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hearing voices

I imagined myself timidly raising my hand, “Um, Your Honor, I think I’m hearing voices.”

We members of the jury were supposed to alert the court immediately for only one reason and that was if we could not hear. Did that mean like now? What would they say? Would they think I was a crazy juror and ask for a retrial? I couldn’t imagine an outcome I liked. So I tried to think of another solution.

The voices sounded like they were coming from behind me. I thought, has Bob got his cell phone on in here? The voice was distant and repetitive, like a woman listing stock prices. I strained to hear what she was saying, thinking that would help me figure out where it was coming from and then get it to stop. Maybe it was from a courtroom next door. Was there a courtroom next door? I didn’t know the floor plan. I had to try harder to pay attention to the testimony. I don’t think I missed anything. The voices stopped.

Then they started up again. I strained to listen so I could figure out what to do to stop them because they were becoming more distracting. But also, I wondered what she was saying and my curiosity was starting to overcome my intention to pay attention in court. Then the voices stopped. Then they started again. Through the hour, my curiosity grew stronger and it was becoming more difficult to follow the testimony.

We stopped for a break. I walked into the jury room and asked Bob, “Did you have your cell phone on in there? I’m hearing voices.” Nina and Mary both said, “Me too!” So there was something to this. These two jurors sat directly on either side of me. Nina said, “It’s coming from behind me to my left.” Nina sat to my right. And Bob sat behind us to both of our lefts so it could very well have been Bob’s cell phone. But Bob said he left his cell phone in the jury room and showed us. Diane suggested maybe it was people sitting in the gallery behind the screen talking. But Ying could see that area and said there was no one there. Grant suggested, “Write a note to the court asking them to ask people to stop whispering.”

I found the form and started writing, “Can you ask …”. No, I crossed it out. “There is a noise …”. No, that wouldn’t work either. I read my best effort to the group, “Some of us are hearing voices… .” “Nooooo!” they responded in unison. “How about ‘There appears to be ambient noise …’ “, one juror offered. I couldn’t write that either and get to the point quickly enough. Break was over, we had to go back in. We didn’t hear the voices anymore.

And then the voices came back. To save myself from disrupting court in an uncontrolled outburst, I had to practice the hardest meditation I have ever done to have the suppressed laughter go out my tailbone and down some imaginary redwood trunk into the center of the earth for proper dispersal. (Did you feel it?)

Soon I discovered it was Bob’s chair and my chair. If I rocked it at a certain angle and frequency, I could get that sound. If I just changed the angle or frequency slightly, it was quiet. And I could see Bob out my periphery when I was looking at the witnesses and I correlated the sound to his rocking as well. During one break, we made a joking comment to the deputy about the voices we were hearing. I’m not sure she didn’t wonder which planet we’d been pooled from.

Next day there were no voices. We concluded that she must have oiled the chairs. Day after that the voices came back. We almost lost it as a group as the first voices noise was made once again.

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