Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Free At Last, Thank God Almighty, I'm Free (From Jury Service) At Last - With Apologies To *Martin Luther King.

God, it's been such a relief to see the outside world again over the weekend, and I'm even looking forward to being back at work - until I actually arrive, that is.

"I'm not talking to you," says Greg, as I walk into the office.

"Why?" I say. "I thought you'd be pleased to see me, after I've been locked up on jury service for so long."

"Huh. Frustrating the democratic will of the majority, you mean," says Greg, glaring at me as if I have committed a cardinal sin. "With all that Henry Fonda nonsense. And hadn't you forgotten something rather important, when you decided you didn't agree with most of the bloody jurors?"

I have absolutely no idea what Greg's talking about. It's almost as bad as trying to work out what planet some of those other jurors were from.

"I don't know what you mean," I say. "What have I forgotten?"

"That it was bloody Recess," says Greg. "Which you managed to completely avoid, leaving me to deal with The Boss's wilder extravagances all by myself."

"Ah," I say, as the man himself walks in. Surely he should be on his way back to London by now?

"Molly!" says Andrew. "Decided to pop in and see you quickly, before I catch my train. Done your duty as a responsible citizen, have you? And how is our judicial system working, when viewed from the sharp end?"

"Not as well as one might hope," I say - which could be to understate the case.

Honestly, where do the Courts Service find some of these bloody jurors? I've never seen a more disparate bunch of lunatics in my life - and that's saying something, given the people I deal with on a daily basis. Thank God we don't hang people any more, that's all I can say. (Not that most of the usual suspects would share that view.)

If I ever get arrested for anything - by which I mean falsely accused, of course - the first thing I am going to do is to instruct all my family members to borrow or steal luxury cars, and then to park them in conspicuous spots in the court car park every morning throughout my trial.

Josh looks and sounds too much like a criminal, though, so he'll have to be left at home, writing letters to the media and to my MP instead: explaining that a miscarriage of justice is about to take place, and begging them all to intercede on my behalf. (Though, on second thoughts, the letter to the MP might not help, if I wasn't at work to deal with it myself. I wouldn't want to entrust my freedom to Greg, not with the mood that he's in this morning.)

"But why would your family need luxury cars?" says Andrew. "I don't think I'm following your argument, Molly."

"No change there, then," says Greg, under his breath - or so he thinks.

The Boss glares at him, while I try my best to explain:

"Well," I say. "One of the trials I was on was of two guys who were accused of dealing cocaine, and I was pretty sure that both of them were guilty. So was one of the other jurors, but the rest weren't having any of it. They were just desperate to get a verdict and go home, especially the ones who were self-employed, or who worked in the private sector and were worrying about their job security."

"Not everyone has a boss as understanding as me," says Andrew.

This outrageous statement doesn't deserve a reply, so neither Greg nor I make any attempt at one. Instead, we both rise above the provocation - Greg by stuffing a large handful of Haribos into his mouth, and me by trying to recapture my train of thought, which is easier said than done, after the events of the last few weeks.

"One of the jurors - a big fat guy with a red face - kept yelling at me that I was making a fuss about nothing when I said that I wanted to be sure I was making the right decision," I say. "He said it was screamingly-obvious that one of the two defendants was guilty, and that the other was completely innocent."

"Well, maybe it was," says Greg. "If you saw Mr Beales come up in court, you'd know he'd done whatever he was accused of, wouldn't you?"

"Yes," I say. "But that's not the point. This case was about coke dealing, and one of the defendants was a bit of a chav from Easemount, whereas the other one was 'a nice middle-class boy' according to Mr Red Face - who said that he knew that the kid from Easemount was 'as guilty as sin", but that the other boy just wouldn't have done it."

"How?" say Greg and The Boss, simultaneously.

"Because he was so nicely-spoken, and from such a well-off home, that he wouldn't have needed to make money by dealing in cocaine," I say. "Apparently. And then Red Face said that he could prove this by the evidence he'd seen on the very first day of the trial."

"What evidence?" say Greg and Andrew, again in unison. I have been back at work for five minutes, and I have already restored harmony. I am so undervalued and underpaid.

"He said that he'd seen the boy's parents getting out of a 'very nice Mercedes' when he was arriving at the court that morning," I say.

"Oh," say Greg and Andrew - in a verdict so unanimous as to gladden any judge's heart. I bet Mr Justice Fraser-Smythe would have killed for a similar result. He certainly looked as if he wanted to kill me - on several occasions.

*Martin Luther King - Freedom speech here, complete with its reference to the Negro Spiritual, Free At Last. Proof, if any were needed, that neither Ed Miliband nor I are in Dr King's league, nor that of the Blind Boys of Alabama.

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