Queen’s Park, Ont.

A few months ago I was summoned to serve my jury duty.  The first thing that I did was call Clare Dodds, the legal counsel for Campaign Life Coalition, with a bad case of apoplexy.  “Get me out of this!” I begged.

Calmly Clare told me that it was my civic duty to serve – and I might even get a column out of it.

I tried a new tactic on Clare.  I’ve been arrested a couple of times for Operation Rescues.  Didn’t they know what a dangerous guy I was?

Again Clare was unimpressed with my arguments.  I pointed out that instead of arresting Morgentaler for killing the unborn – I was one of the 76 who were arrested for trying to stop him!  Did she think I wanted to do my “civic duty” for a legal system that thinks murdering the unborn is okay?

Alas, I failed to make her see the light so off I went to do my duty.  I knew that it was a bad day when I was pulled off the courthouse elevator when an ambulance crew raced on to a dying man who had been called for jury duty! (I kid you not.)

“Look at the accused!” the prosecutor ordered me.  “Accused, look at the prospective juror.”  If the defence didn’t look like the looks of me I knew I’d be back upstairs in that stuffy room with all the other prospective jurors.  I put on my best compassionate Irish face and – whew- I became the twelfth juror.

I had never faced a guy who killed anybody before.  He was a tall, slim, good looking guy, with a moustache.  I would have considered him a prospective son-in-law anytime.  He was sitting nonchalantly in the prisoner’s box without handcuffs.  Heck, I’ve seen a group of pro-lifers being brought into the courtroom in chains!  And there was an elderly guard – a pleasant looking, rotund individual who couldn’t have won  a race with a tortoise.  So much for security.

The case was fairly straightforward.  After a heated argument, the accused had fired a shotgun into the stomach of a man who had threatened his live-in girlfriend with a loaded revolver.  The wounded man struggled across the street looking for help, collapsed on the front porch and died.

The accused had shot the man with a sawn-off shotgun.  He was described as a volatile, irrational human being who used to do drugs and fire the aforementioned shotgun in his basement.

The case hung on whether the accused killed the man in order to save the life of the deceased’s girlfriend.  Did he have any alternative?  The principal witness for the prosecution was the girlfriend who clearly was not interested in sending the accused to the gallows.

The judge said that we must judge the case on the evidence before us and we were not to worry about finding the accused guilty – that he took the e responsibility of sentencing him.  He praised us to the skies for taking on our civic responsibilities.  After all, I thought, that’s a lot cheaper than paying us jurors a living wage.

The jury was made up of an excellent cross section of humanity – two men who were authorities on guns, young professional women, elderly retirees – all from different ethnic backgrounds.

I wanted to know what the relationship between the women and the accused was.  I was told that it was none of my business, that it was probably irrelevant and that I was to judge the case on the evidence presented.  Then I wanted to know why did the accused have a sawn off shotgun.  It looked like a Becker store special to me.  What did he do for a living?  Stick up stores?  Even if he did, I was told, the issue was whether he acted in self defence to save a friend.  If he’s stuck up any stores – that’s another case.

The jury was polled and it was nine to three in favour of letting him off.  Three of us thought that he shouldn’t get off scot free after blowing some guy away.  We argued for hours on whether he did the right thing.  I wanted to know if he had a criminal record.  That too was irrelevant.

Afterwards, I thought of the Warren Commission and how the CIA could put only the evidence that they wanted to on the table for the verdict on John F. Kennedy’s assassination.  Pretty neat.

They voted me as the “foreperson.”  (Confidentially, no one else wanted the job.)  I kept polling the jury and eventually there was only one holdout for a guilty of manslaughter verdict.  The rest of the jurors worked on him and he reluctantly went along with the rest.  We found him not guilty.

I got a cheque in the mail recently for a lousy $8.25 for three days of jury duty.  I know times are tough – but hasn’t Bob Rae heard of the minimum wage?

And I’m warning you, that If I’m ever called for jury duty again, I’m going to organize the jurors and fight for higher pay.  Yes, we’re prepared to go on strike.  There will be no more verdicts until we start getting a decent wage.