Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I should have stayed in Michigan

It's been an interesting week, and it's only Wednesday morning. Got back from vacation Sunday evening and was looking forward to easing back into work without much hassle. I knew there was a possibility I might end up at the DeKalb County Courthouse on Monday -- I'd gotten a summons for jury duty back at the beginning of June -- but I've known so many people who've been summoned but never had to serve that it never occurred to me that I'd be the exception. Besides, even if I did end up at the courthouse on Monday there's no way any attorney in his or her right mind would actually allow me to be seated on a jury.

I was wrong. I called Sunday evening, found out I did have to report to the courthouse. Got to the courthouse, and was in the first group of people called. Okay, it was still long odds for me to actually end up in a jury box: 50 people in the pool, and only 14 would end up seated. I got more and more hopeful I'd be one of the rejects as the attorneys went through the winnowing process -- I'm old, so there were a lot of questions I could answer yes to ("Do you know anyone who's been a victim of domestic violence?" "Do you ride MARTA?"[only 2 of us answered yes to that one and it's still a complete mystery as to why it was asked, unless it was to determine how comfortable we were around the unwashed masses] "Have you ever been a witness in a court case, either by giving a deposition or appearing in court?") . After asking the questions to the group as a whole (a process that ate up most of the morning), the attorneys followed up with the individuals who had given yes answers to get the details.

Maybe I shouldn't have referred to the Older Daughter's ex as an "abusive lout." It's possible the prosecutors saw this as a sign I didn't have much use for violent offenders. Still, I thought sure it would be the kiss of death when I said I'd taught sociology on the university level. Sociologists are notorious for being bleeding heart liberals and soft on crime because of our insistence on looking at context and talking about root causes. Wrong again.

So for the next few days I'll be sitting in a courtroom or a jury room from 8:30 a.m. until who knows when in the evening. We ran late Monday (the selection process took forever), we got out at a reasonable time yesterday because the judge had another court matter to take care of at 4:30, but the rest of this week is looking grim. Long, long witness list and a judge who's said the plan is for the trial to finish within its allotted time, i.e., by late Friday afternoon.

On the positive side, once this ends and it's ethical for me to discuss the case, I'm going to have a ton of material for a really long blog post. For now, I'm just going to be quietly relieved this is not a capital murder case.


  1. Jury duty seems to be a very odd thing. I'm in central Pennsylvania, and my wife has been called several times but I've never been called once.

    My wife was giving me the devil about my lack of civic minded ness once, we had been in the truck for several hours, and she really had me in a non escapable place.
    We got home and she was still on my case as we were walking across the porch, and I pulled out the mail from the box...and there it was!

    I said, I'm glad you think that way, dear, this is for you.

    She saw that the return address was the jury commission, and she said, "Oh, shit"!

    I gently remonstrated that here was the chance to demonstrate to crumudgeonly ol' me the virtue of civitas.

    She bent a look and offered words of such malignancy that I'm suprised my bones stayed inside my skin. Hee Hee.

    It was almost enough to make me consider the possibility of a deity.

    I know a county deputy who tells an interesting story.

    There was a very terrible murder, and out of a pool of over 400 just a couple of jurors could be seated.
    The judge had another four hundred summons's printed up and given to deputies and they went out among the community to serve them at random.

    He said that he and his partner were standing outside of a convenience store having a drink and a young woman approached them and asked what they were doing there.

    Partner says they were just taking a break from their duties. By the way, are you a resident of Blair county? She was. Was she over eighteen? (testily) she was.
    Then, this is for you, and hands her the summons.

    She asked what it was, was told, and wailed in dismay, "But what did I DO"?

    "Ya didn't listen to yer mother".

    "What do you mean"?

    "Didn't she tell ya not to speak to strangers"?

    She, too, said words that had them marveling that she kissed her loved ones with that same mouth.

    She was actually seated as an alternate, and my friend said that he tended to slink by that court room, because the looks she gave him were quite severe.

  2. You are proof that they don't get rid of all the smart people in the jury process.

    My husband gets called all the time, I only get called every 10 years or so and have never gotten out of the waiting room.

  3. I don't think that sitting on a jury would be anything I'd choose to do, but I'm glad that it's providing you with moments of hilarity like all that snoozing among you.

  4. Mauigirl is also on jury duty at the present time. I received my notice in May - and have yet to hear anything - which at the moment, is fine by me.


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