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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Even the Good Lord Can't Get You Out of Jury Duty

For the past couple days, I've been trying to figure out how to relate my recent jury service to writing - other than the obvious real life drama as a source of inspiration blah blah - but then I realized that I was only doing it so that I could blog about it. Well, what the hell. Here I go blogging about jury service:

I've served on a jury before. In fact, I was jury foreperson, which means that I read the verdict (guilty) to the court and, more importantly, to the defendant. At that time, I really enjoyed jury service. The trial was only five days, the crime not particularly serious, deliberations took only one additional day, and I was unemployed at the time so being paid $15 a day to fulfill my civic duty by participating in the justice system was a pretty good deal.

Now... not so much. I've got a full time job that does not pay me for days spent during jury service, and a desk with work piling up in my absence. So, frankly, I'd rather not serve.

In fact, no one in my pool wanted to be on this jury. It was a murder case, expected to take at least two full weeks of trial before deliberations, and the witness list included the medical examiner. I don't care how much Law & Order people watch, it's quite different knowing that the death being described was an actual person and not just some made up TV scenario. Who wants to hear that testimony?

So, each time the court clerk began calling juror badge numbers, it was as if the entire room were holding its breath. There was a nun in my pool, and as numbers were being called she was fondling her rosary and praying. A bus driver who sat next to me was taking notes about what each potential juror was saying in response to the judge's questions so that he could figure out what was the right thing to say to be dismissed. A stock broker kept shaking his head and repeating over and over that this would be his third case in eight years. Third case in eight years! What's your excuse? he'd challenge.

After three days of hearing every excuse imaginable, the judge and attorneys had found their jury plus four alternates, and I was released. I've never been so happy to be back at work. Now I can return to my Law & Order watching with the blissful innocence of a TV viewer.

As for the nun... she's juror number twelve.


Sven said...

For such an important part of our legal system it's unfortunate how dreaded jury service has become. Heaven forbid I am ever in need of it but it would be terrifying sitting behind a desk next to whichever legal council I could reasonably afford, my fate in the hands of 12 people pissed at me. Having insured that for the near future they would be spending 8 hours a day sitting in the world's most uncomfortable chairs, listening to mind numbing testimony, eating crap food from the courthouse cafeteria, all the while making $15 a day.

Go Democracy!

stu said...

Someone's got to do it, and I'm not nearly normal enough.

Anonymous said...

California pays crap! I got $85 for two days, and I wasn't even picked! I think it had something to do with me saying, "I'm a legal transcriptionist. That's Criminal Court, Federal Court, IRS, FBI. You name it." Or, "I have really really strong beliefs about carrying an unlicensed, concealed weapon. To me that means you're up to no good." At least you had a nun. With me it was a buch of little old ladies and some men who were angry with the Po Po.

Jessica said...

was it conscious that you describe the nun as "fondling her rosary?" that's a very nice line.

glad you got out of jury duty. you just reminded me that I may potentially serve in July. Crap.

Stephanie said...

Sven - I actually think as much as people don't want to serve, once they are on a jury, they take it really seriously. When I was foreperson, we were released to begin deliberating on Friday afternoon at 4PM. I took a room poll and already we had all agreed on a verdict. But we didn't feel like it was appropriate to rush. So we went home at 4:30 and came back Monday morning, went over the evidence, talked it out more thoroughly and then delivered our verdict in the afternoon. It's not an ideal system, but it's better than a judges only system.

Stu - Trust me, no one in that room was normal.

Randika - Yeah, we're a cheap-ass state. What can you do? But hey, I already got my check which I intend to deposit today. Unlike my stimulus check which is MIA.

Jessica - Of course it was conscious. I claim to be a writer here, don't I? ;-)

Nev said...

That poor nun. :-(


The last time I was called into jury duty, it was for an aggravated assault case, and the defendant looked...well, scary. I had to go for two straight days -- without getting paid by my work -- before they picked the jurors without getting to me.

And I didn't even get my $15 for the first day.