14 July 2008
My American duty.
I was summoned for jury duty and went down today. I'd been summoned twice before: once when I'd just turned 18 and my badge wasn't called, and once in January but I ignored it since it was in my maiden name. (I didn't realise that even if in one's maiden name, it's a valid notice to appear. Oops.)
So anyway, I went down: listened to instructions, received my badge, watched a very patriotic film of about 10 minutes, and sat rather bored for another 1-1/2 hours before the first bailiff came to the jury services room and requested the first forty numbers, my badge number being among them. I was ecstatic to be going, as one young woman (19? 20?) was loudly complaining and arranging chairs so she could lay down. She had confided in me that she was trying to be discharged, and it seriously irritated me.
The courtroom we entered was Judge Bell's, and the case was a double-murder. I won't go into details because honestly, I don't want to leak anything that might cause a mistrial and also, I'm not sure how much I'm legally allowed to say since the trial won't be concluded for another week. I will say it was being prosecuted by the District Attorney, and among the witnesses scheduled to appear were high-profile rappers and DJs. It was really fun to learn that the 60 year-old grandma behind me was an avid rap listener. :)
Anyway, we learned the charges, witnesses, and possible sentences. I disclosed that I was a close friend of someone working for the DA, which affected nothing, and then some asked for excusals. (Missing work and losing pay that could possibly cause one to have to file for backruptcy is not cause for excusal, in case anyone was wondering.) The judge proceeded to ask some basic questions to each prospective juror, followed by questions from the state and questions from the defense. Kind of an informal cross-examination of each of us, was interesting. About an hour in, I began to worry: my blood disorder really forbids me from sitting for long periods of time, and half my body had gone numb. (My legs still are.) I took a few breaks to walk around--approved by the bailiff--and I wound up being excused an hour later for something unrelated to my breaks. I went back to the jury services room, where I was told I wasn't off the hook yet, I may still need to sit in on another selection panel. However, it was already almost noon, so they gave me a lunch pass until 13h30.
[boredboredbored...insert Jay's "joke" that he didn't see my name on the call-in list...not funny, Jay!]
I returned at the proper time, to find that the jury services room was filled to bursting with the second wave of potential jurors; first wave arrives at 08h00 (of which I was a part) and the second arrives at noon. I was a little annoyed, then it was just hilarious. Some of us began joking about the silliness of it. Not to say jury duty is hilarious, but there had to be well over 200 of us squished in there, so that the ones of us coming back from lunch were stuck standing in the hall.
Finally, at just after 14h00, they began calling names for dismissal: mine was the 4th called. I gave up my badge, it was stamped by the jury services clerk, validated my parking ticket, and I got the hell out. I couldn't help thinking, though, about the defendant. I really hope he gets a fair trial. I mean, if he did it, he needs to get what's coming to him. But I hope whatever it is, it's done right and with as little bias as possible.