Monday, August 21, 2006

My day in court


As is so often the case with the criminal justice system, it all came down to earwax.

Today I had the opportunity to participate in that sacred duty of every citizen: weaseling my way out of jury duty. Here is my diary of that experience (John Grisham would have spun this out to 400 pages):

8:01 Why am I here at 8:01 am? Every judge in the land is still a-bed. Filled out juror info form. They ask for an email address. No way. At least the tv is off. Last time I was in one of these rooms I was trying to read while they blared Regis Philbin at me. And there’s a not uncomfortable couch. Not long enough to take a nap on, though.

I am by no means the only one in sweatpants. After careful consideration, though, I left my formal Cat in the Hat t-shirt at home.

8:13 The bureaucrat has said she’s going to “go ahead and” do one thing or the other for the 6th time by my count.

Update: 11 12.

8:22 Oh boy, there’s a video. Evidently Cal. is a beautiful state, the greatest of all the states, but it still has crime. Oh no, please tell me where I fit in in addressing that situation!

Uh oh, the video says I’m supposed to use my everyday common sense.

8:40 The Go Ahead Girl must be past 25X now

8:48 45? It’s a little awe-inspiring, really.

9:30 Waiting. Half the people here have no reading material (and some of the rest didn’t bring any, but are reading from the room’s eccentric collection of magazines, none of them news magazines). They’re just sitting there, nearly half of those with their arms crossed. Maybe they have rich inner lives and need no external stimulus. Maybe they’re drunk or hung over. The room is also provided with one jigsaw puzzle, which a guy in his 20s is working, not very efficiently. I’m reading a book on World War I & taking these notes, and feeling a welling civic pride. Or possibly gas.

9:42 Going into the courtroom in a minute. It was in fact gas.

9:51 Jeez, I could take those bailiffs.

And then there was an hour of voire dire, half of which I couldn’t hear (the earwax thing). The case was “resisting an executive officer,” which is something like resisting arrest, I guess. The lawyers on both sides seemed to be in their 20s, as was the IQ of the defense attorney, who asked if prospective jurors believed it was okay to protest being arrested, whether police can make a mistake, whether police can use any kind of force. She didn’t know how to ask a question that would have elicited an answer which would have alerted her to a problem juror. She asked a woman whose son is a cop in Sacramento whether, when he tells her about his job, she always takes his side.

Someone who worked the night shift was excused. Someone with child-care issues was excused. Someone who said he’d been hassled by cops, but wouldn’t say how, and said that police were, he guessed, a “necessary evil,” was excused. An FBI special agent was excused. Several people whose problems I couldn’t make out were excused. And then I was called, corrected the clerk’s pronunciation of my name, told the court about the earwax thing and was excused.

Er, you weren’t expecting a big payoff to this story, were you?


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