Jan. 8th, 2011

grrgoyl: (Tick)
I seem to recall somewhere in the murky sludge of my memory being summoned for jury duty once before. That time I had lucked out and been part of the group that didn't need to report at all.

This time I had a stay of execution, avoiding the 8 a.m. batch. I had to report with the 1 p.m. batch, which just turned out to be a stay of execution that sucked up my entire afternoon.

The website had warned that going through security in the courthouse was stricter than the airport -- so I was taken aback when the woman behind the counter asked to see my keyring to make sure there was nothing weapon-like on it, and apologized for having to do so. I haven't ever been apologized to by a TSA agent, but then I haven't had to undergo the new mandatory body cavity search yet.

The website also specifies no knitting needles. I asked Tery why the discrimination against little old ladies; she speculated it was because someone could take the needles from them. Knitters are notoriously feeble and easily overpowered.

While waiting in the vast juror sign-in room, I was dying to photograph the area behind the counter, but the website had warned against cameras and I didn't want to risk my phone being confiscated. I wanted to photograph it because it was covered with Wizard of Oz paraphenalia: a movie poster, two framed quotes written in frilly calligraphy ("We're not in Kansas anymore" and, more oddly, "No one gets in to see the wizard. No way! No how!"), a street sign that read "Wicked Witch Way," and an assortment of generic witchy Halloween decorations. I thought it was a bit inappropriate for a government office. I mean, my office is littered with Snape memorabilia, but I work from home.

After about a two-hour wait, during which we were told nothing about what was going on or what to expect, we were divided into two groups and taken upstairs. Tery, who recently served on a three-day case, tells me it's something to make it into a courtroom, that more often you sit around waiting and then are dismissed anyway.

We filed into the courtroom under the stringent gaze of the Assistant District Attorney, a tall, thin, young, nervous man whose hands visibly shook behind the podium as he prepared to question the first group in the jury box. The defense attorney was an older, slightly sloppy-looking man who resembled Billy Bob Thornton both physically and vocally.

I sat between two older women on the exquisitely uncomfortable audience bench (I don't have the luxurious built-in padding on my ass I used to). The one to my right carried an enormous purse that for some reason she couldn't move to her lap or on the floor in front of her; consequently it spent the entire time inching towards me and digging into my side.

If I had been chewing gum I probably would have spit it out when I realized the judge presiding over this case was none other than the Honorable Robert Tobias, the heartless bastard who had sentenced Tery. What are the freaking odds? The only two experiences in a courtroom in my life, and he presided over both of them? (Especially bizarre given Tery's sentencing took place in a different courthouse halfway across town.)

They summoned twelve potential jurors to the box. We all had to sit through a very long-winded speech from the judge about how the accusations made against the defendant didn't prove guilt or innocence, how the judge sustaining or overruling an objection didn't place undue significance on the line of questioning, blah blah blah, on and on. I just tried to find the best position that would keep my buttocks from falling asleep.

Here's a good spot to mention that it was a DUI case, which caused me a bit of turmoil when the attorneys repeatedly asked if anyone would have a problem remaining unbiased while reaching a verdict. I came to the conclusion that once upon a time, when I thought all drunk drivers were scum that deserved the death penalty, I might have. But now going through all that I have with Tery, and realizing that sometimes drunk drivers are good people who make very bad decisions, I would find it easier to be sympathetic if the evidence pointed that way.

Oddly, at the beginning I was only interested in getting dismissed and going home. But the longer they kept us and the more we got into it, I slowly found myself hoping to be picked.

Next was a "get to know the jurors" segment, where each potential juror had to say a little bit about themselves using a set of questions as a guideline. After the first three or so, I stopped listening because I was frantically composing my own answers.

First were some general questions: Name, age, marital status (should I say living with female partner for 18-1/2 years, or keep it simple and say single?), education (BA from University of Connecticut? Or keep it simple and say college graduate?), occupation, whether we knew anyone in law enforcement, how long we'd lived in the state/county.

Lastly questions that seemed to focus on our recreational activities: Hobbies (easy: mountain biking, watching DVDs and blogging. Wait, would they be too worried that I would blab about the case online?), favorite TV shows (sitcoms, "Hoarders", "The Walking Dead" and "Dexter". Wait, what does liking "Dexter" say about me?), radio preferences (my music is probably best described as Electronica/Dark Wave. But how to explain that to the squares? Probably should keep it simple and say Alternative. But why on earth is our taste in music so critical? (the judge made a point of going back and asking the person if they left it out)), and reading genres (yeah, Harry Potter slash fiction. Probably best to say I don't read at all).

The lawyers then questioned select people based on this information. Of particular interest to them was a British high school health teacher (he was ultimately dismissed) and one poor woman who answered yes to every single question put to her, accompanied by frequent eye-rolling: she had already served on two juries. She knew someone in law enforcement, her brothers, one in the FBI and one in the CIA. She was already involved in another court case elsewhere, etc. etc. (they dismissed her because really, she had been through enough already.)

I knew who wouldn't make a good juror: the woman to my right with the fat purse, who after thirty minutes of listening to the jury box started rooting around for an energy bar, which she unwrapped and ate extremely loudly like everyone who sits near me in public. After finishing her snack she pulled out her book and started reading. Really? Have you noticed you're in a courtroom and not on the light rail? I SO wanted Tobias to notice and rip her a new one, but alas, there's no justice even in a courtroom.

After an hour of listening to the jury box, I started looking around the room. There had to be fifty more of us in the audience, all potential jurors. Would we have to go through this process for all of us? Didn't the courthouse close at five?

Answer: No and probably. The original twelve were whittled down to six, and the rest of us were released with thanks. BAH. All that for nothing.

It wasn't until I was in my car leaving the parking lot that it occurred to me maybe I should have spoken to Judge Tobias, told him about Tery's success and thanked him for starting her down the road. We hated him at the time, but now that she's 90% done with her sentence it's easier to feel more charitable. And I'll bet judges, who spend their days dealing with losers and ne'er-do-wells, might appreciate hearing about some good coming from their work. Perhaps I'll drop him an email.

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grrgoyl

December 2011

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