Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Judge Not Lest You Shall Be Called to Jury Duty

All my life, my mother has complained about her inability to obtain two things: a Discover card and jury duty. The former had rejected one application when it came out the very first year and she still harbors resentment. The latter? I don’t know, the woman watches a lot of Matlock and Murder She Wrote.

I can personally vouch for the fact that the jury selection process is not nearly as exciting or quick as it appears on television and in movies. Nobody was throwing stones at my house or doing any back-door deals to get me excluded. Not that I know of, anyway.

The week started in a very cramped courtroom where we were forced to watch a video (yup, video, as in VHS) on how jury selection works. We were not picked based on any factors like sex or race. It’s random. You should feel honored. Blahbity blah blah.

Instead of going up and saying our piece about why we didn’t want to be there or couldn’t be there, we were asked to fill out a questionnaire.

Unlike my mother, I have no desire WHATSOEVER to be in a jury. My desire was even less because I was 5 months pregnant and just in general a fairly moody mess to be around. So I answered the questionnaire honestly, but with perhaps a little more prejudice than I actually felt. Cops? I love them, my entire family is full of law enforcement personnel. Only partly true. Church? So what if I mostly attend church to appease my husband and see if I can meet new friends? God bless America and all the little children and…um, all the flowers and the soil that grows them?

I was then told to call again the next morning and see if they needed me. I had to call 5 days in a row, if on the 5th day I wasn’t called in, my tour of duty was concluded.

Day 5 I get called in.

About 50 of us are there in the courtroom again. We are told this is a sexual abuse case and it has to do with an underage teen and a man in his late 20s working in some capacity on or around church grounds.

So we see the defendant, who looks like…I don’t know, a dude in his late 20s. Except he’s wearing a new shirt. I know this because the plastic part? It’s still in his collar. In my hormonal state, this brings a motherly “awww, sad” part of me with a side of “you’re grody, go away.”

Really, guys, would you want me on your jury?

So bottom line is we get another questionnaire, wherein I state (honestly) that I can’t be objective about this case. Given this is my first pregnancy and I attend church and it’s sort of hard to separate this child with the one I’m carrying, well it’s just a bad idea.

Then? Well, then I get to sit on a hard wooden bench for 6.5 hours while they questioned each person individually.

Did I mention I was pregnant? I only got the bench because some nice young man offered it to me. About 20 people were sitting on the floor.

Every hour or so, about 10 men in shackles would get paraded by us. There was no separate entrance into the courthouse for defendants.

Incidentally, there were also no metal detectors.

In addition to the perp walk, I also got treated to multiple out-of-court tete-a-tetes between divorce attorneys and men trying to get custody of their kids. I don’t know if they try them all at once or what was going on, but there were, oh, 10 sad dads on one side of the hall and about the same amount of very pissed-off looking women holding their kids tight, alternately crying, shouting, or pouting.

Did I mention I was pregnant?

You see it was a new courthouse in our area. And they hadn’t exactly built in benches. Or chairs. Or a way to bring in perps without parading them past potential jurors. Or conference rooms where people could speak about their cases without making potential jurors alternately want to cry and hit people.

On day 2 they brought in extra chairs.

Yeah, day 2. Because they didn’t get to all of us on day one. They didn’t even tell the people from Day one who had been interviewed if they were in or not.

So we all show up. We all sit quietly.

I should also note this is before I had cell phone with Internet and free texting.

Finally it’s my turn to go in. I immediately want to throw up, and not for the usual “wow, I just crammed 4 McDonald’s hamburgers in my mouth with a fry and shake chaser, happy eating, Baby” way.

For any long-time readers, my fear of authority may now be legend. But to recap: me no likey. I’m just quite positive my life will turn into the next edition of Brokedown Palace and nobody as cute as Kate Beckinsale will play me.

So it’s the judge, the defendant, the lawyers. The judge is a nice middle-aged lady who actually seems rather sympathetic. She asks if I am far enough along where sitting for a long time bothers me. I blushed and said it required fairly frequent trips to the restroom (yup, just entered my pee-pee into the record). She said I had noted a bias in the case. I explained my reasoning. I even, for good measure, put my hand on my belly and said “I have kind of a mama bear protecting her cub mentality.”

I won’t even pretend I’m not proud of that one, guys.

I think I saw the defense lawyer snicker. Then he kind of turns on me and goes: “so you’re not just, you know, trying to get out of jury duty here.”

Why, the VERY idea!

The thing is, I was totally trying to get out of jury duty. But also? I was totally honest. I don’t know what became of the case, but I know at the end of Day 2 I was dismissed, and that was the best thing to happen to that defendant all year.

And then informed since I did not serve on the jury, I could be called AGAIN!

So I’m saving a spot for Wee ‘Burb’s sibling should I need another excuse to dodge.

Have you ever had jury duty or managed to get out of it? Would you want to?


Heather said...

I had it. It involved a trip clear to downtown Houston. Case was plea bargained we were filing in.
Funny thing is I have lived here my whole life. Been called one time.
My husband has been called three times since he moved here from another state.

(Your recount was quite humorous.)

Shell said...

LOL @ your excuse!

I got out of it twice- once, I was called in PA shortly after I moved to NC. I was like um, I have a job 600+ miles away and don't live there any more...

The second time, I had just had my second baby and said that my child wouldn't take a bottle. Which was mostly true.

Anonymous said...

I'm DYING! We are so on the same wave sometimes that it's just not even funny.

I've never had jury duty, but I thank God that my mother got called (and actually had to sit!) a couple of years back. Her fellow anonymous-jurors taught her how to text. I will never be able to repay that kindness.

LambAround said...

Oh no! No, no, NO, I hate jury duty! The last time (okay, the only time) that I went, I had a panic attack and ended up crying uncontrollably in front of the entire courtroom (Why? Who knows, but I had warned them that this was a possibility when answering my questionnaire!) At least you were able to get a good blog post out of it :)

Not a Perfect Mom said...

just tell them you're a nursing mother...always works..and if you're fibbing..then so what?
and really? if they tried to put me on a child molester case I'd offer up the defendant to the lions...fucking perverts...
just realized I dropped the F bomb..sorry...

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

I've never been called. Both my dad and husband have been so I'm sort of doubting that "no prejudice given to sex" thing.

Stephanie in Suburbia said...

And I see a group of people who would be as bad on a jury as I would be :)

Amanda @ It's Blogworthy said...

OH, my jury duty experience was horrendous. It was a "battery" case, but just a bunch of trashy people fighting. One guy supposedly threw one of the girls up against a wall. And sure, I think he did, but it was clearly it was so she wouldn't continue beating the crap out of another girl. Not that it makes it any better, but I became very disillusioned with the process. We found him guilty because of a technicality (technically, touching her when she didn't want it is battery). So next time I'm called I'm going to tell them that little story and see if I can get out of it.