Monday, February 7, 2011

jury duty

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a lawyer. I want to say that I was seven years old when I determined that would be what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I continued to believe I would go to law school while attending high school. I had an internship with the city attorney's office. My responsibilities included filing (mostly) and observing the office dynamics and lawyers in action. I remember sitting through jury selection and thinking, that will be me, one day, asking questions and selecting potential jurors. It was interesting to watch the potential jurors answer questions or how the lawyers determined who would be sympathetic to their case. Nonpersonal communication cues played greatly in determining who would be selected or not.
I went to college and realized, quickly, that law would not be the answer for me. I was no longer interested in law school or becoming an attorney.
Earlier last month, I received my summons for jury duty. Yuck! I was so uninterested in even showing up for my civic duty. I knew that I would be unable to get out of it. And, ironically, it fell the day before my dreaded dental appointment. Let's just say, I was not looking forward to February.
I considered postponing it. I did. But, I still would have to deal with it at some point in the near future. I arrived, early, and waited for my number to be called. The woman in charged explained that we would be held until noon at which point either our number would be called or we would be released.
The first cycle of names were called. My name was not called and although, I was grateful to not be called, I knew that it was unlikely that I would still be in the jury room at noon.
Two more rounds of people being called out for different trials. Finally, after two hours of sitting, my number was called.
We enter the courtroom and are informed that they would need 6 jurors for a criminal case. My immediate thought, is great....these take longer than civil cases.
I look at the defendant and realize that it isn't gang related or murder. Did I mention that they told us that they trial would conclude within 3 days at the most.
Still, I had no interest in being a juror.
I am the third person seated in the panel of 18 prospective jurors. The judge asks some random questions about conflicts with being a juror and I immediately call attention to myself. I mention that I have a dental appointment and it took me awhile to secure it. The judge asked me if I had tried to change my jury duty and I answered honestly, no. The judge looked at me and said--so, you were hoping you wouldn't be selected. I said, yes. Everyone laughed.
It was a mix of ethnic groups, age, economic status and sex. In an attempt to remain anonymous, I wore nondescript clothing and tried to be quiet during the questioning. I didn't want to call attention to myself.
The case was about a DUI. Of course, this sparks controversy for many people. There was a guy to my left that was uncomfortable with the defendant and really did not want to be a juror. He had small children and spoke, three times, about wanting to be impartial but not agreeing with the defendant's actions.
I was under the radar for the prosecution or so it seemed. My responses to the basic questionnaire didn't make me a standout. I didn't explain my work background. I glossed over it in fact. The Prosecution concluded with the question--on a scale of one to ten, ten being perfect, how would you rate the current justice system? I gave it a four.
The defense attorney began and questioned me about why I felt the justice system was imperfect. I felt in the spotlight and in hindsight would have elaborated on a few things. All I managed to get out was, I think it could be improved and that there is overpopulation in jails and eventually people recommit crimes and go back in. There was another girl on the panel that agreed with me and she also is working in the correctional facilities. I think we seemed more sympathetic than some of the others.
The questioning concluded and then the attorneys met with the judge to determine who would be jurors or not. I was the first one dismissed. Yazee! So excited to be free of this. I would have been impartial to the case, maybe sympathetic--even due to my background in the service industry, but I didn't want to be a juror.
I don't agree with drinking and driving. However, we need more solutions, as consumers, to be able to enjoy being social. For example, I walk most places, take cabs or public transport. If I drive, I choose places that I can leave my car for the night instead of driving it home. There are not many options in this. If you go downtown and drink, you must get your car out of the downtown vicinity. Otherwise, you are issued a $25 ticket, risk of towing, car impoundment or a boot. It limits options. The best case scenario is to either not drink or only drink one to two beverages if you are inclined to drive.
Yet, it happens. People choose to drive home after a few drinks. Some of the other potential jurors seemed really judgmental about this issue. Like they would never drink or had never made a poor judgment.
Nevertheless, it was an experience and I am so thankful to not be there still. I am glad that I spoke up about my dental appointment. Otherwise, I think I might have been one of the chosen six.....

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