Jury Duty is Stupid

I've never been selected to serve on a jury. The last time I showed up for jury duty was March 8, 2017 at the Torrance, California Courthouse. I know that because over here in Los Angeles county when you're done with fulfilling the jury rigmarole thing they give you a piece of paper stating you won't be summoned again for jury duty for another year. If I had been summoned back for jury duty before March 8, 2018 that paper would prove I had already wasted my time less than a year previously.

Photo Source: coub.com

Literally, that day in 2017 was wasted. I showed up at the Torrance courthouse and sat for a few hours in the jury assembly room. Finally, I was called as part of a group to go up to a courtroom on the second floor. We waited outside the courtroom in the hallway for almost ten minutes. Eventually a woman came out apologizing and explaining that the judge had called the assembly room to say that we weren't needed after all but we had already left to go up to the courtroom.

O.K. So either the judge called almost 10 minutes earlier and it took the woman several minutes to get to the doors of the courtroom or there was still negotiating going on as we were outside and having the prospective jurors outside helped leverage a plea deal. As a Doctor Who fan I like to think the courtroom was bigger on the inside and it really did take the woman several minutes of walking to reach the courtroom doors. We then marched back down to the jury assembly room and were told that since none of us were put on a jury our service was complete and we were given jury service verification forms. See ya maybe next year. Case closed.

Also, here in Los Angeles county if you are not selected for a jury or asked to come back the next day you get no money paid to you for your trouble. With one upvote on this post I could easily get paid more for this one post than I did for that one wasted day at the Torrance courthouse.

There have been many times in the past when I actually was in the courtroom as a prospective juror.

The first time I was called for jury duty was around 1999 or 2000. Back then it was a five day system in Los Angeles county. I literally showed up on a monday morning at the Los Angeles County Superior Court and was excused friday afternoon when I wasn't selected once as a juror during that whole week. I lost track of how many times I had been in the courtrooms of the Los Angeles County Superior Court during that week. Easily at least ten times. Each time the judge would thank us for showing up and tell us that jury duty is the civic duty of every good citizen. Why, even judges are summoned for jury duty. Just one hour earlier a Superior Court judge was sitting in one of those seats you prospective jurors are now sitting in. After about the third day I started to feel a little angst. Who is this judge who keeps showing up in the same courtrooms one hour earlier than I do? Is this like The Twilight Zone episode "Mirror Image"? Are all these judges hinting at maybe before we come into the courtroom they randomly choose a juror seat and fart in it? Why do I keep hearing about this unseen judge showing up as a prospective juror one hour earlier than us and sitting in one of our seats over and over again?

After the judge speaks a process of questioning called voir dire begins. I think voir dire is latin for "here are the homemakers and postal workers" or something like that. We are told to raise our hands and swear to tell the truth. Then we are asked questions about our backgrounds and possible biases.

Have I ever admitted to having a possible bias during voir dire. As a matter of fact I have.

During one of those many courtroom visits at the Los Angeles County Superior Court there was one courtroom that was different from the others. As we walked into the courtroom on our left-hand side was a large transparent kind of booth. There was a man wearing an orange jumpsuit chained to the floor inside that booth. I am not sure if that transparent booth was plastic or shatter-proof glass. I know it's bad manners to tap on the side of an aquarium and I suppose the same is true for booths holding people wearing orange jumpsuits.

Anyway, during voir dire each of us prospective jurors were asked questions. One of those questions was, "Is there anything about the defendant that leads you to believe he is guilty?" The first possible juror said no. The second possible juror said no. The third possible juror said no. Then it was my turn.

I was asked a few questions. Then the "big" question came up. This is a basic paraphrasing of how that went...

Lawyer: Is there anything about the defendant that leads you to believe he is guilty?
Me: Is the defendant that guy in the booth over there in the corner?
Lawyer: Uh....Yes.
Me: Yes. There is something about the defendant that leads me to believe he is guilty.
Lawyer: What is that?
Me: The defendant is in a booth chained to the floor.
Lawyer: What makes you think that makes him guilty? (Seriously. He really asked that.)
Me: Well, I've been in and out of several courtrooms as a possible juror over the last few days this week. Each time the defendant has been sitting at the table with his attorney wearing a suit and looking better than I have ever looked going to church. This time though the defendant is chained up and in a booth. That tells me either his attorney doesn't think it's a good idea to have the defendant sitting next to him or the attorney representing the defendant can't convince the judge it's a good idea to have the defendant sitting at the table beside his attorney.

The lawyer looked really upset after that. I don't know what happened next in the courtroom because I was quickly excused and sent back to the jury assembly room.

I have a few more juror stories but I'll save those for a future post.

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