"Latte and Kimba"
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SHIRKING MY CIVIC DUTY
2 December 2005
Does anybody enjoy Jury Duty?
I'm one of those people who issue a mild expletive when a jury duty summons. I wonder what it says about our due process system when people's guilt or innocence is determined by 12 people who would rather be having root canal than sitting in a courtroom all day.
My father kind of enjoyed it. He liked the free meals. The jury he was on finished their deliberations before noon and he talked them into staying until 1 p.m. so the court could pay for their lunch.
The first time I was summoned to jury duty, I was about 8-1/2 mos pregnant with Jeri. They made me come down to show myself to the clerk's office, and when I waddled in, obviously about ready to give birth, they excused me.
There was a time in my distant past when I just ignored a jury summons, not realizing that I could be cited for not showing up. I'm better now.
The last time I was called to jury duty I lucked out. I called in, as instructed, the night before and was told to call back before noon the next day. I called at noon, was told that the trial was on and showed up at the courthouse.
Between the time I called and the time I showed up, the trial was postponed so I was given the choice of joining the jury pool that was there, or returning the next day for the pool I had been assigned to. I decided my chance of being excused was greater if I was in a larger number of people, so I chose to stay.
Literally two minutes before they were ready to take the jury into the courtroom to be interviewed, there was a deal made and we were excused.
The time before that, the trial would have extended into time we were going to be gone on vacation. Everybody, it seemed, wanted off of that trial, but I was the first one to be given an excuse because I had actual plane tickets.
I did serve on one jury. It was a vandalism case which involved 3 teenagers. The trial for the first two had already taken place, and this was a separate trial for the third. He was kind of a geeky guy and his defense was that he only hitching a ride and that he had sat in the car while the others destroyed a cemetery.
Logic told all of us that there was no way this kid had just watched, but in reality the prosecutor didn't prove her case, and ultimately we found the guy not guilty.
It wasn't really a factor in our decision, but the (female) prosecutor, in making her remarks to the jury, which consisted of 11 women and one man, used all home-spun illustrations, like "suppose you're cooking a meal and following a recipe..." or "suppose one of your children's socks is lost in the laundry, "etc. I don't remember the exact examples she used, but I personally was offended because we were all professional women and she talked as if we could only understand if she addressed us as if we spent the day wearing frilly aprons and baking cookies.
I did write to her after the trial ended (because she had asked for our feedback). I never heard from her following my letter and don't know how she took it, but it was an interesting experience, serving on that jury.
I found out, for example, that I'm a lousy juror. Trust me, if you are looking for a jury of your peers, you'd really not like me to be on the jury. For one thing, I have a terrible time staying awake. I forget half of what is said (and take rotten notes, so I don't even write down the right things). And when it came to the jury room deliberations, I am ashamed to admit that I found I was easily swayed and I know that I would not be the hold-out if I felt strongly about the guilt or innocence of a defendant. I'm a patsy.
The jury summons came a week ago and I was to show up for duty on Wednesday. I tried to remember if we prospective jurors had to fill out forms telling what we did for a living or not. The last time I was called, I was working as the manager of a doctor's office. Now I work at home, but I type forensic psychiatric reports by the psychiatrist who does the evaluations on the very defendants who are going to trial.
The chance of my actually drawing a trial of someone on whom I have actually typed a report is slim. The psychiatrist does these reports regularly, but only a handful a month--most of the work I do for him is regular chart notes.
But still--would a prosecutor (or a defense attorney) want someone who has no special training, but who has worked at typing these kinds of evaluations for decades and might think she knows as much as the guy who writes them?
So I was trying to figure out how I could phrase that to make me undesirable as a juror. Even the psychiatrist suggested that, though jokingly.
If it turned out that I actually had to serve on a jury trial, I tried to look on the bright side: it would make a good journal entry, if nothing else!
I really, really didn't want to be on a jury. This just isn't a good time. But then there is no time I can envision when I would leap in the air, clap my hands in glee and hope that I got chosen to be on the jury.
At 5 p.m. the night before the trial, I dutifully called in for instructions. My group was #217. The recording began, moving the time for group 216 an hour forward and giving very detailed explanations about parking and entry doors and all that. I'm standing there listening to the recording and thinking that if group #217 was going to be called also, I couldn't see that they would go through all that explanation again, so maybe this was a good sign. Maybe group #217 was being excused.
Then came the recording: "Group 217, your trial has been cancelled. Your jury duty is fulfilled until notified in writing.
I've dodged the jury duty bullet again. Whew. Now what was I going to do? Well, the psychiatrist has a evaluation that needs to be done on an upcoming trial, so it will be kind of like being there anyway. But at least I don't have to fight sleep and feel guilty that the defendant is getting a less than competent juror in me!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
It's just too bad that Latte is such a tense dog.