I HAD JURY DUTY!

Part 1: Indicted – Not really.

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That was how I felt when I came home a month ago to discover this in my mailbox after a wednesday night service.

Needless to say I was a bit perturbed, however, I understood the need to perform my civic duty and report for Jury Duty. While I could have probably postponed the service, I didn’t really want to recreate the experience of receiving the summons for the first time. I also had never served on a jury before, I had been summoned once when I lived in Arizona and went and sat for the day and got sent home.

You are not summoned for a specific day, you are summoned for a whole week. Once you report to your employer and fill out some forms online you then call in the weekend before your reporting date, mine was the 18th of August. Now, if you call in that weekend and you are not required to report in on the 18th you are still not off the hook. You then spend a week in this weird limbo land where you call ever morning to see if you need to report to the courthouse.

On Sunday night before my service week I called the number and what do you know? I had to go down to the courthouse that Monday. A bit of a bummer, but I learned a very interesting fact about the State of California. After the recording had enformed me that I had to come in and where to park I learned this exciting tid-bit. The recording said,

 Due to the overwhelming budget crisis the State of California is experiencing, we will not be able to provide Jurors with pens. Please locate one now and place it next to your summons so that you will not forget it tomorrow, as we will be unable to provide one for you

OMG you guys, California is so broke it can’t afford pens.

Pens

$1.29 for a pack of 12 from costco. That’s 10 cents a pen. 

Part 2 – Reporting for the Reports

Crestfallen, I signed on to the Jury Duty website to complete my Juror Orientation so that I didn’t have to show up untill 9:30am instead of 8:30. The Juror Orientation consisted of about 30 minutes of the most unintentionally hilarious videos. They looked like they had been made about 20 years ago, strangely the section covering Social Media discussion of the case also looked like it was 20 years old.

Question:

Did they shoot the bulk of the videos 20 years ago and then, not wanting to to shock the viewer with an updated look, match the new content to the old? Or is the state of California that broke that this is the newest version of the training video and they don’t know about color correction?

On the Monday morning I woke up and headed down to the bus stop that was by my house and caught the 7:00 am bus. Took that to my second stop and then arrived at the courthouse.

After going through the metal detectors, I made my way to the Juror Assembly room and took a seat. We filled out our Jurry Summons paperwork, even though I had done that online, and then recieved our Juror badges. They informed me that there were currently 5 cases that need Jury Panels.

I procedded to wait for my name to be called. While I was waiting I pulled out my iPad and opened Garageband to pass the time with. Surprisingly I started a song that would eventually be finished that week and I am rather proud of.

Here it is:

Eventually three juries were called and sent over to the court house. Then they called up a fourth jury that would report after our lunch break.

I was hopefull, there was still a decent sized batch of potential jurors waiting. I might be able to complete my service today!

Part 3 – Hurry Up and Wait

UGH! After lunch they started calling the fifth and final jury. And of course my name was pulled.

I packed up my stuff and raced over to the courthouse. Went up to the 8th floor and found a large crown of jurrors stading in the hall.

Then we waited.

And Waited.

And guess what? Waited some more.

Eventually the clerk for our courtroom came out and took roll. Then she went back inside, leaving us to wait some more.

After what seemed like an eternity, really like 10 minutes, the clerk came out and called us into the courtroom.

We sat and then recieved some instructions.

Part 4 – Selecting the Seated Servers

We filled in the chairs then the clerk called out the first twenty seven jurrors, I was number 25.

I took my seat and then did some more…

You guessed it, waiting.

For each of the called jurors we had to answer a list of questions

  • What is your full jurror badge number?
  • What city do you live in?
  • What is your occupation?
  • Spouse or significant other’s occupation?
  • Children’s occupation?
  • Any other adults living in your house’s occupation?
  • Have you served on a jury before?
  • Was it crimminal or civil?
  • Did you reach a verdict?

Then there was a paper of 20 aditional questions that we had to reveal if we answered yes to any of them.

Most of these questions were related to, whether or not we had legal training or if we were racist.

Almost everyone had a story to tell.

One lady went on this massive tangent detailing how she could never send someone to jail because she didn’t believe in the system. The process halted for this one individual who used this oppourtunity to launch into a political diatribe decrying the legal system for not rehabilitating people and how the prison system is broken.

While this would be a valid debate if you were talking about the prison system, it in no way was an answer to the questions she was asked.

I WAS DYING.

After we got through this first round of questioning for the first twenty seven we ended for the day.

Upon returning to the courthouse at 10:30am we resumed, some jurors were dismissed and new ones called from the remaining pool. Those new jurors had to answer the same questions we did the previous day.

Then both the prosecution and defense asked several other clarification questions and we were able to move on to the next round of the selection process.

The two lawyers took turns dismissing jurors from the 12. I watched with some rising anxiety as the number of jurors in front of me dwindled. Then juror number 12 was dismissed and I had to move up to his seat.

One of my favorite questions was from the prosecution, she asked if we would hold it against her if she wasn’t as pollished as some TV lawyers like on CSI or “I don’t know, Matlock”

MATLOCK? Really? That’s the metaphor you use? Matlock? Not, I don’t know, how about LAW AND ORDER?

Once the original 27 had been sorted through, we replaced all the empty seats with jurors from the pool.

Then.

We went through the same EXACT process we had just gone through. Until finally we had our Jury.

We walked out of the court house that tuesday and looked at each other with the realization on our faces that, yes, we were stuck.

Part 5 – Excuse Me Your Honor, I Can’t Understand the Witness

Once the trial was underway we heard from a smattering of witnesses from the prosecution and only one from the defense.

The most entertaining aspect of this stage in the trial was the failure of basic communication skills.

I mean good grief, I was totally prepared for the lawyers to not be as polished as Matlock, but the inability to string together words in an understanable question was astounding.

The defense attourney really wasn’t helping his client in the questioning, I mean you could basically distill everything he said to “About what time was that?” which the witness had already stated not five minutes ago. And my favorite “Your Honor, I can’t understand the witness.”

Part 6 – Dilligently Deliberating the Doomed Defendent

One thing was made apparent through the course of the trial was that the defendant definitely did it.

Our deliberation took about 15 minutes, which most of it was figuring out how we would vote.

After about 5 minutes of discussion it was obvious that we all felt the same way.

So, we filled out the proper paperwork and waited for the Balif to come and get us. Which ended up being about a half hour since the defendant’s lawyer was still on lunch.

Part 7 – Television is Not Real Life

While we all know that television is not real life, I did have a few major revelations on how courts really operate. You generally expect some elements to have a basis in reality. Like these:

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Here is what I learned:

  • You don’t rise when the judge comes in.
  • People don’t swear on a bible.
  • You don’t rise for the reading of the verdict, you just sit there is awkward silence
  • The jury foreman doesn’t read the verdict, the balif does, and it’s very uneventful.
  • And most importantly, NO GAVELS!!!