Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hear ye! Hear ye!

No one likes to receive that little 4x6 postcard in the mail with "Jury Duty: Your Civic Obligation"  written in big blue letters on it. No one. Sure, they show you that video that has all those civilians talking about how jury duty was the greatest time in in their lives, and how it was so much fun and exciting, but I think those people got a free lunch to say those things. Jury duty stinks!
I was close to pulling a Liz Lemon.

Sidebar (pun intended) - whenever I say something stinks, as in it sucks, not smells, M always sniffs and says "I don't smell anything!" Love her.

After deferring my call to duty a year, I finally had to attend jury duty yesterday. I figured I would try one last time to get out of it and called the telephone number they give you and explained to the person on the line that I was a stay at home mom, with limited child care (my sitter can only work Monday and Thursday mornings) and a husband that travels a lot for work, and no one else to watch my kids. The lovely woman on the other end of the line said to me, "that's your problem, figure it out." I could tell that she loves her job working for the state of Massachusetts! (Please, note the sarcasm.) So, I was stuck with the very last date possible in my year of deferment, yesterday.

I was nervous as hell yesterday morning when I got up. Nervous to the point of breaking out in hives on the side of my face. What should I wear? I don't want to be too dressed up because then they might pick me (why? I don't know.) I don't want to look too much like a scrub...because then they might pick me (I realize this made no sense, but every decision I made led to me thinking that I would be picked in the end.) I settled on nice jeans and a sweater, but snow boots, not leather boots because I didn't want to look like I was too fancy (ridiculous thoughts I know). Should I bring a snack? Will I be able to eat? Can I use my iPad? Should I bring a book? Where am I going to park? Should I get there early? Will that make me look anxious or will that give me a low number? 

I arrived at 7:40 and was one of the first people there. I was given my little card with the #29 on it. 29? Shit. That is a low number. I was for sure going to be called into a court room with a number like 29. And three hours of sitting in silence (with iPad of course) later I was called in the second group to line up. I surveyed the rag tag group of my peers - one thing we all had in common - we all looked miserable, and anxious that we were going to be chosen for an actual jury.

Now, I have been called for jury duty before, but never actually left the jury pool room. This was my first adventure into an actual courtroom as a potential jury member, and let me tell you it was eye opening.

Sitting there, in the first row, squished into this terribly uncomfortable wooden bench whose seat was actually angled up so it cut off the circulation of your legs (probably like that on purpose to torture potential jurors) I was visibly nervous, as was every other person in the room. You are asked to turn off all devices, and sit in silence. Have you ever been in a room with 100 other adults and sat in silence for a good hour? It is a very odd experience. I couldn't help but size up everyone else in the room and guess who would actually be chosen for the case...

...ah the case. Sitting at the defendants table were two lawyers and a very handsome young man (I'd say 20, tops). It was obvious that the young man was on trial, and I guessed robbery or something. Turns out he was on trial for murder (amongst other things)- a crime that was committed two years ago, when he was what, a teenager? I had all sorts of emotions running through me when I found out what he was charged with. Where does this kid come from? What made him get into a situation like this? What does his mother think about this? Does he have a wife? Kids? Is he guilty? He doesn't look guilty. He has such a kind face. Jesus, he is probably a sociopath. Ok, now I am nervous, sitting two feet away from a potential murderer. 

The judge then comes into the room and asks a series of questions to the people in the room, and if you feel like your answer is "yes" you raise your number and they record your answer. She asks things like "have you or anyone you know been a victim of gun violence?" or "do you believe everything that police say is the truth?" I didn't answer yes to any of her many questions, but they certainly got me thinking. Would I be able to be an impartial member of the jury? I see this kid here, all dressed up in probably the most expensive thing he owns, who comes from a bad part of town, and probably got mixed up in a bad situation with his friends - a situation you see on television all the time - and my first thought is, he probably did do it. He probably felt like he had no choice in life, and followed the fellow kids in his neighborhood into a terrible situation and things went south and someone got killed (possibly by him).

Why would I not believe everything a police officer says? I have friends that are cops, and they are honest men, why would they lie? Then of course I think about all the dirty cops you see on tv (yes most of my rational came from the hundreds of Law & Orders I have seen) so there are probably dirty cops in real life. Oh shit I hope I don't get picked for this...

After you answer the questions as a group, you are then called up individually to sidebar with the judge, the assistant district attorney, the two defense attorneys and the defendant. I watched as the girl sitting next to me in the courtroom (who was exasperated and miserable the entire time) was chosen for the jury and she said "you've got to be kidding me" as she was ushered upstairs to wait in the jury room. I watched as the young guy sitting next to me in the jury pool room was chosen (what was it with people sitting right next to me?) And I was shocked when the young girl, who raised her number in protest of most of the questions the judge asked the entire group, was the first to be chosen for the jury! I think she thought if she acted like she had a problem with everything she wouldn't get chosen - not so much!!

When it was my turn I was more nervous than I have been in years. I stepped up to the bench and got up close and personal to the judge as she whispered to me "we would love to have you serve on the jury and we think you would really find this case exciting and interesting, but are there any hardships that would prevent you from serving on this trial - anything out of your control?" I calmly explained (as the defendant and his lawyers stared me deep into my soul) to her that I am the sole care giver of two children, one of whom is only 19 months old, and that I don't have other child care options, as I have no family in the area and my husband is traveling for work. Thankfully this judge was sympathetic and excused me immediately.

I was so relived I wanted to do the Tiger Woods fist pump as I excited stage left. The bailiff told me I was free to go home and I ran for the elevators without looking back.

I know it is our civic duty as citizens of the United States to serve on a jury, but I don't want to ever have the fate of someone's life in my hands like that. I don't ever want to be part of the decision making process that might send someone to jail for the rest of their lives. That is way too much pressure. And then what if that person on trail was wrongly accused? That is a whole different story, one that I am glad I don't have to worry about right now.

For now I will stick to all my princess drama and leave all the legal drama to my husband, the lawyer.


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  2. Why would I not believe everything a police officer says? I have friends that are cops, and they are honest men, why would they lie? Then of course I think about all the dirty cops you see on tv (yes most of my rational came from the hundreds of Law & Orders I have seen) so there are probably dirty cops in real life. Oh shit I hope I don't get picked for this...