At Her Majesty’s Service

by Uche Nworah

The letter almost caused my heart to skip a beat, prompted by the familiar postman door ring; my wife was making her way to the front door to pick up the day’s letters when a force propelled me towards the door, I beat her to it. Just like I knew, something in one of the envelopes caught my eye. “Any interesting letters today, honey”, she asked me.

“Just the usual, bank and credit card statements”, I quickly replied but by then I had already ducked the one letter of interest to me from her, the one with the HM Court Service logo and stamp firmly embossed in the brown envelope. I didn’t want her to know what the ‘bad news’ was until I had read and digested its contents.  My own way is to keep some of the bad news away from the wife until I have kicked in a crises management plan. In this instance, I was more anxious than afraid; one does not receive a letter from HM Court service everyday.

“What is it this time?” I asked myself as I pried open the envelope with my back to the door in the study room. I couldn’t think of any reason why Her Majesty the Queen would remember me, I made sure I paid my income and council taxes, I hadn’t been in any fight with my neighbours, at least lately, neither have I been indicted by any UK or Nigerian constituted body for corruption or money laundering, I thought they knew their usual suspects. So why write me?  While waiting for an answer, my mind started making solitary plans to relocate my family to Nigeria immediately, let the Queen bring it on after then I thought. I have lived in Europe long enough to know that certain letters from certain institutions bring no good news.

I didn’t know if I should rejoice at the contents of the letter or not, i guess relief would be a better word to use. It happened that it was much ado about nothing, all the Queen wanted was a bit of my time, perhaps it was payback time for all her provisions and benevolence to me since I have been living in her kingdom. In addition to my taxes, the Queen wants me to also give off my time. I didn’t mind that, at least she wasn’t sending me off to Iraq just yet.  I had been summoned or rather randomly selected to go on Jury service from the 19th of March 2007. Those who have been that I spoke to say that it is a life changing experience; some others say that it could be boring if you are assigned to a boring case, only a few said that they have tried to dodge the ‘draft’.

But then, I’m thinking that it would be one of those situations in life where our whole being would be tested. Not knowing what case I would be assigned to, how would I feel for example staring an accused rapist, terrorist or murderer in the face assuming I get to work on cases like that? Would I be able to take a detached view of the cases? Would my pastor’s many preaching about mercy and forgiveness cloud my judgement? Perhaps it is the big cases that would be of concern, the delinquent theft cases and other such ASBs (Anti Social Behaviours) I am sure I can handle but what decisions will my faith, nature and nurture push me towards? Would I have an overbearing foreman? What kind of personalities would all the other jury members have? Would we get along?  How would I handle the jury mind games? 

So many questions were beginning to gather in my mind, but still I’m thinking that I’m going to love this. As part of my quest for closure or answers to some of these questions, I have started re-reading John Grisham’s The Runaway Jury, after which I will try and read any other of his courtroom dramas for additional insight. I understand that the jury are not allowed to discuss the cases they hear outside the courtroom, yeah right.  So from where does Mr Grisham get all his facts from? Not that I’m planning to write a courtroom drama or Jury deliberations book but then, one never knows in life.

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1 comment

Ayo March 16, 2007 - 11:10 am

I love your article. I live in the US and what happened to you happened to me just last year. I dodged it though. They mis-spelled my name and also technically, since I was not yet a full citizen as at then, I shouldnt have even received an "invitation" to be in the Jury. Thats why I dodged it. Anyway I am just writting because I read a lot of John Grisham books. He used to be a criminal defense attorney. I dont believe he states facts in his books since they are works of fiction. But It could just be court room protocol that he applies to his fictional cases. Even though he may also be injecting a few true items from experience. Anyway forgive my I-too-know aka ITK. I just wanted to talk/write


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