Thursday, November 03, 2005

Jury Duty

Well, it ended up better this time than last. Maybe 10 years ago, I sat on a civil jury in Montgomery County and it was a less than fulfilling experience. A simple slip-and-fall case that the court expected us to have resolved within a few hours ... It ended up running over for another day because (in my recollection, and it could be jaded or faulty) one juror kept holding out for the plaintiff because, in her opinion, "that's why people [referring to the defendant in this case] have insurance."

This time, I arrived at 7:30 a.m. as instructed at the Prince George's County Court House, which is really not in a very convenient place. I guess Upper Marlboro is centrally located in terms of the county as a whole, but it's not very convenient to public transportation or anything. Even though the summons said 7:30 a.m., things didn't really get started until about 8:30 a.m. with the circa 1982 feel good about jury duty video presentation. We were then told there were two civil cases and six criminal on the docket for the day.

[ASIDE: I realize most people aren't too psyched about getting called for jury duty, and the court personnel realize this, but the constant little asides to knowing how we'd all rather be somewhere else seemed to be engendering less sympathy among the crowd than just reaffirming that jury duty is a terrible burden. I know I had my list of reasons why I couldn't end up impaneled on any trial that would last beyond the one day, but it still seemed to be that the asides did more to devalue jury duty than to reaffirm the responsibility involved and the importance of it.]

I ended up getting assigned to the pool for the first civil case. We got as far as the courtroom door where the bailiff had the 18 of us wait for a few minutes before coming out of the courtroom. Instead of being led inside, we were all sent back to the jurors' lounge to wait some more.

A little later, I ended up among a pool of 50 for a criminal trial, an armed robbery. This time, we went through voir dire. When the judge said it was going to be a two-day trial, which, because juries were rarely called back on Fridays, would mean coming back on Monday, I did make myself known saying that while Monday would be workable, there was no way I couldn't serve on Friday. (I didn't go into details, but the amniocentesis is scheduled for tomorrow morning.) The judge reiterated that Friday the jury probably wouldn't be called back, but noted my concern. A little later they asked if anyone knew the scene of the crime, a 7-Eleven in College Park that I go to on occasion. I don't know if it was because of that or because of how I look or something, but I ended up being struck by the defense attorney.

One interesting question during voir dire: "Do any of you think the state needs to present scientific evidence — ballistics, fingerprints, DNA — to prove its case?" The so-called the "CSI Effect". I'm not sure if that's a standard question now or one that the state's attorney asked to have asked, but the defense attorney did turn and give the state's attorney a little chuckle/nod after it was asked. Maybe it's a point he's planning to bring up in the trial.

Since I was struck from the panel, I went back to the jurors' lounge and waited around a bit longer and ended up getting dismissed a bit after noon. When they announced that those of us left in the room (two other groups had been told they could go to lunch) were free to go for the next three years, a bit of a cheer went up, which is kind of a sad statement in and of itself, but I'll admit I did get out as quickly as I could, just in case anything changed ...

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enjanerd said...

Lucky duck! I totally want to get called up for jury duty. Everyone else in my family, plus one of my former roommates when he was deployed overseas, have been called, but not me. The only person I know who got selected, though, was the mom of a friend. Everyone else got passed over.

T. Carter said...

I was really psyched the first time I was called, but it turned out to be a pretty frustrating experience. This time, like I told the judge, one day I was cool with but please don't put me on a six-week (or even two-day) panel! It's just a bad point in my life: If Celeste (and baby number two) were in school and we didn't have the complicated childcare situation, it'd be one thing, but, hey, that's the reality at the moment ...