Thursday, May 10, 2018

Not to Brag or Anything, But I'm Kind of a Civic Hero

I've been called for jury duty twice in my life.

The first time, I'd just barely come home from my freshman year of college. I remember opening my mail in the guest bedroom at my dad's house, examining the jury summons and thinking, "Being an adult is the worst, waaaaahhhh!"

The case ended up settling out of court. Or something. I don't remember any particulars except for the fact that I didn't have to go.

I'd forgotten all about it, until 2 months ago when I received an official-looking postcard with lots of highlighting and ALL CAPS WRITING informing me that I was the lucky winner... of the opportunity to serve as a juror and advance the cause of justice!

For the next few months I kept hoping I wouldn't have to go, but the day arrived and no such luck. Phillip rearranged his schedule to stay home with the kids and I pulled up to the courthouse at 8 AM, which is probably the earliest I've ever been anywhere with real pants on.

The courthouse was a majestic piece of Roman architecture lined with columns. A flight of stone steps led up to a grand entrance with a paper sign that said "not an entrance."

(I've been in a few other courthouses and incidentally, they never let people use the fancy entrance. They're the legal equivalent of the shell-shaped hand soaps in your nana's bathroom.)

It took a while to get through security (via the shady side door off the alley around the corner, of course) and find out where I was supposed to go, mostly because there were about 100 years' worth of paper signs taped to the walls and it took a while to find the ones relevant to me.

Handing over my juror survey at the check-in area, a uniformed officer reminded me that I left something out.

Of course I had. I'd intentionally left the "current or most recent employment" field blank, because surely they wouldn't want to know that I last worked as a telemarketer in Utah 15 years ago. But yes, actually, they did. The U.S. government is weird.

Now that they had my impressive employment history, they assigned me to be Juror 28 and directed me to a yellow-painted room full of 21 other people and wooden armchairs stolen from a dentist's waiting room in 1974.

I pulled up to the courthouse at 8 AM, which is probably the earliest I've ever been anywhere with real pants on.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

After sitting for about an hour, we watched a juror orientation video during which I really had to pee. It started by outlining the history of criminal justice, and I think I lost consciousness somewhere between the Magna Carta and the difference between criminal and civil suits.

The video ended with testimonials from people who all agreed over an inspirational trumpet swell that serving as a juror was amazing and they would definitely do it again. (They didn't say whether the $2,000 fine for failing to appear was a factor.)

After another hour of waiting, a super-nice court officer told us not to feel bad if we ended up being disqualified as a juror and then a not-as-nice officer directed us to a courtroom.

Being both lazy and completely Type A, there was an interesting internal battle going on in my mind. Part of me was totally hoping to be elected jury foreman on a lengthy double homicide trial of national importance; the rest of me was planning my escape by telling the judge I was prejudiced against all groups of people including anyone who drives a PT Cruiser, reads primarily e-books, buys organic produce, or subscribes to Vogue.

After taking an oath, we were given an overview of the case (car hits car, someone sues) and asked questions to find whether we had any biases that would prevent us from making an impartial decision. I decided to keep my opinions on timeshare owners and Costco members to myself.

It wasn't until we'd answered the questions and they started to fill up the chairs with jurors that I realized: they were going in numerical order and I was Juror 28.

Oh, happy day! A robed gospel choir burst into song and clapped me back to the juror room after all the chairs were filled. I wasn't being impaneled after all, which I guess wouldn't have been so terrible but the word sounds like a hybrid of 'imprisoned' and 'disemboweled.'

We waited for another hour in the juror room just in case we were needed for another case, but they asked for a bench trial instead, and we were free to go.

The nice court officer stood in the doorway and thanked me for my service on my way out, even though my service mostly consisted of playing on my phone for 4 hours and paying $6 in parking.

I wouldn't exactly say it was "one of the most empowering, fascinating, and rewarding experiences of my life" as promised by the weirdo in the orientation video, but at least I was home in time for lunch.

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5 comments:

  1. I had jury selection in February and, lucky me, got selected for a trial in March. Thankfully the case was both fascinating and only lasted a day. Fingers crossed I'm not called for a long, long time!

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  2. I read your harrowing and thrilling tale with baited breath. :P Actually, Angel got a notice just this week that he's been summoned for jury duty in Texas (this is the second time this has happened since he moved away). But this time, he filled out the form, requested to be exempted because he doesn't live in Texas. Last night, he got a response that his request was DENIED because their records show that he does live in Texas. This was very mystifying because we were both like--what records are these???!! He emailed them back with a message along the lines of I really, really, really don't live in Texas. In fact, I live about as far away from Texas as it is possible to get. I have a Michigan driver's license, nursing license, and I file taxes every year...in the state of Michigan. I also have a current residential work visa in Malaysia and endless utility and rent bills for my apartment....in Malaysia....just tell me what you need in order to prove I don't live in Texas, and I'll give it to you.

    Who knew that you needed to prove you didn't live in a state that you haven't lived in for nearly a decade?

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    1. Wow, don't mess with Texas. You live there once, you live there always.

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  3. This is such a fascinating story! I think I've been contacted for jury duty once, but it was for my home state while I was attending an out-of-state college, so they let me off the hook. I listened to a podcast episode recently where a prosecutor was interviewed and she mentioned how everyone should be proud to participate in the jury and do their civic duty, but I think I'd rather accomplish my civic duty in other ways :P

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    1. The orientation video had some interviews with people who'd served as jurors and one was saying how excited he was to turn 18 so he could be called... I was like, "Dude, you're obviously not even from Earth. How could you be called to jury duty in ANY of the 50 U.S. states??"

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