Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jury Blogging

I served on jury duty this week for three days, the first simply sitting in the jury pool, reading, checking email, jockeying for power outlets; the second and third actually participating in the jury selection process for an alleged criminal arms possession case. The latter part was pretty fascinating, but since you can't exactly live blog such a procedure, what follows is a selection of highlights from all three days.

Day One
  • Guy sitting next me is trying to access wireless Internet when his Mac laptop crashes and he screams like a little girl. His way of getting out of jury duty?
  • General activity first two days: watching 60+ year old men (potential jurors) flirting with girls a few years my junior, taking them to lunch, and so on.
Day Two
  • Guy sitting near me has 20+ minute animated conversation about politics and basketball with himself. His way of getting out of jury duty?
  • The court officer who escorts us to the courtroom looks exactly like Chris Elliott with long hair in the back. No, I mean, exactly. Of course, this means I cannot stop looking at him.
  • In jury selection now and one woman confesses that just looking at the defendant, she believes he (a young Hispanic gentleman) must be guilty. She admits she would vote with her "gut" and could not make a judgment simply upon the evidence or the lack thereof. Her way of getting out of jury duty?
  • One guy in the front row is playing with his belt, opening it, closing it, bending his head way down to examine it, much to the alarm of the court officers. His way of getting out of jury duty?
Day Three
  • Sixty-something year old man confesses he believes in profiling and might not be able to separate this belief - and what he knows about statistically valid stereotypes - from the need to judge someone fairly. He is congratulated by the defending attorney for his honesty.
  • Others similarly express support for the Police and their tendency to give men in uniform the benefit of the doubt where their veracity is concerned over other human folks. (Near as I can tell, all of these people were dismissed as jurors without exclusion.)
  • Many - upwards of half even - of the potential jurors were not born in the United States. Several could not speak English. One had lived here since 1964 and couldn't speak English. 5 years longer than I've been alive.
  • A white woman sitting near me tutted quite audibly at these non-English speakers. Afterwards, she approached the sixty-something gent above (the profiling fan) and told him she would've said the same thing. Nice to see people so self-congratulatory in their bigotry.
Overall, it was a fascinating process and I was glad to serve. If not for a mountain of work awaiting me at my desk, I'd love to have been selected and to have heard the entire case. I barely missed the questioning process though, as I came back for a third days, as they were down one juror after two round of questioning on my day two. Interestingly enough, most people get dismissed for one reason or another. Of course, when some folks say something, it's pretty fascinating to watch the attorneys begin scribbling away in earnest, and you just know that person isn't going to make the cut. I have to say that people I saw who did seemed to be the most impartial - insofar as you can tell, given so little questioning and follow up.

Almost makes me wish I'd studied law.

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