Monday, August 15, 2011

Jury Duty (aka The Most Boring Story in the World)

I'm now 41 and have been a registered voter for 23 years. For the first time, I got called for jury duty. My wife served on a brutal murder trial earlier this year and she was a trooper despite the details I heard after the case was closed. So, I on the other hand wasn't really thrilled with the notion of being stuck on a week long jury. After all, I've got a job and don't want my work to suffer from having to do it at midnight for a week.

I usually get to my real job at like 7AM so I figured I'd make the 8AM check in time no problem. Of course I slept in a bit, and left the house a little later than usual, but then I hit what I'm not used to- morning traffic. What should have been a 40 minute drive didn't appear reasonable. And since I left the house at 7AM I quickly realized that I'd be screwed. But rather than freak out about it, my thoughts wandered to the countless "citizens" who get jury summons and simply blow it off- or make a lame excuse on why they can't go.

When I pulled into the parking lot at 8:10AM, I hustled to the courthouse only to be met by- a line. A line of about 50 people to be exact- and not just people going into court, but the jury pool line. By the time I got to the front of the line, there were another 25 people behind me.
Maricopa County Superior Court
Once in the jury selection room or whatever it's called we sat there until 9AM watching CNN, knitting, reading, fiddling with our smart phones, setting up laptop workstations, or simply sitting. Me and my 400+ new friends- and I guess you could call it "standing room only", or some people were simply too xenophobic to sit next to someone else.

So exactly at 9AM, a girl gets on the speaker and immediately announces a trial that will last 26 days that they need 80 people for. She'd call out names and you answer yes or no- but if you answered "no" you had to fill out an explanation form on why you couldn't do it. Once she got to 80 yeses, she was done- my name wasn't called. But Winnie Cooper was... and Elizabeth Banks too- so that was pretty cool...Winnie Cooper

Elizabeth BanksAt 9:30, the girl announced where we're supposed to park and then said that if you didn't park there, you could get up right now and move your car. So of course my thought is "oh my God!, it's going to be another half hour before we do anything else!" But instead she starts orientating up with the refreshment table, smoking locations, lunch policies, etc. It was pretty straightforward. Then we watched a 15 minute video on how great jury service is. I noticed that the flat screen TV I was watching was the only non-tube in the room. If I haven't already painted an adequate picture of the room, let's say that it was a combination of an airport waiting area, sprinkled with a lot of DMV, but with a doctor office cleanliness.

At 10AM they put on the first "in flight" movie- the blockbuster hit "Are We Done Yet with Ice Cube and John McGinley. I've got to admit that the image I had was Ted McGinley of such hits as Happy Days and Married with Children, but then I realized it was his cousin- casting favorite of Oliver stone, star of Platoon and Wall Street... oh well, they're cousins or something like that so- close enoughTed McGinley
Cousin (and much funnier) John C. McGinley
At about 10:10 they started calling the first group- 80 people whom each took a 8x10 laminated paper with a big number on it. They were shuffled away by the female bailiff (sorry Rusty, but feminism is key!). Almost immediately after, they took another 80- with another female bailiff. After a 15 minute gap, they called the next 80- third female bailiff- if you haven't figured it out yet, I hadn't been called yet. It was during this time that the same woman was called 3 times, but never answered. So she got there, checked in, and then split.

Next thing I knew, it was 11:20 and they told us we could go to lunch until 1PM! Great, downtown Phoenix in 109 degree heat. Luckily I yelped a local deli and found a decent sandwich. I've never actually walked around downtown Phoenix during the day- and I'm really not envious of those people. So while at lunch I texted a friend who flips properties and asked where they do the auctions- he told me so I boogied over there and "observed" the frat house atmosphere. It was like the cast of Jersey Shore to be honest with you. And because it's sort of a good "old" boys network of 25ish Ed Hardyish types, I got a lot of glares- even though I had my jury badge and kept a distance from the activity.

So I got back at about 12:45 and there was some other movie on... but it was another black-centric movie which I then found to be odd- because out of like 400 people, there were no more than 10 blacks in the whole jury pool. As my lunch started to settle, I found myself dozing a tad and did the head nod into the post next to me. But I was saved by the announcement girl welcoming everyone back and going immediately into the next group. And guess who was number 31?

So our bailiff- just like all the others was also female and she shuffled us up to the 11th floor for our trial. We lined up in order along a hall and she announced that we needed to separate the triplicate form we filled out when we arrived and she told us what was about to happen. A few dudes in ill fitting suits paced back and forth, three police officers and a fireman were huddled together and then two youngish lawyer types walked by with an aerial image of an apartment complex and a pool with an arrow pointing to the pool.

My imagination is now racing- civil suit for a drowning? murder?... OK, race over. We go in, the court staff is standing there courteously- like we're the guests of honor- and except for a white dude in a suit with tattoos all up his neck and a fat young Hispanic lawyer type, everyone else was female. No big deal, but I saw a weird sexist theme going on with lots of estrogen ruling the courthouse.

The judge introduced the staff and explained what everyone does and then asked some questions about if we'd be able to serve 3 days (not counting today). Like all other questions, we were to lift our card and then they'd call us by our number to explain our answer. Like 8 people said they couldn't serve that long and after explaining their situation, the judge and lawyers chatted and let 5 of them go. Then the judge explained the case- it was an alleged parole violator who was caught with a gun.

Then came questions about whether we had positive or negative opinions of police or the court system. Then questions on if we have family who are criminals, been victim of violent crime, etc. And by this point I realized that there are a lot of people with criminal connections, or who have been victims of crime, etc. It was actually pretty scary to think about that. But I also notice that in most cases, it was the same people answering yes to every question. I didn't raise my number for any of these so I guess I'm just boring. But here's a few things I learned:

  • one woman witnessed her drug addict brother get tased multiple times by the cops

  • one man's son was in tent city and had been for the prior year and got pneumonia and lost his job, so the dad was a little pissed at the lack of swift justice

  • one guy is a chaplain at county jail and gets to hear the alleged criminals confess to him

  • one woman kept answering "it's personal" which hinted that she was victim of a violent crime

  • one guy was a prison guard for the past 5 years before moving out here

  • one girl got kicked off a jury after trial started because she couldn't stay awake

  • one guy got roughed up by the cops because he was part of a street fight and he was bitter that he got singled out when there were many others involved
They next asked about guns and our opinion on them. They asked if we own guns and I got to raise my card for the first time. A few guys had to go down the list of all the guns they own- (some people just like to hear the sound of their own voice). Finally, they asked us to get up and tell our job, amount of time doing it, kids, spouse and if we'd served on a jury before. As I'm a nuclear family kind of guy and we've already established that I'd never been on a jury, I got a sinking feeling that I might be chosen. I did some simple math- there were like 35 people left, about 12 had enough "history" to raise questions on their objectivity and I was reasonably articulate... but then again, I usually get singled out at the TSA screening line so who knows what was going to happen. They told us to leave for 45 minutes and that a jury would be selected when we came back- it was now 3:15PM

At 4PM, they called us into the room and had us all sit together. They'd call out our number if we were selected and then assign us an actual jury number, so even though I was 31, if they called me first, I'd be juror #1. "Number 5, you are juror number 1. Number 6, you are juror number 2, Number 8, you are juror number 3, Number 10, you are juror number 4..." Mind you, there are 10 jurors for this trial, so I'm thinking that I might not be picked. "Number 24, you are juror number 9. Number 25, you are juror number 10" I didn't get picked.

But even more surprising were that

  1. they picked taser sister girl

  2. the entire jury was women!

At that point, I was done and a little relieved- even though I know that I could be objective and fair and a pretty good juror- if I could stay awake. But it made me think that this poor schlub who will probably get convicted had a loser court appointed lawyer who couldn't get a single dude on the jury... but then again, maybe there's a method to the madness- I'm no lawyer

Newer Posts Older Posts Home