JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

One Day Or One Trial

I used to like jury duty, in fact I used to really want to be selected, but after four full trials, and especially after the experience with the dirty cops, I think I have it out of my system. Plus I’ve started working on the Asimov video, based on the taped phone call from 1966, and I hope to use the momentum to finally get to work on the Channing video that I’ve been promising for so long.

So I wasn’t very eager to report for jury duty this morning. 

But I figured I’d have a ready excuse to get out of actually serving.

Question 9 on the Juror Information Questionaire: Would you be less likely to believe the testimony of a police officer or other law enforcement officer just because of his/her job? I answered “Yes” of course.

Actually the truth is a bit more nuanced. I could probably truthfully answer either yes or no. If I were a juror on a drug case and all the testimony were presented by police officers, I don’t think I’d ever be able to vote to convict, but in another kind of case where there are many witnesses besides police officers, I think I could more evenly judge their testimony.

In any case, I was called up pretty quickly to a criminal case, and once I got there with the other potential jurors the juices started flowing and I began to think serving on another jury might not be so bad. I do so enjoy passing judgment on people.

But it didn’t take long before I was excused along with about a dozen others. I was never even asked a question.

The rest of the morning passed quite boringly in the assembly room, and we were given an hour and fifteen minutes for lunch.

When I returned, it didn’t take long before I was called up for a civil case. Uh-oh. Usually no cops involved in those.

This time it took a lot longer. The judge gave a statement about the importance of the jury system and she expected audience participation when she asked what was the other important civic duty. On the third try, the jurors yelled “Voting” loudly enough to satisfy her.

Then the attorneys introduced themselves and named their clients and the people involved in the case. And there was a problem. Because of my slight hearing problem, the echoing acoustics in that courtroom made it difficult for me to understand them when they named the people. Normally I can understand what folks are saying if I miss a word because I can figure it out from the context, but when they were just reading off a list of names, some very unusual names at that, and the sounds are echoing, I couldn’t hear clearly. Aha! There was my out.

So when they called me in to interview me individually, I mentioned that. But the court officer said that they have headphones I can wear to fix that. So that little ploy didn’t work. They asked me a few things about my employment, etc., and whether I had ever owned a house. Oh, I did? How long ago? 2013.

As we waited, they began excusing people. I was not one of the ones excused.

To help pass the time I asked the court clerk about getting a trial transcript from the murder trial in 1988 where I had been a juror. There had been so many sidebars, and the judge had suppressed so much testimony, that I had always been curious to see what was actually going on. He gave me the information on how to go about getting the notes, as he called them, but he suggested that I might just want to try to get a look at them if they already existed in some format. The trial had lasted about three weeks, and from what he told me I estimated that the transcript would cost upwards of $7,500. I’m not that curious.

Some more folks were dismissed and I began to resign myself to settling in for the week. They had said the trial would last through Friday, so I began to plan for lunches (the Reading Terminal Market, of course) and just generally getting myself into a juror frame of mind. Would I want to be a foreman again? Probably not. Been there, done that three times.

A three day trial wouldn’t be too bad, and the day wouldn’t start until 9:30, so I could work on the videos for an hour or so in the mornings. The more I thought about it, I realized that I could probably enjoy a three day trial.

Then they came out and called about half of us into a room.

Wait a minute! You mean they didn’t select me? Why not? What’s wrong with me? I can be fair! I can be impartial! Hey, why didn’t you pick me goddamit!!!