Saturday, February 12, 2011

Eye, the Jury

I had jury duty on Friday for the second time in 2 years.  I sincerely want to serve on a jury, which is something (else) that separates me from 90% of the population of Baltimore City.

When I got summoned in February of 2009, I blogged about the experience.  If you haven’t seen that post, I highly recommend reading it now.  It will make today’s post much easier to understand.  Just click here; I’ll wait.

For those too lazy pressed for time to check that post, the gist of it is that even though I wanted to be on a jury and got picked to be on a jury, I didn’t get to do anything jury-like except wait around.  We were seated on a Friday afternoon and when we came back on Monday, they held us in the jury room for two hours before bringing us out to tell us the trial could not go forward and “thank you for your service.” 

I was totally let down and I believe I coined the term “judicial blue-balls,” for what I was experiencing.

But I did learn some valuable lessons, the foremost being to make sure I do NOT have chili for dinner the night before.  Gas bubbles, closed quarters and hard wooden benches do not make for a comfortable experience.  And I almost blew it because Thursday morning, Pinky asked me if I’d prefer fish or chili for dinner and I answered “chili.”  Consequently, she didn’t take any fish out of the freezer.  It was about mid-day that I realized what I’d done, so when I got home and found that I was fresh out of Gas-X, I had to call an audible and have soup and sandwich for dinner.

The nuts and bolts of the day were pretty much as I described in my other jury duty post.  I sat in a big room and waited to get called up to do stuff.  The big difference here was that instead of having #008 like I did last time, I had #641.  There were a lot more people I had to wait out.

Another difference this time is how many more people have smart-phones.  And because I didn’t want to put on my MP3 player, lest I miss an announcement, I had to listen to a dozen cell phone conversations going on at once. 

Oh, and did I mention that all cell phones were supposed to be turned off inside the courtroom?  There are signs about it all over the building.  But I was in an “overflow” room where there was no adult supervision, so people were talking and texting like they were trying to overthrow the Egyptian government.

 Even with my “high” number, I still got called to a courtroom more quickly than the last time.  At 10:45, they called for jurors #402-731.  I was like, “Wow, that’s a huge number of jurors.”

But then once we got to the courtroom, there were only about 100, so then I was like, “Wow, there are a TON of people that just don’t show up for jury duty.”  But that’s OK… more justice for me.

The courtroom to which I was called was far nicer than the shabby "conference room" I was in last time.  But one thing that was the same was the “church pew” seating.  The hard backed wooden benches are NOT good for my back.  It’s also ironic that normally when you’re seated in church pews, you’re receiving guilt, not determining it.

I got through the voir dire (jury questioning) unscathed, just like last time… the only time I had to stand up was for the question about ever being a victim or perpetrator of a crime.  (I was a victim, damn it!  My car got broken into in 2008.)  But there was a guy behind me that must have been very determined not to be a juror… he stood up for almost every question.  It was no surprise when he was dismissed, along with about 20-30 others.

After lunch, they got down to actually seating the jury.  This was where I became conscious of my relatively high number.  Starting in the low 400s, they called up 5 at a time to step forward and either seated or dismissed.  I’d say 1-2 out of every 5 got dismissed. So by the 4th call-up, they had 12 on the panel.  The lawyers diddled around a little more and changed their minds on two of the seated jurors and after 3-4 more call-ups, they had their final panel.

BUT, they still needed the alternate jurors, so NOW it’s my turn to go up.  Just my luck… I am now Alternate Juror #3.

Gah!  Alternate juror!!  I can’t believe it.  Being an alternate juror is like seeing a movie without the final reel.  It’s like seeing a play without Act VI.  It’s like a porno without the money shot. 

This isn’t as much judicial blue-balls, as having your grandmother walk in on you when you’re banging the Head Cheerleader.
“I was like, ‘OhmyGod’ and then he was like, ‘OhmyGod’ and then we were both like OHMYGOD!”
Picture from thedailylonghorn.blogspot.com

So as it was still early, they moved us again; out of the nice courtroom and into another shabby-"conference-room" courtroom, to start the trial.  First, everyone went to the jury room to stow our things and bitch about having to be on a jury.  Gah!  All these dipshits are complaining and here I am, 3rd alternate and dying to be an honest-to-God jury dude.  That means three other jurors would have to be removed before I would get to play.

Hmm… there were at least three people on their cell phones, surfing and texting from the jury room.  Maybe I can rat them out to the clerk.  Food for thought…

So, we go out to take our seats so the trial can get started.  I’m aghast at where I have to sit.  Obviously, there are only 12 regular jury seats for the 12 jurors.  The two alternates and I are on chairs beside the jury box, like kids at the card table for Thanksgiving dinner.  And me, the guy who likes to stay in the back of the room, in the corner, out of everyone’s way, is right there up by the front rail with my big old legs and big old feet hanging out there in the middle of the courtroom.

The seating is pre-determined, so I don’t have any choice but to sit there.  And to make matters worse, the witness stand is about 5 feet to my immediate right.  So when the defense lawyer got up to stand in front of the jury box to question the first witness, it was like they were talking right over my head.  I feel like I’m the elephant in the room.

You can tell what I mean, right?  Do I have to draw you a picture?

OK, I will:
That’s the lawyer guy on the left.  A court artist, I am not.

The trial is expected to last until Wednesday or Thursday.  Basically, my job is to stay focused during the trial, take good notes and be sure that no one trips over my feet.  And I better make sure I wear my clean socks and don’t step in anything foul on my way to court.  If any jurors don’t show up or in some way get caught using a cell phone from inside the building, we Alternates will replace them, like the Pod People do.

Then once the prosecution and defense rest, if all the original jurors are still there, they’ll go into the jury room and deliberate.  And my Alternate friends and I will go home.

With a serious case of deliberatus interruptus.

Note: Obviously I can’t go into the nature of the trial until it’s over.  I will have another post at that time with my observations on the trial.  I mean, what’s the point of experiencing anything if you can’t blog about it?

Completely Unrelated Note: May I offer the warmest congratulations and best wishes to my Blog Friend/Real Friend/Honorary Sister, Cassie and her husband Matt, who on Thursday gave birth to Maelie Julianne, who really should have been named Jordan Sydney.  All are doing well and you can read about all the birthing stuff right here.  

Uncle Bluz is just pleased as punch!

27 comments:

  1. Welcome to Maelie Julianne. Happy Parenthood, Cassie and Matt. Lovely, lilting name.

    Clean socks next week, fersure. You deserve a chance to serve. I hope you get to play in the real game. Jury duty is a special education, as you know and will discover, I'm sure.

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  2. Well, I can't serve, but at least I can show up. Maybe next year...

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  3. I've gotten summoned twice. Once I went and wasn't selected and the second time I had just moved to a different parish and no longer qualified. I, however, have no desire to serve on a jury. My husband, on the other hand, is dying to.

    And there should be no such thing as alternate #3. Do they really think they're going to burn through 4 jurors?

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  4. Uncle Bluz!!!

    I was summoned and couldn't serve because I was REALLY SUPER pregnant with Claire. In fact, I had her the next day.

    I'm super glad you get to at least have your Law and Order moment in the sun :)

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  5. Jessica,
    Knowing how many general fuckups there are in B'more, I don't doubt that they sometimes need that many jurors.

    In fact there was a big problem last year when the Mayor was on trial for stealing donated gift cards... one of the jurors was posting Facebook messages with other jurors, during the trial. Outside contact is strictly forbidden. And already, judging from how many people are completely disregarding the ban on cell phone use, I can see where jurors get booted.

    Cassie,
    Technically, I'd be her "Blog Uncle," right? I'm a Bluncle!

    Wow, 2 days after giving birth and she's already surfing blogs. What a trouper!

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  6. Congrats on the birth of your friends baby.

    Sorry about the jury duty.

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  7. Bluz, you know how I adore your photography, and now I discover that you can draw!! How exciting is this?

    I do not want to be on a jury. If I committed a crime and had to have a jury trial, my chances of getting an actual jury of my peers is slim to none! My peers are artists, writers, bloggers, Democrat golfers, and highly intelligent sports fans like yourself. See what I'm sayin' here?

    Oh, and by the way, I have a couple of very interesting valentines on my post right now. Check 'um out!!

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  8. Judie,
    That picture I drew is Exhibit A for why I'm not a cartoonist, which was one of my early ambitions.

    Yes, I'm with you. If I'm ever on trial in this city, I am truly screwed on that "jury of my peers" ideal. There were people called in that make that People of WalMart website look like a catalog from the William Morris Agency.

    Cassie,
    You're here again? Shouldn't you have your boob in your daughter's mouth or something? You're a true friend. Wait, better than that... you're my Blog Sister... my "Blister." And I'm your "Blother."

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  9. A Bluncle? is that like a carbuncle? HAHAHAHA!

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  10. Judie,
    That's what a bluncle drives.

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  11. Would you please effing comment on my doggie valentines? I would do it for you!!!! and more!!!!

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  12. "Judicial blue balls." BAHAHAHAHA! I've managed to make it to the ripe old age of... yeah, whatever -- without having to do jury duty. But I'm so happy to know there are actually people like you who are enthusiastic at the prospect, however baffling I actually view that level of duty and responsibility.

    I'll be praying for three jurors to simultaneous fall down a manhole on their way to court so you can get your big jury break.

    Truthfully, they'd be lucky to have you.

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  13. Judie,
    What, visits don't count?

    Jayne,
    It's not that I have some elevated level of responsibility... I'm just really curious about the whole process. I want to see, for real, how it all works. TV may come close, (although usually not,) but there is no substitute for real life.

    Chances are, once I actually go through it all, I may become so disappointed in the system it fouls it for me for good. We'll see.

    Hmmm, open manhole... that's an idea. They're always working on the pipes under the city...

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  14. I just want you to know that I have forwarded this post to every attorney I know.

    (Which is, somewhat surprisingly, a lot. They will come in handy when I finally get thrown in the pokey is all I'm saying.)

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  15. I was once dismissed from jury selection because I remembered reading about the murder in the newspaper. (Although not enough details were given at that time for me or anyone to have a real opinion.) I figured if that's the way they choose jurors here in Lucas County, I'd never have a chance to serve. God forbid you follow current events or show an ability to read. And so I consequently lost interest in serving at all. How do they ever manage with high-profile cases?

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  16. Sorry! And thanks for the comment. I hope you know that isn't MY dog in the picture!

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  17. Mrs. Bachelor Girl
    I appreciate any and all forwards, even if it IS to lawyers.

    And what is it that YOU'RE going to get arrested for, over-decorating? Dangling a participle? Using the word "hopefully?"

    Sherry
    I read that nowadays, mere knowledge of a crime no longer routinely dismisses a juror for a case, as long as they swear they can come to an unbiased decision.

    But around here, it's not hard to find people that are oblivious to current events.

    Judie
    Thank God it wasn't YOU that dressed that dog that way. (Or did you dress someone else's dog?)

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  18. The first time I got summoned I ended up sitting on the jury and was selected foreman. They must have liked that I was an elementary school teacher at the time. It was a little weird, but a great experience. But not one that I'd like to repeat.

    A weird side note: I ended up seeing the woman who was being tried on drug charges, one night while driving in my car. And even weirder: she waved to me. (Obviously we acquitted her.)

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  19. I sound painful...blister. But I guess I am a woman.

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  20. Guy
    In no way do I want to be the foreman, at least the 1st time out. Can a person "decline" the honor? It ought to be like the NFL coin flip, when you can "defer".

    I don't want to run the meeting or guide the discussion. I want to sit quietly on the side and occasionally come up with a brilliant observation that makes everyone go, "Ooooooh! He's right." Then I'll go back to smoking my pipe and looking serious.

    Cassie,
    Yes, you're a woman that just squeezed 3 croquet-ball sized heads out your bajinga in 3 years and lived to tell the tail. What's a blister, compared to that?

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  21. I've never been called for jury duty, but Mr. DG has been. He showed up a day late and was almost incarcerated for contempt of court. I'll be interested to hear about your experience, after the fact, of course.

    As far as the quality of juries, you could always opt for a bench trial. That, too, is fraught with risk, however.

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  22. DG,
    Ooh, day late? Not good. Good thing you're not married to an ex-con now, huh?

    I'm posting as I can, with fresh stuff today. Not sure about tomorrow... will be a full day. I'll have to see what happens. Wish I could Tweet from inside, in real time, but then I'd be attending another trial right quick... mine.

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  23. Best line: "so people were talking and texting like they were trying to overthrow the Egyptian government." LMAO!!

    I was Alternate #1 on a very interesting case in California many years ago. The only thing that sucked?? No jurors dropped out - so after sitting through days of testimony, forming my opinion, I wasn't allowed to deliberate! Not even to sit with the jurors quietly. Nada. One clerk did call me after the case was decided and told me the verdict and award, which I thought was really nice - especially for government service.

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  24. Kernut,
    Still no jurors dropping out. We're supposed to get the case on Wednesday, so it looks like I'll be saying my goodbyes then.

    I've traded emails with one of the other jurors, so I'll be able to get a flavor of what happened in the room.

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  25. But that’s OK… more justice for me.

    You are a sick, sick man. And sort of talk like a superhero.

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  26. Mundane,
    Finally! Someone acknowledges that line! I loved that one.

    And hey, that could be a new Super Hero show: Bluz Justice! Featuring the Flying Guitar Picks of Death! Then I'd tie them up with my guitar strap and put them behind Whammy Bars.

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