Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Duty Sucks

For the fifteenth time, or something like that, I had jury duty again. Round these parts, they call you in for one day, and if not seated on a jury, your service is over. At least until next year, when you may or may not, get called again.

The last time I was called was about nine years ago, so I thought the system had really forgotten about me.
I expect to start getting called more often when the house is finalized. The new digs are in the next county, and last time I lived there I was called up every year. And I lived there over eight years.

As is the way it works for me, I get assigned to a jury panel, but never called beyond that. So, I spend all day fighting off sleep in the jury room, an occasional jaunt to a courtroom where they ask questions of almost everybody else, sent back to the jury room and instructed to return after lunch.
After and hour and a half for lunch,I'm told sit in the jury room until 4pm, and then sent home for the year.

I ache to get on a jury and actually decide a case. But when I never make the first 'cut', I find it hard to believe I'll ever get that chance.

So, the topic for discussion:
Have many of you have ever served on a jury?
Was it a good, juicy, chainsaw-style murder case?
Was it a cool thing to do, or just kind of a drag?

15 comments:

Kristopher said...

They say juries are comprised of twelve people too stupid to get out of jury duty.

Allan said...

The jury I was on was comprised of twelve people who were more interested in having an effect on society --however small-- than in passing the buck.

Having said that, it was mercifully short. A minor traffic-related case (as opposed to the juicy murder case going on upstairs) that afforded a low-impact means of participating and learning the process. Our deliberations took about twenty minutes, and were longer than the testimony phase of the trial. The defendant was a fool and acted as his own lawyer (but I repeat myself), and made such a mess of his case that the decision was fairly easy but for a few questions of procedure and police conduct.

Personally, I enjoyed it. I had previously gotten out of jury duty (for good reasons), but had always wanted to have the opportunity to serve in favorable circumstances.

Bike Bubba said...

I've been called once officially, for a case where a young lady accused a young man of stalking, but didn't bother to show up for the trial. I wasn't chosen, but given that basic fact, I think I'd acquit simply because the accused didn't have the opportunity to confront his accuser.

And I've been called a few times by the wrong county. My address appeared ambiguous to their computer, I guess.

I'd be willing to serve if chosen, but that hasn't happened yet.

Strolling Amok said...

I have never been called for jury duty. If I was I probably wouldn't get selected since I have a paralegal degree. Lawyers generally don't like having anyone who knows anything about the law on juries.
My sister server on a jury in a drive-by gang shooting trial once. She was really interested in it but found it intimidating having someones whole future riding on her decision.

Brian said...

I've got it tomorrow. I'll let you know.

Of the three times I was called before, they went:

1)Grand Jury summons--got excused outright b/c I was a full-time student.

2)Sat around in the pool all morning, was #37 of 50 for a case where they were going to seat 18...(12 and 6 alternates) but they never got around to interviewing me and I was excused shortly after lunch.

3)Was in a pool of 12 to seat 6 for a DUI case...I was the one the prosecution struck...presumably b/c of my answer to what I thought about the reliability of analytical instruments generally and breathalyzers specifically.

I am fairly certain I will never be seated on a jury, unless the prosecutor is nearly incompetent.

Jade said...

I was called for jury duty 3 times. The second two were post-daughter being born, and at the time I had no alternative care for her so I never had to go in.

The first time was shortly after I found out I was pregnant, actually, but I hadn't told anybody yet... so my experience is tainted by the fact that I was so horribly tired I could barely keep my eyes open for more than an hour at a time.

The trial was a domestic dispute. They were looking for 12 jurors and 6 alternates. I was somewhere around number 24, so I sat in the court room while the first 18 people took their seats in the jury box and in front. They were all asked a series of monotonous questions by the judge...
"Have you ever been convicted of a felony"
"What is your opinion of police officers"
blah blah blah. About 25 questions each... repeat 18 times.
Once those were asked, the lawyers excused a few people based on their answers, then some people from the audience took their places in the seats. At that point I was next in line.
The new people were asked the same series of questions... quickly... and when none of them were excused it went to the lawyers.

The lawyer questions were interesting. They were trying to predict people's reactions to the case without telling us what the case was about. The defendant (A man) had a female lawyer. She asked her series of questions of the jury first - a lot of looong drawn out hypothetical situation questions - using a slow voice as if she were talking to first graders. A lot of questions about alcohol use - do you know how it affects people? Do you have a personal bias against people who consume alcohol for recreational purposes?

The prosecutor (a man) was short, to the point, and talked to the potential jury as if they were adults.

Neither of them could say what the case was about, I guess... but the questions painted a picture that had me already biased.

The guy got drunk, got in a fight with his girlfriend. The police were called... they pressed charges for assault because he clearly hit her, but when it came time to go to court she wouldn't testify against him (either out of fear or loyalty)... so it would just be the police taking the stand.

By the end of the day the lawyers excused about 5 more jurors (3 had a bias against alcohol use) and I was called up to sit in the alternate chairs. I already knew I'd be excused by the series of questions the judge was going to ask, but by that time it was the end of the day... so I had to get up early the next morning and show up for jury duty again.

5 minutes into the next morning, the judge excused me for having a personal bias against men who hit women for any reason.

Leo Pusateri said...

I've been called for jury duty three times. Never served on a jury.

Maybe because when they're interviewing and they ask, "Do you have any questions?" I say, "Yeah, where do you guys keep the electric chair?"

Somehow, they never choose me.

Gino said...

leo: i would love just to even get that far.

Kristopher said...

Allan,

You have to understand what I do for a living to know why I said about juries.

Allan said...

Oh, I know, Kristopher; while it's not my profession, I do come from a law enforcement family. But some jurors take their responsibilities pretty seriously.

Guitarman said...

You must be one of the 10 percent that actually votes in your county! I got in on a rape case. It really was not a fun experience. The gal was built like Dolly Parton. There were 2 trials. The other young man who was involved in this was the nephew of a Wright County detective. The county attorneys I swear didn't care if the jury made the right decision as long as we put this kid behind bars just so they could say they won. it was like justification for their paycheck that they actually had a case that went to trial. Then they dragged it out for 2 weeks. Making it worse I was going through a divorce and not thinking clearly. I pray I don't have to go through this again.

Brian said...

Never mind. Got excused last night. In fact, the entire pool for the county court that was to show up today was excused last night...which makes me wonder about the sheer inefficiency of the scheduling system here...

Mark Heuring said...

Got called twice when I lived in the Chicago area, not once since I've been here. I have the same issue as SA; I worked for a very large law firm in Chicago. They were seating a jury for a murder case and when they got to me, the defense attorney asked me how many lawyers I knew. I said, "about 250 or so." He thanked me for my time and sent me on my way.

kr said...

'Been called 5 or 6 times; excused all but one time (college, working 400 miles away, college, being a nursing mother, being a nursing mother).

The one time (between college and kids ;) ), I actually got into the courtroom(!) and they were picking 12+ 2 alternates out of 26 or so; I was #14 to start with, but then I was the second one kicked out by a lawyer (the defense).

Too bad for the defense, actually, because the 'victim' was giving off such smug 'I'mso smart I'm totally pulling it over on you guys' vibes, in his arm wrap and sling, that I was pretty sure he was faking the extent of his injuries, although certainly I was willing (in fact hoping) to hear decent testimony from the treating medical professional(s) to countermand my instinctual irritation at being in the same room with him ... I prefer to think better of people than I was thinking of him! (This would be another case, now that I am aware of the pattern, of a man just having NO idea what, or presumably that, he is signaling. Strongly.) On the other hand, the defense seemed to be stacking a house of cards. Like most human interactions, I guess, everyone out for themselves and honesty takes a back seat. Yuck.

It was a dog-bite case with a pitbull cross. In direct response to the question, 'have you heard or read anything that suggests pitbulls are a dangerous breed?,' I allowed as to how it was my understanding that pitbull crosses were statistically more likely to attack people, but also that I was fully aware that statistics don't apply to the individual case. And I was deeply horrified that not one other potential juror of the 14 of us then being interviewed volunteered a yes, because who the heck hasn't heard reports that pitbull-crosses are "more" prone to attack? Especially since this was in a country at that time still 3/4 rural--it's not like dog breeds would be an outre subject of conversation. So I was unimpressed with a system that essentially by (stupid) design picked a significant number of jurors who were liars, or just didn't care enough about the process to be honest, or who were prevaricating in order to make it past the interview hurdle and onto an actual case (several people in the juror's waiting-room had mentioned that they were determined to make it through 'this time').

I later heard that the selected jury showed up the next day to be told that the parties had settled the night before. Which I suppose is its own form of justice. : P.

The last time I was called, I was in equal measure distressed/relieved, disappointed/glad I was nursing, because I was called to Grand Jury duty: day-yam, that was a responsibility I was just floored to be faced with! And for the big-city county, too, so it would have been all the Very Intense cases that urbanization causes ... (!).

Oof, and the next time I am called, I guess I won't have any automatic-outs anymore. Stopping nursing also means, speaking of delayed civic responsibilities, that I might be able to donate blood finally ;).

kr said...

in a 3/4 rural COUNTY, not country, I meant