Thursday, November 4, 2010

Civic Duty

Things I Learned at Jury Duty:

* You cannot serve on a jury if you have committed a felony.  And if you stand up and shout that you have committed two felonies and also your brother is in jail right now, you can be pretty sure you will not get selected.  We all knew that dude would get to go home and I found myself thinking, enviously, Man, I wish I'd committed a couple of felonies.  Oh, wait.

* You do not need to be particularly sane to get called to jury duty.  You might get dismissed if you act crazy, but depending who's side you're on, I'm not fully convinced that an attorney would cut someone from the jury just based on crazy.

* People are surprising sympathetic to pregnant ladies.  And I totally milked it for all it's worth.  I got to move to the front of the line in the bathroom and I got to leave the court to take an extra bathroom break while the attorneys were talking to the judge in side bar. 

* Sitting in straight-backed, pew-like benches with no cushion is good for my posture but hard on my hips.

* People say the darnedest things to get out of jury duty.

The first case I got called up on was a personal injury case involving a woman suing a taxi cab company.  We were all asked if we had any really bad or really good experiences with cab companies that might bias us in some way. 

Suddenly, I was one of those people who say the darnedest things.  I stood up and said yes, the last time I road in a cab in St. Louis (which was several years ago), the driver was a maniac and he hit a dog and killed it and it was very traumatic for me.

The prosecutor asked me if I could set that aside and be fair and impartial.  I said no.

I did not add that I was hysterical after the cab driver hit the dog and once we got back to our apartment, I insisted David drive us back to the scene of the accident even though we had taken the cab initially because we had no business driving.  I thought we would find the dog and take it to the doggie ER and save it but we actually never found the dog.  Possibly because we were both totally wasted. 

So, although that would have been the whole story, I did not feel that was pertinent information to share with the court (with the internet, though, of course--totally different). 

Many people, though, do not have personal boundaries.  I heard about people getting sued for not paying bills, people who were in violent relationships, people whose relatives were in abusive relationships, people who have arthritis, who have four kids under the age of three, who think that only God can judge people and therefore they would refuse to deliberate if they were put on a jury.

Can you be held in contempt for that?  

So I got dismissed from the first jury but had to return the next day, where I sat on a panel for a criminal case involving domestic violence.  The defendant was in the room, which was totally creepers because he looked like a creep (a creep I would, of course, have presumed innocent).  His lawyer was obnoxiously assertive and repetitive, although I understood why he had to ask the same questions over and over again (because people are idiots). 

People said even crazier things in that panel.  The very attractive, well-dressed gentleman next to me stood up and said his sister had been a victim of domestic violence and he had no tolerance for men who are violent to women.  Then he stood up a few minutes later (out of the blue) to "also tell the court" that after his sister was hurt, he and his friends attacked her husband and kicked the shit out of him (I paraphrase).  He claimed he was not proud of what they had done.  Really?  Then why are you telling us about it?

One man fell asleep in the jury box and had to be awakened by the bailiff.  The same man later said that domestic violence cases don't belong in criminal court.  Instead, "they should go to church, get forgiveness from God, and have make up sex."

Everyone on the jury panel giggled at that except for me because I couldn't hear what he had said and then the bailiff yelled at everyone that we were still in court and then I had to ask the kid next to me (not the one who beat up his brother-in-law) what the guy had said.

One woman stood up to say that she had witnessed domestic violence when her son beat up his girlfriend and yes the police were called but her son was not arrested because he was gone before the police arrived.  His dad had picked him up.  She thought she could set that incident aside and still be fair and impartial in this case.  Uh-huh.  Sure.

One person stood up in the jury box to say he thought the defendant might look familiar, but he didn't know from where.  "Would that be a distraction for you?"  "No, probably not."  Evidently, he just wanted to share that with everyone in the room and steal another minute of our lives away.

Needless to say, it was a long day.  The bailiff was a young guy and he was very nice to me and told me to just wave my hand any time I needed a bathroom break.  He also asked me twice if I was doing ok.  It was almost odd that he was so nice but then another court officer explained that the bailiff's wife is pregnant, so he was obviously sympathetic, which I definitely appreciated.

At one point, the defense attorney asked if anyone on the jury panel would describe themselves as "emotional or sensitive."  I swear that everyone sitting near me swiveled their head in my direction!  So then I refused to raise my hand (even though I would probably describe myself as emotional or sensitive when not pregnant) because I was like WTF people just because I'm pregnant does not mean I am irrational or incapable of having an open mind about Mr. Creeper Defendant and his four previous felonies.  I mean, seriously.

At any rate, I didn't have to worry about it because I got dismissed from that trial as well.

I have to say, it was a most interesting experience but not one I would eagerly do again. 

And I pray that I do not get wrongfully accused of a crime because I certainly would have qualms about being judged by a jury of my "peers." 

1 comment:

  1. Hey Brooke! It's Emily, Abby's sister. I wanted to stop by and say THANK YOU for sewing the bag! I love it and it is perfect. The bag works well when you have a baby on your hip and just need to run into a few stores. You should make one for yourself. :) I find that diaper bags are kind of a pain. Also, I have a question. I went out with some girlfriends on Wednesday night and one of my friends spilled some beer on it. Do you think I could put it in the washing machine or should I hand wash it in the sink? Of course, the first night out with it something gets spilled. Most of the beer went on my jeans. Boo.
    Thanks again and congrats on getting out of jury duty. :)