I survived jury duty yesterday! I didn't get chosen to serve on any cases. I didn't even get picked to be interviewed to be chosen to serve on any cases. Basically, I got paid for a day of sitting around and doing nothing. Kind of like my days as a mall arcade manager.
Since I would have loved to find some info like this out there before I reported for my first jury duty, I'll write up a blow-by-blow account of how my day went. Maybe someone will find this sometime and it'll help them out.
The first thing I did to prepare for the day, at 7:00 AM, was to sleep through my alarm clock.
At 7:45 I woke up, checked clock, screamed a girly scream, and quickly ran through showering, dressing, etc.
My sister Jo works near the county courthouse where I had to report, and had offered to scoop me up on the way. She picked me up at 8.
I was told to report at the courthouse at 9:00 AM. I arrived at 9:30, but it was all good since they allow for up to an hour of lateness.
I went through the metal detector, which was in my opinion far too easy. People who set off the alarm - myself included - were only asked by the officers to lift their pant legs or skirts a bit so the guard could glance at the tops of their shoes. While this is good for preventing people stashing huge Rambo knives in their socks, it'd be far too easy to bring any number of bad things in. I wasn't even asked to remove the long wool coat I was wearing.
Additionally, the jury summons, related literature, phone message, and every other piece of info told of the strict rule against mobile phones in the court. Simple and understandable, I thought. However, the many people who brought phones anyway weren't told to ditch them in the car, or leave them with the guards. The guards only asked if your phone takes pictures. Anyone who answered "no" could bring it in with no problem. And the cameras were very visible on many of those phones.
As much as I hate to say it, that security system sucks canal water.
Proceeded to the jury room, which resembles a large college classroom, full of rows of theatre seats and some scattered tables, with a large counter manned by a nice lady up front. I handed in my summons. The lady tore my jury card off the summons, returned it to me, and gave me a questionnaire to fill out. This asked for some background info - jobs you, your family, or your close friends have had, your hobbies, the history of you, your family, and your friends previous court cases if any, and so forth. The idea of these is if you got selected as a juror, the attorneys could excuse some people for possible bias, based solely on their answers to these questions, without even having to interview them.
Since they included "friends," I thought anyone could claim a friend in any trade if they were so inclined, and that'd be a good way to seem biased enough to get out of serving at any cases. "What? A carpenter is being sued? My buddy Figley is suing his good-for-nothing carpenter!" "Huh? You say the defendant is a speleologist? My pal Wally's grandma is a speleologist! I sure do love me some speleologists." etc.
As for me, I wasn't aiming to get excused. I wasn't particularly aiming to get chosen, either, I was just taking everything as it came. So, I was honest on my survey.
10:30 AM - We were subjcted to a movie on the jury system. Starring famous elderly people Ed Bradley, Diane Sawyer, and some others I've forgotten, it was a cheesy but fun look at the history of justice, followed by many people telling the viewers why it's everyone's patriotic honor and duty to serve. My inner Tom Servo and Crow loved this film.
After the flick we had the deal explained to us. When a jury is needed, they pick the apropriate amount of people at random from the "jury pool" (this roomful of people, myself included, who were summonsed for the day.) Those chosen would be marched off to the appropriate courtroom, where the attorneys would talk with you, and figure out who to accept and who to excuse. Those excused would be thrown back into the jury pool, and the process is repeated for every case. This would continue until around 4PM.
A lady from the bloodmobile parked outside then appealed to the captive audience for blood donations. It had been a while since I donated, so I signed up. It was as good a way to kill time as any.
Then, comes the waiting. And waiting. I usually have no problem with waiting, so I had no worries. Still, in my morning rush I had forgotten the paperback I usually keep in my coat pocket, so I needed to find other things to do.
There was a sparsely populated bookshelf filled with dusty old tomes that smelled like a long time in the Salvation Army. My favorite was a history of Europe book from 1965.
I also found a shady corner of the crowded room by the bookcase, and shut my eyes for a bit. I had only gotten a few hours of sleep the night before, so the opportunity to recharge was good. I didn't have to worry about being called, since the PA system they used was loud enough to wake the dead, and if they didn't get a response they'd continue calling that name until they did, Ben Stein style. "Bueller.. Bueller... Bueller...."
The payphones were in the hallway right next to the court officers at the metal detector, so I resisted the urge to harass random toll-free numbers.
There was a snack bar in the building, so I stocked up on junk food.
Around 11:30, the blood bankers reached my name on their list, and I got called up to the blood bus. Filled out the paperwork, and gave some blood. My blood was pumping very slowly for some reason, it took them twice as long as usual to draw a pint. What with that, and my lack of sleep the previous night, I had a dizzy spell and nearly passed out on the bus.
It was all worth it for the free orange juice and Lorna Doones, though.
Additionally, while you were giving blood, they hld your paperwork separately at the counter, and you were in no danger of being called into a trial. This inspired more than one nervous juror to donate and escape for an hour or so, which to hear it from the blood bankers usually ensures them a decent amount of donations.
Blood Banker (glancing at my blood bag): "Just a little bit left."
RTF: "Me, or the bag?"
Lunchtime was from 12 noon to 2:00 PM, but since I didn't get off the blood bus until 12:30, I was excused from the pool until 2:30. Grabbed a decent roast beef sandwich and a local free paper. Brought it back to the jury room, read my paper while eating, and swiped someone else's Newsday.
Later in the day, as the crowd in the jury pool thinned, people became more comfortable, and small talk was rampant. I struck up a conversation with a nice lady next to me, who although she meant well, kept coming out with things like "They shouldn't go through all this trouble of selecting jurors from a pool, interviewing them, excusing them. They should just pick as many jurors as they need, and they're it, no excuses. This would all be much easier."
"If you were on trial, wouldn't you want to be sure that the jury wasn't made up of people who hate white women, or are biased against you for some other reason?" I asked. "You wouldn't want to see an innocent person go to jail for murder or something just because the jury simply didn't like the guy."
"Well, no, but they can't be sure anyway."
She had been excused from one jury already, because an attorney had asked her if she could be impartial, and her only answer was "Well, I could try."
We talked for a while longer, and as the clock passed 3:15 we felt we were in the home stretch. Five minutes or so later, they called their last group, and she was among those called. I would imagine she didn't last long on that one either.
At 3:30, it was annouced to all those remaining that there would be no more jurors chosen for the day, and everyone was free to leave, their jury obligation served. This means you get paid for the day (either by your job, or the state) and you're excluded from any more jury summons from the district court for at least four years, and the state court for at least two years.
At this news, the roomful of people broke into spontaneous applause, which actually raised a chuckle from the staff.
They signed everyone's jury cards, and we all left.
And that's how I served my government.