Braille Monitor               February 2024

(back) (contents) (next)

How Difficult it Sometimes is to be a Good Citizen

by Rose Warner

Rose WarnerFrom the Editor: It is interesting to hear the irritation in the voices of those who get called on to serve on juries. Usually these folks are sighted, and their immediate goal is to figure out a way to dodge the obligation. Those of us who are blind usually have a different take; we are hopeful that we will be called upon, and any irritation springs from the knowledge that we will likely be disqualified on the basis of blindness. As Rose clearly shows in this story, the problems don’t begin with rejection; they start with just showing up. Here is what she says:

I got the “dreaded” piece of mail—the one everyone tries to avoid. For the first time since moving to Denver in May of 2022, I was summoned to jury duty.

Luckily, I don’t dread jury duty. In fact, I look forward to it and have had “serve on a jury” on my bucket list for as long as I have been eligible to serve. You see, I’m currently a law student at the University of Denver. I have an unusual interest in the justice system. What better training to become a lawyer than to have firsthand experience in the courtroom as a juror?

Anyway, I got up early on Wednesday, November 15, 2023. I arrived at the courthouse, ready to serve. I waited in a long security line with other potential jurors, and I noticed that everyone took out all of their metal items as if they were going through the dreaded line at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). I also noticed a sign that said, “prohibited items,” but I couldn’t read it. Besides that, what could I possibly have that would be prohibited anyway?

I emptied my bag: my metal water bottle, my metal coffee mug, my wallet with a metal zipper—along with my keys, charger, and cell phone.

As I’m about the put my now very light backpack through the scanner, I suddenly remembered—I had a monocular and a battery-operated magnifying glass in my bag. I alerted the security guard about these items in my bag to see if I needed to take them out. The security guard said, “Binoculars aren’t allowed.”

Undeterred, I said, “I am legally blind, and this is an accommodation.” The security guard went to check.

When the security guard returned, she informed me that magnifying glasses were okay, but I needed to put my “binoculars” back in my car. With wide eyes and utter shock, I replied, “I didn’t drive here. I don’t have a car to put them into. I’m legally blind.”

Then I’m informed that I must put the binoculars in a locker at the aid center. I asked where that is. The guard said, impatiently, “It’s on 14th street.” Without bothering to give me directions, they sent me on my way.

Exasperated, I left the courthouse to Google “the aid center.” As it turns out, they didn’t open until 8:00 a.m. After going to the wrong place—it was a hotel that was open—I got good directions to the aid center. Once there, I was shown a locker to put my monocular in. I went back to the courthouse, stood in the security line, and took all of my metal objects out of my backpack again.

I finally got to the jurors room and took out my laptop, ready to work on my final paper for my Military and Veterans Advocacy class. Before I knew it, two jury pools were selected. I looked around and thought to myself, there are not many people left. I know—if they call another jury pool, I am going to be on it.

The lady calling the juror numbers came to the podium and asked the remaining potential jurors to look at their number. My number was easy to remember—6868. She calls the first number, 6868. So I gather my things and head to the door at the back of the room. Once the rest of the pool is called and arrived, we are informed that we will be doing everything in the order we were called in. I will be first to enter the court room, first to sit down, and first to be questioned to determine if the lawyers choose me to be on the jury.

As soon as we are lined up in front of the courtroom door, I tell the clerk, “I just want to let you know that I am legally blind. I don’t want this to be a red flag. I want to partake in my civic duty, but in case the judge makes a hand motion or I need to read something, I just want you to know I won’t be able to see it—and the security guard took away my monocular.”

She says, “Thanks for letting me know,” and she entered the courtroom. Shortly, she returned, and we potential jurors entered the courtroom. We all rose for the judge. Then we were given a short synopsis of the case. We were told that it’s a DUI.

Before we do anything else, the judge said, “Juror number one, can you come to my bench please?”

I approach the bench. She and the lawyers inquire if I think I can be a juror. I assure them that I can, but I tell them that if there were exhibits, the monocular would be helpful for me to see it better.

The judge seemed shocked that the security guards took away my monocular and she assured me that I would get it back. I ask, do you want me to go get it? She says, forcefully, that I’m “not going anywhere.” I explain that I was told I had to put my monocular in a locker—that I only know the code to—at the aid center. She asks, clearly frustrated—where’s that? I say—14th street.

The next thing I know, the judge is calling a twenty minute recess so that I can go BACK to locker to get my monocular. The clerk walks me out.

At this point—I feel a bit bad. Everyone—the defendant, the lawyers, the judge, the clerks, and the potential jurors, are all waiting on me to get my monocular. But on the other hand, I am incredibly glad and relieved. My faith in the justice system had just been crushed. I had a bit of an identity crisis, wondering how I would ever be a litigator if I was not permitted to have an accommodation I rely on in my workplace?! I knew the security guards were wrong—but in that moment—I did not feel I was in a position to argue, as I did not want to cause a scene nor hold everyone else in the security line up behind me.

I went back to retrieve my monocular, and with the clerk present, the security guard says nothing about the “prohibited” monocular.

Once I’m back in the courtroom, we must answer about ten questions to introduce ourselves to the lawyers. In the process I disclose that I’m a part-time law student and that my dad works in the law enforcement field. Then the lawyers give their opening statements and ask the jurors specific questions.

Finally, it’s time to pick the jury. As it turns out, I, along with a practicing attorney, are both cut from the jury. I had been cut in situations like this before—I think because of my dad’s profession.

I left assured that I was not dismissed because of blindness, but because of my knowledge, interest, and exposure to the justice system. I respect and appreciate the judge who proceeded over that trial so incredibly much, and I hope that the security guards learned a thing or two about reasonable accommodations that day, too. Hopefully, the next blind person to serve on a Denver jury will have a smoother process than I did—and by the way—in case you were wondering, binoculars were NOT on the list of prohibited items in the courthouse.

(back) (contents) (next)

Media Share