Tears & Laughter: Feeling the heat in the Wilcox County Courthouse
August 1, 2023 | View PDF
Nobody looks forward to getting a summons for jury duty. Nobody.
And don’t take me wrong. It is also a privilege. I get that. It is both a right, and a duty. In a sense…it is something we owe our own selves as a community. Justice won’t truly be served if we as citizens do not surrender ourselves for jury duty.
I did not get chosen for the jury, but this is not about any of that. That is all solemn and private and worthy of respect.
This is about the Wilcox County main courtroom itself. A room with so much history you can feel it in the halls leading to it and the walls that surround.
It needs help. Everybody knows Wilcox County has limited finances for fixing up things, but there needs to be a fundraiser, or they need to apply for a grant, or start a GoFundMe account.
Somebody needs to host a fish fry and sell fish sandwiches. Maybe the commissioners could stand around the four-way stop holding little buckets asking for donations do like the football players and dance teams do in the fall.
Or maybe they could have a car wash like church groups do sometimes to raise money for missionaries.
I think Tupperware offers a fundraiser.
Maybe they could sell raffle tickets for guns like the academy did a few years back. I don’t know, but I fear that if the air conditioning isn’t soon fixed people might start thinking about committing crimes, or confessing to crimes they didn’t commit, just to try and escape the suffocating heat.
The air conditioning was said out on the second floor. Actually, the air conditioning has reportedly been an issue since the courthouse annex came out of the ground back in 1977. I can’t say for sure on that, but I could see the windows were wide open on the second floor when I walked in from the parking lot. The temperature outside was bumping 100, and I can confirm that the air conditioning was not working on the third floor either.
The hotter it got the more people started having scheduling conflicts and questioning if they had a health condition that might prevent them from serving the full stint of duty.
And this is a side note, but anybody nursing an infant can call the number on the summons and save a trip. Nobody has to bring their baby or their ailing mama to the courtroom or drag their IV pole up three flights of stairs. The court is generous with its excusing of necessary absences.
But there we all were…sweating, with a baby crying.
A red-faced woman in front of me had folded her jury summons into a fan. A couple of men took turns standing, bent over with their hands on their knees – like they were playing shortstop, trying to catch deep breaths and cool off.
There was a fan set up whirling in front of the district attorney. It was the only air circulating in the room. Different ones would check on him from time to time, but he seemed okay. He must have been. He was still wearing a mask.
The original wooden benches are hard and sturdy. Stately looking. They match the room – for all it and all it is not. But after a few hours of sitting on them they become cruel and unusual…especially in the heat. The air conditioning needs to be fixed. It’s unanimous.
Amanda Walker is a columnist and contributor with AL.com, The Birmingham News, Selma Times Journal, Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Alabama Gazette. Contact her at Walkerworld77@msn.com or at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.