bounced: my life as juror #36

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Friday, April 13, 2007

I have been working on a jury post and it has been a struggle to not include every bleeping detail -- but I'd rather give the bleeping details of the Simic reading and I realize there is limited patience for bleeping details! (personally, I love bleeping details, for with them I could tell about the guy obsessed with 2001: A Space Odyssey and the mysterious jury room quote "well, you know Wagner -- they're all Ilsa!", but I can be brief, practice brevity. whatever.)

Friday: arrive at courthouse and realize I am one of about 150 potential jurors for a murder/conspiracy case from about 10 years ago. After people who have successfully petitioned the judge to leave have left, the computer draws a random sampling of 75 people who then get a 16 page questionnaire to fill out. I am one of those 75. Everyone else goes home. I wonder briefly if it is overkill to list both Dick Cheney AND GWB in the "3 people I admire the least" question. (I do leave a note that if they are considering people from all of history, please add Hitler.) Due to my randomly generated number -- 36 -- I am told to come back on Tuesday at 1:30. They take my picture and slap it onto my questionnaire. I have visions of lawyers arguing about it ("she looks shifty!") but what can you do?

Tuesday: I am back, and 1:30 is apparently a hilarious joke in court time. 3:30 comes and goes, then we are finally escorted into the courtroom where the voir dire (jury questioning) gets underway. The defense attorney goes first, and I am actually asked a fair number of questions, which surprises me since I don't consider myself to be controversial in any way. The District Attorney takes much less time with his questions, yet still asks me more than one. I am now regretting verbosity in my questionnaire. 5:00 rolls around, which unlike 1:30 is no joke in the courtroom and therefore the day is over. We're told to plan on coming back at 10:30 Wednesday, unless we get a call by 7pm telling us we don't have to. No phone call.

Wednesday: I take the train downtown and feel like a good citizen/commuter. Today I am stashed in a different jury room (the allegedly "more comfortable" one, which is maybe a foot wider, but smells like pee), but don't have to wait long -- we file into the courtroom, and I notice that between the two groups that are left there are only about 30 people. Someone made a lot of phone calls. The judge asks a couple of questions (did any of you see either the district attorney or defense counsel coming into the building?), and then says " this is how it's going to work -- I'm going to read off the 15 names that have been selected, and the rest of you can go home." Now, seriously -- why did they make 30 people come in when they already knew which 15 they wanted? I know they need some leeway, but come on! I was NOT selected -- there was a period of a few hours right after where I felt rejected and ridiculous until I started inventing outrageous reasons why I wasn't picked. (my favorite: "It's obvious that you are wise like Solomon, which makes the judge uncomfortable.") Then I went to the library to drop off a book and ran into one of the librarians who said that they will totally bounce you in this kind of case if it looks like you have any kind of social conscience at all. Whew! Then I found this quote (from the above site) " Trial lawyers with cases to win don't necessarily want conscientious juries, only ones favorable to their side. In weak cases, the best approach to be taken by lawyers may be to choose jurors who are easily swayed by their feelings or easily confused. This may lead to the removal of the most capable and impartial jurors from a panel," and felt even better. (For myself. I feel worse for justice.) I think it would have been very interesting to see how it all happens from the inside (instead of from television, which if the answers given by some of my fellow potential jurors is any indication, is a PROBLEM), but it didn't work out that way. I know I've done my civic duty, but I was willing to do more. (and I am compelled to add that I am totally fair!! )
3 comments on "bounced: my life as juror #36"
  1. Hi Jen,
    I saw a lovely photo you took at Gleneden Beach (27May06 posting), and I was wondering if you would give me permission to use it in a brochure I am making for a research meeting. We are non-profit, and the brochure would go only to about 600 or so skin researchers in academia. Your photo would show them how beautiful is the Oregon coast (our meeting is at Gleneden Beach). To see more about our conference, see You can contact me through that site, I won't use the photo if I don't hear from you. Many thanks. --Loa

  2. Excellent bleeping post and I loved all the bleeping details that you included. The wheels of justice seem to be just like the wheels on the bus. The going 'round and 'round part, you know.

  3. But I didn't include any details!! Did I tell you about the fake-ho-ho-jolly-loudtalker that I almost pushed down the stairs? No! Did I tell you about the guy working in the little convenience store in the courthouse who insisted that "diet" on diet coke meant "dying to eat"??? and how I would have pushed him down the stairs too if it weren't for the fact that we were on the ground floor? NO!

    But I'm glad you liked it anyway! My brush with jury duty was an interesting experience (for me), that's for sure.


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