Life as I know it… plus commentary

The Defense would like to thank and excuse Juror #5

with 2 comments

Haven't heard such sweet words in a while. 

Today marks the end of the two day ordeal called Jury Duty.  I was told to report in on Friday (that's Good Friday for those of you keeping score).  They had us wait around for two hours then finally announced the first panel at 10 am.  "This panel will pre-screened for people who can serve 21 days".  My heart leaped into my mouth and I began praying as fervently as Moses did on the shore of the Red Sea.  The waters parted and thirty five prospective jurors made their way to the 11th floor.  I was not one of them.  And neither was I called for the next panel.  We were dismissed for lunch and I was back promptly at 1:30.  I'm a good citizen that way.  I worked on German homework (Deutsch Hausaufgaben) til three.  They usually dismiss people by four so all of us were speechless when they asked people to return to the main room for another panel.  First name called…. me.

They pick 18 people to sit in the juror chairs and because it's so late, they let us go at 4 pm and tell us to come back on Monday. I am not happy.  I am an independent contractor so if I'm not working I'm not making money.  I was surprised to find that many regular workers were not given any jury time by their employment and were pretty much in the same boat as me, pay-wise.

So Easter Sunday comes and goes (complete with church service at the Hollywood Bowl and the regular gang over for Easter dinner at my place… lamb, roast chicken, tomatoes stuffed with risotto and grilled asparagus).  And I'm back at the courthouse at 10:30 am.  The jurors are all asked a serious of questions about where they live and what they do as well as their feelings on whether drugs laws are too strict or not strict enough, whether police officers can be trusted, and if they are friends with cops or lawyers.  I was amazed by some of the people's responses. 

"Where do you work?" "I work in Pasadena at the blank a blank car rental place on blank street."  Good.  Tell the alleged crack dealer you're judging where to find you.
"Any one have any experiences with the law that might color your perceptions of police?" "I got a DUI last week." Wow.
"Anyone have any feelings about drugs one way or another?" "I am a user.  I used last about 30 days ago"  TMI!!

At times I thought the jurors were on trial and I never thought I'd learn so much dirt on people.

Personally I think the whole system should be overhauled.  I shouldn't have to pay taxes that support the court system AND be conscripted in to jury duty.  Only one or the other.  Make all government employees serve two weeks out of the year.  Pay a decent daily wage that would attract volunteers like the unemployed, retired people, students, etc.   Allow for professional jurors.

Tha's my soapbox rant for the week.  Thank goodness the defense didn't like the fact that I think drug dealers and users who can't afford their habits are the cause of most crime.


Written by arnold

April 17, 2006 at 10:01 pm

Posted in Personal, Politics

2 Responses

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  1. Most employers don’t pay for jury time. They are required by law to allow you to leave and to not punish you in any way for carrying out your duties, but they are NOT required to pay you for that time. Some will allow you to use sick pay or vacation time to make up for it, but not all do.

    Civil servants and teachers all get paid for jury time (pretty much unlimited days, too), so they ALWAYS get called to be on juries. My friend (a teacher) ended up on the jury for a murder trial (it ended up being 6 weeks), and my former brother-in-law (county worker) gets called all the time. He doesn’t always get selected but he’s been on a few juries over the years.

    Peggy C

    April 17, 2006 at 11:01 pm

  2. I know a way to get excused from jury duty and get put on a list to never be called again. The only time I did it, about two years ago, not just I but also the whole panel I was on, 40 people, got excused because everyone saw how well it worked and started copying me, so the whole panel became excusable for cause. I haven’t been called since, and I used to be called all the time, so that is why I think ringleaders in this get put on a list to not be called again.

    What you do is when the judge asks you if you will follow the law as s/he tells you and apply it to the facts presented at trial, you say no, absolutely not, I feel very strongly about this. When s/he badgers you and acts like you’ll be arrested or something for saying such a thing, you stick to it and expand upon it. (Of course you cannot be found in contempt for what you say you will do as a juror. You are, after all, free.) You say as far as you can see laws are passed by politicians who contribute the most to parties so they get backed by parties and get elected, and interpreted by judges who get appointed because they are friends of politicians and also contribute a lot to parties. Insist you much prefer your own interpretation of what is fair in the circumstances to what such people dictate.

    If the judge is foolish enough to keep badgering you, insist that furthermore, this case sounds silly or cut-and-dried, or some such thing, to you, and what should be done is whatever, what you think sounds fair from what you have been told about the case so far. Then tell the judge you reserve the right to change your mind about what is fair. What you insist you will NOT do is what the judge tells you to do.

    You are an educated and experienced citizen of this country and far more aware of how things are on the street and able to come to a fair decision than judges and politicians are, and you will not give up your independence of thought because you were called for jury duty. Just stick with it, and I guarantee you will be excused on the first day.

    As to the issue of who should be jurors, and I do prefer juries to judges–as you can imagine given what I said above about judges–everyone should be a juror. Professional jurors would become just as bad as judges are, totally removed from reality, elitist, and on and on. Juries that are just civil servants are not juries of anyone except civil servants’ peers. The only reason I think we are all entitled to be excused from jury duty is the ridiculous $5 per day and mileage one way system. We are being conscripted. Slavery has been eliminated in America except for jurors and a few other classifications I can’t deal with right now. The only way to get jurors paid fairly is to get everyone excused from the conscription system we have now. Once the slaves are freed, the same thing always happens. Industries that depended on slaves have to change.

    If jurors have to be paid a fair wage in order to get everyone to volunteer, the whole jury system will have to change. It will not be easy, but depending on slaves to make a system run is not right, so easy or difficult, an alternative must be found.

    Brenda Barnes

    May 30, 2008 at 2:11 pm

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