Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald
I received a jury summons from Graham County Superior Court on or about Sept. 11, 2019, to appear for jury selection.
I was worried that this might present issues for me, so I called the phone number on the summons to let someone know how difficult it was going to be for me to be at the courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 24, when I was the only one who could open my store at 9 a.m. Instead of being able to speak with a real person, I listened to the pre-recorded message explaining that I would need to appear. This phone call did not offer me any opportunity to ask questions or leave a message making any declarations as to the availability of myself to appear today.
So, I decided that the best thing for me to do was to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. before my business opened at 9 a.m. and take my chances of being able to appeal to the court that jury service would be a hardship on my livelihood. I knew that Tuesdays are one of my slowest days of the week, so I decided that even if I didn’t get to open my store until 10 a.m. or so, I’d probably be ok if I were released from duty as I hoped.
The jury selection process was delayed by a computer glitch and did not begin until approximately 9:45 a.m. I remained patient, sitting in the courtroom knowing that there was no one in my office or sales floor until my delivery man was to arrive at work at noon. My name was called to sit in the box along with 25 or so other potential jurors and the process began.
After the initial process of sorting out potential jurors who knew either court personnel or the defendant on trial, the judge came around to asking the jury pool if anyone had any personal or business issues with being able to serve on the jury. I was about the seventh person to raise my hand and when called on, I simply stated that I was the sole proprietor of my business and that currently, the only thing attending to my business was my answering machine, which was the absolute truth.
After all the responses had been given, the judge spoke up and stated that the first person he was going to excuse from jury duty was me. Following the example of previous jurors, I graciously stood up and left the courtroom, retrieved my cell phone, walked to my truck and drove immediately to my business somewhat worried that I could have missed a customer or important phone call. I unlocked the optional entrance to my store, walked in and started turning on my computers, etcetera.
Within seconds of unlocking my side doors and beginning the process of opening my cash register and computers, I looked up and was surprised to see Cindy Woodman, Clerk of the Superior Court stroll into my business through the main front doors. I immediately asked Cindy why she followed me to work since just a few minutes earlier I had just left her standing near the front part of the courtroom when the judge excused me from jury duty. My immediate thought was that Cindy had come to let me know that I had forgotten to sign some official document back at the courthouse or something, but she just started telling me that she had seen that our front doors were already open and that she had seen a customer just leaving the building. It took me a while to realize that she thought I had lied to the judge, that my business was actually running ok without me. I tried explaining to her that my brother and I run separate businesses in the same building. Cindy turned around and walked out while I was still trying to explain to her my business’s unique arrangement. I then walked outside to a customer’s car that I had seen to ask if there were something they needed from me as I felt bad that a potential customer left because there was no one to serve him. Cindy had already backed her car but then stopped her vehicle, rolled down her window and exclaimed, “Don’t worry Tom, I’m not going to tell anyone.” My mouth dropped open and I became very upset knowing that Cindy still didn’t understand that I had told the judge the truth and she thought I had lied, but she wanted me to know that she wasn’t going to rat me out.
Upset, I walked back to my office and placed a call the Clerk of the Superior Court. I asked to speak with Cindy Woodman, but was told that she was not back yet and was asked if I wanted to be transferred to her extension. I told them, yes, please, without any mention as to why I was calling. I left a fairly scathing message on Cindy’s answering machine demanding an apology from her and telling her that I didn’t think that it was her right or duty to play policewoman. Just a very few minutes after leaving the message, Cindy reappeared in my store and apologized and started telling me how difficult it was to fill a jury and how she knew that I could have been a fair and impartial juror and how disappointed she was that I asked to be excused. I told her that I had served on a jury before and knew well what it meant and that under different circumstances, I would gladly serve as a juror.
Cindy apologized again and left.
What really upsets me is knowing that now the possibility exists that Cindy Woodman will be going around town telling her friends and associates that in her opinion, Tom Green shirked his duty by telling a lie to the judge in order to be excused from jury duty. To say the least, I was embarrassed to have the Clerk of the Superior Court personally track me down immediately after being dismissed for good reason by the judge. I’m also embarrassed not being able to serve on this jury, as under other circumstances I would have.