Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jury Duty

An unforeseen side effect of the Project 365 blog seems to be that I don't post as often on this blog-- but maybe there have been some other contributing factors, as well.  I'll try to write more often so that I don't fall completely out of the habit.

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I went Monday to my first day of jury duty.  It took longer than usual for them to get down to business, apparently because they're implementing some new system and learning its ins and outs.  For one thing, more jurors came than were needed, which seems strange, given that they are the ones sending out the summonses.  (That word just looks wrong...)  Maybe they usually expect a certain number of no-shows, and this group just happened to be more law-abiding than most.  In any case, they asked multiple times for anyone who'd rather defer their jury duty to a later date to come forward.  It seems that most people felt just as I did-- I'm already here now, so let's just get this over with.-- because it took several tries to finally get enough volunteers.  Now, if they'd offered to simply excuse some of us, there'd have been a stampede.  ;o) 

After we were finally divided into panels (and after a grand jury was selected-- just like last time), my panel and a few others were sent to sit outside a courtroom.  (It just happened to be the courtroom of the judge I remember from my last time as a juror.)  So, then we were left to wait some more, all the while looking forward to being asked questions about ourselves.  (Last time, at least two of the cases involved alcohol, so the questions seemed to revolve around whether or not we drank-- why or why not-- whether or not we had a problem with people who drink-- etc.  Honestly, that process of answering questions about myself in front of a room full of strangers was something I wasn't looking forward to.)  However, it turned out that we never even got inside the courtroom, as a plea deal was struck.

The clerk (or whatever the proper term is) explained that this situation was not unusual and that our being there was still important, because it helps get things moving by inducing people to plead, etc., etc.  It sounded very familiar, because I heard it once last time (only that time, I think it was after we'd gone through the striking process and I'd been selected as a juror), and I found myself wondering if that's just something they say to make us feel better about the fact that we've just wasted a half hour of our day by sitting silently in a hallway.  (g)  I guess it's true, but you wonder if those people were planning to plead all along and were just waiting until the last possible moment.  Procrastinating.  Darn lazy criminals!  ;o)

Anyway, we were released for the rest of the day after that, and for Tuesday and Wednesday, my panel has not been required to show up.  I'm sure it's only a matter of time, though, and we have to keep checking every evening for a period of two weeks (though of course they don't hold court on weekends or holidays).  At least now I've refamiliarized myself with the area around the courthouse, so it'll be less stressful getting there next time, and that first day is the worst, as far as waiting in lines goes. 

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One more thing about jury duty-- something I remembered from last time and which still strikes me as odd. . .  Before swearing in the jurors, the judge asks if anyone feels that they can't serve on a jury for reasons of religious or personal conviction.  (I suppose these would be people who feel that they are incapable of judging another person or finding him/her guilty.  I can understand it, I guess, but I think it's a good thing for society that most of us don't feel that's a luxury we can afford.  Someone has to be willing to pass judgment or there'd be absolute chaos.)  Four people stepped forward and had to have semi-private discussions with the judge and a few other officials (away from the rest of us, but at the front of the room, in clear view).

Next, the judge lists a number of other reasons why we might be unable to serve.  Some of the reasons are as innocent as failing to meet a minimum age or the requirement of having lived in the county for the past six months.  Then there are things like felonies or having been convicted of crimes of moral turpitude.  You're instructed not to rise or raise your hand until after the judge has finished the list-- obviously in an effort to protect privacy-- but I can't help but look a little differently at those who go to the front of the courtroom after that. . . 

There's no real reason for mentioning this-- just that it feels so strange.  I couldn't help but feel that I should avert my eyes and not look at those people.  Partly out of sympathy, considering how embarrassed I would be to have to go up before all these people and have them stare and wonder about me.  Partly because if any of them are convicted felons, I don't want them mad at me.  ;o)

Also, I wonder why they decided to separate the religious/personal conviction people from the rest. . . Maybe to make it somehow easier for the first group. . .

Well, enough about jury duty.  Next post will probably be about our new glasses.