Monday, April 11, 2005

Civics Lesson: With Ed Bradley

This week, I'm doing my civic duty by reporting to the Queens Criminal Courts for jury duty. One day down, X to go. When they told me that I could be required to return for up to two weeks, a little piece of my soul shattered. I'm crossing my fingers that I'm dismissed as a deviant.

While trying to read in the "jury pool room" this morning, I was treated to a short film explaining the history of our judicial system. Ed Bradley, of 60 Minutes fame, hosted the video. It condensed the history into a five-minute edit, featuring Aristotle, English peasants in the Middle Ages, and the present United States court system. Ah, yes, the three simple steps to righteous judging.

The video did have its entertaining moments. In a cheesy reenactment of a scene from the fourteenth century, robed figures tied and gagged an accused peasant while Bradley's narration explained,
"In the Middle Ages, the accused was bound and gagged and thrown into a lake. If they floated, they were found guilty and murdered. If they sunk, they were deemed innocent."
A murmur was heard in the jury pool room. A man to my left said, "That ain't fair."

As if on cue, Bradley asked the viewers, "Does this seem fair to you?"

No. No, Ed, it certainly doesn't.

Photo copyright: Speakers Worldwide, Inc.


Devo said...

Jury duty is one of the most amazing frustrations/miracles of our modern age. I was called to jury duty in Boston once. The lot of us was placed in a large room with a TV, much like Queens sounds. However, when the nice Jury Man pushed play on OUR VCR, what should begin to play on the TV but (drum roll please) The Princess Diaries. I shit you not. No summary about the history of our legal system (no matter how absurdly dumbed down for Joe Sixpack), nothing marginally educational whatsoever. And the fun didn't stop there, no sireeeee. They followed that movie up with the Tim Burton's remake of "Planet of the Apes." Now, I can think of other movies that might put me in the right frame of mind to prepare me to levy judgment upon my fellow citizens. Perhaps Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or The Shawshank Redemption... But to be quite honest, seeing those two movies back to back just made me want to commit violent crimes myself! Or, failing that, sentence anyone I see to a lifetime of cruel and unusual Clockwork Orange type social programming. So consider yourself lucky, in a twisted and really weird kind of way, HH. At least you didn't have to watch Anne Hathaway leearn the intricacies of adopting monarchial affectations while preparing to distribute democratic justice to the unwashed masses.

Mikhail Capone said...

Ah, Ordalies! Learning about them was pretty cool in my criminal law class.

The principle is that god wouldn't let an innocent person die, so they threw people off cliff or into rivers. If you survived you were innocent; few people ever did.

There were also variations like putting your hand into a fire and such...

Hungry Hyaena said...


Wow...if I had to watch those two movies back-to-back anywhere my humanity would experience warping.


The "edcational" film briefly mentioned a "trial by fire," but went into no further detail. Thank you for telling me what these "tests" are properly called.

This afternoon, I was officially dismissed from jury duty for another six years! I have been expelled from the 6th level of Dante's Inferno ( and life is suddenly lovely again.