Effie Lutz

I have never understood why people would get upset about having to do jury duty. Hell, it’s your duty, like doing your chores, just something you have to do whether you like it or not. It’s part of being an American, after all, a duty, like voting. There’s no sense in belly-aching about it and these people who lie to get out of it are just no-account folks whom the world would be better off without, if you ask me. Not that anyone would ever ask me, but if they did, why, that’s what I’d tell them.

I’ve been called up four times over the years and was ready to serve every time but there was only once that I got to be a juror. One time, I was sort of “flying stand-by,” on call if they needed me but they never did. Twice I got as far as the selection stuff with it but both times one of the lawyers booted me off jury. Neither of them ever said why but, I don’t know, maybe they could tell somehow that I don’t have what you might call a high opinion of lawyers—or anybody else who wears a suit to work for that matter.

Now, the one time I did sit on a jury it was in Effie Lutz’s court. Effie’s our Justice of the Peace. Euphemia’s her real name but everyone just calls her Effie. I suppose she must have got that name from a great-grandmother or someone or maybe her folks just wanted her to have a name that wasn’t plain. They were Joe and Mary Smith and, as they say, “Smith and anonymous are often synonymous.” As it was, she ended up marrying Larry Lutz, so being a Smith wasn’t in the cards for her anyway.

So I went in to town—‘going to see Effie’ as people around here say when they’ve gotten a ticket—and it was for a drunk driving ticket. It being a Justice Court affair the jury was just five of us, me and these four women. I knew all four of them, one way or another. You can’t live in a town like Halo all your life, like I have, and not know pretty-much everybody.

Well, I didn’t know the kid and none of the women did either. He hadn’t been around here too long, I guess. The county lawyer was this gal from Wrightwood, the county seat thirty miles north of here. Well, she read us the police report. The kid had swerved over the line late at night and couldn’t walk a straight line and didn’t make it through the alphabet. His lawyer, of course, said he had a lame leg and was dis… what do you call it? Reads things all back-ass-wards. Dyslexic? Yeah that sounds right. Well, the kid, or young man I should say, since he was in his late twenties or so, wasn’t none too sharp—that was obvious. And when the gal from the county asked him to recite the alphabet, he flat couldn’t do it. You could tell he wasn’t faking it. He really was trying but he stumbled with it and tried a few more times and kind of blushed, all embarrassed.

I went along with the others into Effie’s den, next to her office where the trial took place, there in Larry and Effie’s garage that Larry’d fixed up for her, and I figured he was guilty as sin. The police report said that he’d picked up the deputy’s microphone when the deputy left alone for a minute and he started saying crazy things over the sheriff’s radio, “Help I’m being held prisoner” and such-like. Well, that’s a sure blind-ass drunk thing to do, as everybody knows. So, I was all for convicting him.

We sat down and Annie Ledbetter started off talking about how that lawyer gal had picked on the poor guy, making him prove that he couldn’t hardly read or write. One-by-one the other three women agreed that it was a shame to embarrass the poor young fellow like that right in front of Effie and everybody. All four of those women were mothers with kids and they must have felt sorry for him like he was their own. They couldn’t talk about anything else.

So, I just kept my mouth shut and when Annie called the vote all four of them women said “Not guilty.” Well, hell, I wasn’t about to argue with them. It was just his lucky day.

So we went back in to see Effie and when Annie delivered the verdict him and his lawyer just beamed, they were so happy, and the county lawyer sat there looking kind of stunned. I sort of felt sorry for her but, after all, those women were right, that lawyer gal really shouldn’t have picked on him like that.



Robert Leo Heilman

Robert Leo Heilman is the author of three books of essays including overstory: Zero, Real Life in Timber Country. Robert recommends UCAN Food Bank and the Douglas County Library Foundation.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Sunday, October 3, 2021 - 22:17