OPINION

Order out of court – jury avoidance now in session

Candace Cooksey Fulton
CANDACE COOKSEY FULTON

Eight short minutes before 9 on Monday, as I was about to begin a monumentally hectic day, I did what I have the bad habit of doing – touched the Facebook app on my phone to waste time I didn’t have checking bits, pieces and posts of other peoples’ lives.

Well, that in and of itself may not be such a bad thing. But at 9 a.m. on Mondays, I’m expected in the 2-year-olds’ class at Early Head Start where I volunteer as a Foster Grandparent. And I needed to be locking my car and headed for the classroom – not checking Facebook.

But you know, I can’t help myself. There are those occasional posts from friends and family that give life that little added perspective, take me on an interesting stop-and-think detour. Monday, a post from my sister-in-law in Austin delivered.

“Downtown waiting for jury duty/selection to start. It's crazy how easy it is to tell who’s here because they’re working, have jury duty or because they’re associated with a case in some personal way – just by the way the hold themselves. The tension in here is thick,” Anne-Charlotte posted.

She finished with a kick.

“Trying to figure out how to make myself seem like an unfit juror. Suggestions welcome.”

Oh dear. Let me say here, AC knew she was panning in a stream where there was gold to be found. Some of it fool’s gold for sure, but all of it shiny.

The creative director at Southern Combustion Creative, a graphic arts and marketing company she founded; a baker, maker and owner/partner for Luscious Pastry, where delicious gourmet treats are created and “served with a free side of sass;” and a nearly 16-year member of the Cooksey family, it was a given the 80 or so “suggestions” would run the gamut of truth and fiction, humor and serious, wise and silly.

Now, let me say also, AC is about as civic-minded as it’s possible to be. She’s attended Austin City Council meetings to try and save a neighborhood park. She and about 3,000 other people “stormed” the state capital Texas education concerns. Her Southern Combustion pro-bono clients include Circle of Health International, “which does amazing work for mothers and babies in tough places” and a couple of other charitable groups.

My personal favorite among those is CLAWstin, the Austin chapter of a ladies (?) arm wrestling group that raises funds for charities. This year’s benefit is the American Widows Project, an organization, a support effort for military widows.

In fact, my advice to get AC out of jury duty was for her to admit she was a liberal college-educated part-time lady arm wrestler. That would get you off in most Texas cities, I posted.

Other comments were just as flip.

“Ask the bailiff what the defendant is charged with, and when he replies, say ‘Oh! Me too!’” One friend suggested.

“Answer your questions while simultaneously doing performance dance routines,” offered another. Still another advised AC to not “tell them your favorite newspaper is ‘The Onion.’ I tried that and got picked,” she wrote.

There were others, but you get the picture. Then along about the 45th comment, came the stable one putting in a plug for civic duty. Two or three comments down, another friend said, in part, “I always cringe to see my friends exchanging tips on how to avoid serving. I hope someday that if I am a defendant or plaintiff, some good folks stick around to help promote justice.”

The discussion got more serious from there.

When I checked Facebook at noon, AC had been sprung.

“Well, I didn't pull any shenanigans whatsoever and had a low number, but was not picked,” she posted. “The charge was aggravated assault of a child. (I think, based on the teeny bit of info given, the victim is a young teen and the defendant is the stepfather.) I think I came across as possibly biased towards the victim. They asked questions like do you have kids (yes); law enforcement ties (yes, my father-in-law, who was a much-beloved sheriff) and any CPS interaction (yes, when I was a foster mama – and I had a good relationship with our CPS caseworker). But I'm relieved. It sounds like a tough case that's not very clear-cut one way or another.”

That’s about it. But in its own way, it was enough. I’m always sad and sorry about the tangled messes in life, but on a sunshiny Monday afternoon, I was glad just to be where I was, Facebook disconnected.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Candace Cooksey Fulton is a freelance writer, formerly of Brownwood, living now in San Angelo. She can be reached at ccfulton2002@yahoo.com.