nothing over the Frank Sinatra background music that Gaetano’s played on repeat. The wife of the couple went to look, said there were cops doing CPR on someone in the doorway of the restaurant, which is right on the corner of 38th and Tejon.
A few minutes later, the cops came by, told us we had to stay to give statements, because the guy had died right in the doorway, and we were witnesses to a murder. I had to write down contact info, and write that I hadn’t heard or seen anything, because I hadn’t. We got shepherded out through the kitchen, since the entrance was now a crime scene. The wife of the other couple said something like, “oh, this kitchen is really clean, we’ll be back” on the way out.
By February, 2002, I’d moved to a different house in a different neighborhood, gotten a different job, had a child. I got a jury summons in the mail.
I showed up February 25, 2002, filled out some paperwork, and got sent home. On Tuesday, February 26, 2002, they seated me in the jury box. This is tantamount to getting selected for the jury. I’m a citizen and a taxpayer, so I was glad, happy to do my duty to protect the American way of life.
The judge started to tell us something about the context of the jury duty. It was for criminal proceedings, a murder. The murder took place on the sidewalk, outside a restaurant. I recall thinking that this was a stunning coincidence, that I had been in Gaetano’s, a restaurant, and there’d been a murder. Then I realized that I was on the jury for the murder I’d been a witness to. After the judge finished talking, he pointed to me. “You seem disturbed, sir” he said. I said “I think I might have been there, did this take place at Gaetano’s?”
The judge said to approach the bench. I did. He asked me something, I told him I had been at Gaetano’s for a murder, I was a witness. He asked me if I’d said anything at all to my fellow jurors, and i told him no, that I still wasn’t sure what the trial was about.
The judge and lawyers talked for a minute, looked at some papers, and then the judge said that the court thanks you, and excuses me from service on that jury.
I was almost seated on a jury for the only murder I’ve been a witness to.
In January of 2014, I went back to Gaetano’s. It was completely redone, but they had spaghetti carbonara on the menu, something you can’t get just anywhere.