I can't legally discuss the details of the case until it's over, but I can describe the process of being selected.
Why would I do that?
Well, I was greatly surprised by how it differed from what I have heard about it most of my life. This was the first time I actually witnessed the selection process.
The last time I was summoned it was over 20 years ago. The thought was that when you registered to vote, you were also registered for Jury Duty. I was a Sales Secretary at the time, and also filling in temporarily for the admin to President of the United States Hot Rod Association. Being a rich white republican, he assumed the laws of man don't apply to him so he wrote me a letter saying I could not possibly participate, and I got out of it.
Apparently having to explain administrative duties, including his many personal preferences, eccentricities and pet peeves to a temp is a hardship for the president of a company. I wasn't called again to appear until sometime this summer, though I was registered to vote and did such the entire time.
This last letter I received in June stated that since I hadn't replied to my previous summons (we do not remember seeing any such letter) that if I failed to appear, I would be held in contempt of court.
Most people make it sound easy to get out of jury duty, and while it may be easier than beating a prison wrap or avoiding paying income taxes, it's not as easy as it's made out to be.
I assumed when I received my summons, it would be similar to my husband's recent experience. He was called to report to the Jury Commission, where he waited until about 3:30 in the afternoon and was let go.
He could read, there were televisions and free WiFi, he pretty much had a boring day until he was released. I really just wanted to be bored. I have 3 children, 2 of them toddlers, and I watch extra small children, a moment of boredom, just that feeling, is all I ever want. I had forgotten that feeling.
I haven't been bored since, well since I learned to read. I've heard my Father In Law say that only boring people get bored. I would like to add also people who just haven't found the right book(s). When I thought about an entire day to just read, whatever I wanted, with no children tugging at me I felt like Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone episode, "Time Enough At Last."
You know the one, Futurama even alluded to it. He's finally left alone by his awful wife and the world and allowed to read all he can, for as long as can. Only to almost immediately break his telescope-like glasses so now he can't read.
I had not much more time than Burgess. Not even 90 minutes into my my 'time enough at last' I was called up to a courtroom, with I think 36 other potential jurors to select an appropriate jury for a specific case. Each case picks 12 jurors, and 2 alternates.
Once in the courtroom, potential jurors are called up to be questioned by the judge, 4 at a time. We were thanked for coming, reminded that jury duty is our civic responsibility and we are required to be part of the judicial system in this way despite the inconvenience to our lives.
He said if we felt participating, most trials are 1-3 days, would be a hardship we were to speak up and explain.
The judge looks at the questions you've answered on your summons. Those questions ask spouse/children, and whether you or your family have been convicted of a crime, and then whether your or your family have been the victim of a crime. Also if you have any lawyers or such in the family.
If you answered "Yes" to any of the questions, you are put on sort of a mini trial to explain the situation. The judge needs to be sure there would be no prejudice or sympathy either way related to the case. If you feel there may be, you have to prove specifically why or why not.
You might think this is where you would pretend to be racist, or have a family member who went through some similar situation or something like that to "get out of jury duty," but this particular judge was having none of those shenanigans.
When I spoke to a friend of mine from the city, she said she had a similar experience. There were a couple men called up with me who had family members that were affected by a specific element of this case, and they claimed they could not be objective because of this.
The judge explained that we all have strong feelings about things like this, but it is our duty to TRY to focus on the facts of the case, and set these feelings aside. He explained he's well aware you cannot do that entirely, but this is all part of the jury system we have in place.
We will hear the evidence presented, and be given a specific law. All we have to do is consider whether the Prosecution proved that the Defendant in this case broke this particular law beyond a reasonable doubt, through the evidence presented. This is what trial by jury entails.
A few people mentioned they would not be able to take the time away from work, they were very busy. The judge told us that everyone's business is busy, because when businesses aren't busy they aren't in business any longer. He had also explained to a woman who stayed home with her children, that having to find care for her children during the trial is not considered a hardship.
When I was up, I did mention a family member of mine from years ago who was a victim of a specific element of this case, but he did not think that would impair by ability to review evidence and apply it to the law. When I saw he did not dismiss the man who lost his own son, I knew I would not be dismissed.
I cannot get into detail here at this time, but I will say that I cannot imagine this man's struggle to listen to the details of the case with his experience. It has to be incredibly painful for him.
I will say, when I heard the details of the case, I was interested in the outcome. It involves elements I don't know much about. What I didn't expect is the excruciating amount of actual time needed to present even one hour's worth of evidence.
They don't show you the entire process on television, and thankfully so because it is incredibly boring. The level of detail presented with every aspect of the case, even for someone who is interested in these methods, is exhausting. The qualifications of the experts alone sometimes takes half an hour. Then the cross examination, sometimes this is done just for our benefit, so we hear a certain detail enough to remember it.
We are marched in and out of the courtroom several times a day. There are elements that the jury cannot hear, though we don't know why or what they are. I can assume from years of watching Law and Order (dun DUN) that either the evidence was obtained illegally, or perhaps it would sway the jury in some unfair way. I'm also assuming this is why parts of the story don't make sense to us.
I hope to write about it after the experience is over, but with my life and my memory I'll be lucky to provide a Reader's Digest Condensed Version. We are allowed to take notes in the courtroom, but we have to leave our notebooks in our juror chairs when we leave. We're told we will be allowed to review our notes during deliberation, but we can't share our notes with other jurors, and they will be destroyed after the case is over.
There goes all my comparisons of the players involved to celebrities. We aren't allowed to take anything into the room where we wait, except for purses. Of course people have sneaked in their phones because OF COURSE THEY HAVE, but we were reminded that we aren't supposed to have phones in the jury room.
I really wish we were allowed to bring in books. We spend a lot of time sitting around waiting, and we're not allowed to talk about the case yet. It's almost impossible not to, but we think our room may be recorded, because some people did bring up elements of the case and they were called out individually and reminded we aren't to talk abut the case yet.
That's about all I can say about the case at this time. Except that on the jury with me is Juror #90, an adorable octogenarian who used to work for the gas company. He's been retired for "20 or 30 years," in his words.
The judge asked him several questions about his job there, but never explained why. Juror #90 thinks he was asked these questions just to see if he could pay attention, follow along and answer appropriately. He could.
He naturally has many wonderful, amazing stories about his life and the things he has seen. The first day I asked him so many questions that he quickly assumed the role of Story Teller. Anytime a silence would fall over the room, he would just start another story.
You're welcome, jury of my peers.
He has told us stories of old mean judges, who people called "hanging" judges, and wooden courthouses, and the only hanging ever to happen in a particular county. The judge sentenced a man to hanging, had the bailiff walk him over to stand atop a horsecart. The idea was the horse would walk forward and the man would hang. This judge was apparently inexperienced in these matters, as the convicted man simply loosened the noose with hands and easily escaped. They never had another hanging at this courthouse, according to 90.
He also explained Military Justice, including a Navy story that took place in a submarine. A fellow seaman forged a permission slip for a furlow weekend. When he was caught the captain of the ship interviewed him, and immediately gave his punishment.
He and another lovable lady of about the same age, have charmed us with stories of rubber guns, jacks, Perry Mason and how low-budget it was, and the time he bought cigarettes when he was 4 years old.
They were for his aunt, but the thought of a 4 year old going down the block by himself and buying cigarettes is still low-key fascinating to me. It was a very different America. My grandmother used to work in their family bar when she was younger, she told me about serving drinks when she was a young child like it was no big whoop.
These types of nostalgic memories are no longer available to me as I lost my only grandparent several years ago. They are my favorite part of jury duty so far.
My least favorite part is having to find care for my children with almost no notice. We have no way of knowing how long the trial will run. Monday is Day 3 with no end in sight. Had I had more notice I could have visited different daycare centers, or in-home daycares.
I guess in life you should always have these things at the ready:
Funeral clothes that fit
Daycare for your children
There are other things I can't think of right now, but I'm sure something will come up when I need these things and don't have them.
I both apologize and make no apologies for the rambling, unedited and unfunny nature of this post. It's been a busy week and topped off with a funeral yesterday. Next week's post will be more interesting, can't promise about the rambling. As you know. Thanks for trudging though.
Wow! Haven't done jury duty yet! Both times I was called I was dismissed for hardship. One day, I would like to do it. Can't wait to hear more about your experience! Have a great week!ReplyDelete
It was one hell of a trial. At least 2 different kinds of Hell actually. We wrapped it up late last night, I'm trying to put all my thoughts together when I can, but I have 2 small children so that will take some time. I also did not sleep well. It was so much harder than I ever thought. I'll explain. Hopefully I can get at least some part of it up today.Delete
The only time I had to report for jury duty we were dismissed at noon because the perp copped a plea. Hopefully you can recall the details for a lengthy expose of your fellow jurors and the trial.ReplyDelete
You got lucky, Pattie. I am making notes and trying to get it all down. It was tough. I'm not an emotional person, well not ALWAYS anyway, and it was painful to hear all the details of this case. I'll get something together. I know I won't stop thinking about it for a very long time. Writing is cathartic. And it's a horrible, but interesting, story.Delete
Last time I got put on jury duty I actually had to serve. I barely even answered a thing. They just shuffled me in the box, asked me maybe one question, and then everyone agreed that we were a good jury. Which is funny, because I was the one who had to stand up during the deliberation and actually tell everyone to get their heads out of their asses because they were going to "go easy" on the defendant just because she was a cutesy little girl with a newborn. A cutesy little girl with a newborn who jumped out of her car and stabbed the shit out of another mom in a road rage incident that was HER fault. I've never been so proud to drop the hammer on someone. She might have gotten away with it if it weren't for me, or I guess "common sense."ReplyDelete
Looking forward to hearing what this case is actually about.
UGH. We had a slightly similar situation, except our defendant was a stereotypical drug addict: No teeth, pasty white, acne scars, no emotion. But we still had people that just couldn't bring themselves to see the cold, hard facts of the case.Delete
Wow... Sounds like... fun(?) I narrowly avoided jury service myself a few years back. Had to go back to the courthouse a few days in a row before the judge dismissed us with a ,"Thanks & better luck next time" speech. I was unemployed at the time so there was little to no chance of me getting out of it.ReplyDelete
It definitely wasn't fun, but the case was interesting. Long, boring, painful detail, that felt like forever. We had to keep leaving the courtroom for the parts we couldn't hear, but it was only the 2nd case of this type in the history of my county, and the very first by jury, so the judge wanted to make sure he got it just right.Delete
My curiosity is piqued! If I knew what county you live in, I'd be googling to try to figure out what case you're sitting on...ReplyDelete
Does that make me sound like a stalker? I'm not a stalker, really.
hahahaha I'll write about it and try to include links to the whole story. It doesn't make you sound like a stalker at all, just a normal person with natural curiosity.Delete
I've never been called for jury duty. Husby was once, but that was part of his (then) job. It sounds like a royal pain in the ass. But I'm glad you have a nice old man with all his stories. That's one of the things I like about my job :)ReplyDelete
Well, it's also a good system if you or a loved one find themselves on the other side of a situation. It's just a very slow, exhausting, difficult, expensive system. But nothing worthwhile is easy, right?Delete
I do love me some old men! That's for sure.
Ooh, this is all very intriguing.ReplyDelete
I found the perfect excuse for avoiding jury service a few years ago, by going into labour. Mind you, from the sound of the judge you described, he would have still had me coming in with with Spawn dangling from my nether regions and still attached to the umbilical cord.
Your uterus has impeccable timing, impressive!Delete
This judge would have excused you for labor, but you probably would have been called again at a later date. Even we the jury who served will be called again. But not for one year!
Oh my. I've been summoned twice - talked my way out of it in college since my college was a few hours from the county of "permanent residence" and the other I checked and checked and they never called my group. Whew. One day. One day my time will come. :/ReplyDelete
It may, or it may not. The charming 80-yr old man on my jury panel said this was the FIRST time he was ever called, and his wife had never been called. It's amazing. Some people I have spoken to since this happened said they have been called a few times, some said they never were. They claim it's totally random, but I wonder.....Delete
I've only been called up once and I got out of it. I don't remember how. I totally just screwed myself and will now get called again because...karma.ReplyDelete
I hate to say this Sandy, but I said those EXACT words only weeks ago! hahahaDelete
They love calling me... I have been called four times. Only once was I selected. That was back when I was still teaching preschool... once I was in Probation they strangely never picked me.ReplyDelete
This was the only time my brothers criminal past worked to my advantage.... I cant wait to hear/read the rest...ReplyDelete
Well Zoe, I told them about my brother and he said that should not affect my ability to read the law and see if the state proved their case. One guy who was arrested himself kept arguing, and he eventually got out of it but he had to be a straight up asshole and say that he would find someone guilty that wasn't because of his prejudice.Delete
OK. Nerd here.ReplyDelete
HAVE YOU ANY IDEA HOW I HOPE AND PRAY I GET ON A JURY?!?
When I lived in Houston about 10 years ago I was on one.
Over a dude stealing $5. You would have thought I was on Law and Order.
And no. Having a cramp ain't good enough to get out of duty. It's amazing the excuses I heard that day. But I just sat there and smiled. I'm surprised they kept me because of that creepy smile I couldn't wipe off my face.
Can't wait to hear the outcome when you're not so under oath and all jury-ish!!
I wanted to have the experience myself. Love me some Law & Order. We aren't the only ones, this one juror took her duties SO very serious, and she kept creating all of these outlandish Perry Mason scenarios. She almost caused us to have a hung jury. I'm trying to get the whole story down. I may have to post it in chunks, not for dramatic effect but because I just never have time to write!Delete
So interesting! Will you be allowed to blog about the details once it's over? How long is it going? I would love to be selected for jury duty... I found my own court experience so weirdly fascinating with the dynamic (and unpreparedness) of the attorneys and the judge and all the witnesses and experts.ReplyDelete
Do they summon you by mail? I never ever check my mail. I will probably go to jail if they ever select me for jury duty, because I won't even know about it.
Oh also: I would think it could be a legit hardship for someone who stays at home with their kids to find someone to watch them-- if the trial went on for days, that is a lot of money. Not everyone has support or family around them. That seems kind of shit-tay to me.
Yes. They said just not until the trial is concluded. And it is. Finally. There is SO MUCH to this story, I'm trying to remember it all and get it down. Then I have to clean it up.Delete
There was a LOT of botched evidence, field notes "missing" and testimony completely changed. I can't imagine how frustrating it is to be a judge.
They DID summon me by mail, and apparently I did not see it the first time either. The 2nd note, the first that I saw, said since I did not appear at my first summons, if I failed to appear this time I would be held in contempt of court. Which basically means "pay big fines."
You COULD get a hardship dismissal from THIS trial if you argued enough, but you would most likely be called back in about a month or so. Since I watch other kids during the school year that I GET PAID to watch, I figured summer would be best for me. At least I wouldn't be giving up a paycheck to go. I figured just get it out of the way. Once you serve, they say you can't get called back for at least a year.
Honestly, us NY'ers hate jury duty. It's like getting a letter inviting you to get the plague. I always seem to get out of it. At least getting to eat in Chinatown where the courts are is pretty cool!ReplyDelete
MOST people everywhere hate it. There were a few people that argued enough to get out of it, but we were told you would just called back again. Once you serve you can't get called back for at least a year. SUPER JEALOUS you guys have a good place to eat! We only have a horrible greasy spoon restaurant in the building. You can leave the building and drive to about 5 different places, but you really have to hurry what with the traffic, parking garage, going through security again, etc.Delete