Chaos Attraction

Jury Duty 3: A Not Fun Case This Time

2014-10-23, 4:07 p.m.


I've been on jury duty once again...and I've been writing entries to save up until I got out of it.


So I got called for jury duty. My job is sucking so hard these days--I just felt ambushed with not much or any support every time I had to serve the public last week--that I have been DELIGHTED ABOUT THIS. Hoping I get on a trial, hoping it’s a long enough trial to keep me out of work until October 30 when they have the Halloween party. And my county doesn’t tend to have very severe crimes so far. Or at least all of the ones I’ve had so far were pretty hilarious/involving dumb people doing dumb illegal things.

My wish list for the case would be that:
(a) I would get on the jury,
(b) it would be another funny case,
(c) it would run just long enough to get me out of work until the end of October 29.

The wish list.... this is not quite what I was going for. The first red flag was seeing that they are calling in a metric asston of people all on one day. Like they are calling people in in FOUR DIFFERENT SHIFTS on Monday. I didn’t even have to go in until 2:30, which delighted me no end. I had the morning off! I didn’t go in to work (would you?), I just relaxed at home, watched TV, took the trash out, had lunch, picked out an appropriate court outfit, la la la,

I left about 1:37 p.m., got there in about 20 minutes and did manage to find an easy free parking spot, woot. Another ten minutes to walk to the courthouse from there. As I was heading over, I came across a cute guy. Let’s just say that he bore a strong resemblance to my old longtime celebrity crush. I may be over the crush now, but I was still pretty excited that someone who looked like that existed in my county. So I spent most of jury time scoping him out from behind. Alas, there was no psychic ping upon seeing this one and he had no interest in me, which meant it wasn’t going to happen. And he’s young enough to be a student, so he applied for a hardship and got it. DARN IT, NO CUTE FUTURE STORIES OF JURY DUTY LOVE. WAH.

Now that the fun part of this story is out of the way.... they actually started rounding people up early--I think tons of people were showing up early, I got there a half hour early, so they were letting people into the jury duty room around 2:25. Sat through the usual “give us your contact info” (you’d think they’d have that since they mail you jury duty letters, eh?), watched the orientation videos. They wanted your juror ID number on everything and since they’d taken away our jury duty letters that was an issue for most people. I wrote it down in the iPod, though. After letting people move their improperly moved cars, by 3 p.m. they were bringing all 100+ of us into the courtroom.

Here’s the issue: this is a Famous Case. It’s murder, stalking, domestic abuse. And uh, I hadn’t heard of it whatsoever because I usually don’t read the newspaper I used to work for (would you? It’s just weird) and the campus newspaper died and generally speaking I don’t go around watching local news or reading depressing shit if I don’t have to. This is such a famous case here that they hauled in a shit ton of people to go through, including “our panel” and “the panel in the morning.” I’m not sure if that meant that all four different meeting times were all for the same case or part of them were or what, but they are going through a ton of people.

Here’s how many: they didn’t EVEN start voir dire today at all. The judge introduced us to the case and everyone involved in it and then said we’d all have to fill out a questionnaire for an hour. They’d read them all on Tuesday and then we all had to come back on Wednesday (for voir dire, I’m presuming) and then they start the trial Thursday...and it’s definitely scheduled to run through Halloween DAMMIT and even on until the start of November.

On the one hand, long trial. On the other hand, that basically means I have NO Halloween this year if I get on the trial, and all the work I’ve been putting into making the costume--2/3 of it is done--will go for NOTHING. Oh yeah, and also the case is awful. Shall we say, it’s gonna be one of those where they probably don’t want ANY woman on the jury. And they probably shouldn’t want any on it. I guess they have to let some on for fairness, but I bet not too many make it on.

I don’t know if I want to be on it or not. Being out of work for 2 weeks is pretty sweet, and court has much shorter hours, and nobody expects me to answer any fucking questions all day long, or even speak at all until the end. That’s practically a vacation for me.

On the other hand, murder, stalking, gore was definitely promised, and now I get to worry if this is the kind of defendant who will stalk and kill jurors when he gets out of jail. SO THAT SOUNDS FUN. Also I inexplicably set off metal detectors and annoy people with that. And no knitting of any kind is allowed in there because knitting needles are weapons (are you fucking kidding me?!).

The questionnaire.... Well, if I were the lawyer for the defense, here’d be the plusses and minuses he’d have for me:

* Seriously never heard of the case before.
* Given the rundowns I gave of my previous jury trials, it should be pretty clear that I am fair and try to be as unbiased as possible and rely on evidence and how well a lawyer proves a case.
* Not gonna get out for hardship due to my job.

* Used to be a reporter (and hasn’t heard of the case before?! what?! I know, right?)
* Is a woman.
* Had a friend who was abused by a husband, have another that’s ah, had some issues, albeit not quite of that variety. So I am unthrilled at the concept.
* Actually wrote down that I wonder if this guy is going to stalk jurors when he’s out of jail. (I really hate that they announce your name to the defendant and everyone else during voir dire), because I can’t help but wonder now.

If I were the defense, I’d be all “she’d probably be pretty good except for the part where she’s a woman. I’ll put her on the reserve list or something.” I’m probably not automatically GTFO status should I be called into the box--if I were them and had to concede to sme chicks being in the box, I’d go for me. So....who knows. I don’t know if I want on this one or not, but it’s probably not under my control to decide about. I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to try to answer in ways that slanted me in one direction or the other, so I just went with blunt honesty. And we shall see.

Dammit, now I’m still going to have to go to the stupid 2-hour meeting tomorrow at work! And probably have to work public service to make up for someone else making up for me today. Sigh.

Okay, you know something has gone wrong with your life when you think a two-week long murder trial sounds more relaxing than going to your job. “Hey, all I have to do is sit there. Nobody’s going to be asking ME questions!”

Was back at work today. Had to sit through a 2 hour long meeting of boredom and do makeup counter shift, because god forbid the pound of flesh not be gotten and all that. Thank god for once it was a quiet day and I hardly had to wait on anyone at all. And then toward the end of the day they discovered that a program that a lot of people use is giving scary false information. At least this happened late enough that I wasn’t thrown on phones to deal with it. AND I WON’T HAVE TO TOMORROW, WOOT.

I did my best to cram in a shit ton of work before I leave, so there’s that.

I had one coworker (supervisor, not my own) come up to me and commiserate because one of her guys was on an awful trial for weeks and she hoped I’d get off or mine wasn’t that bad. “Oh, it’s that bad,” I said. “But what can I do about it? Nothing, it’s out of my control.” Which it is. I don’t know if I want to do it or not, but it doesn’t matter what my opinion on the matter is. My shrink also offered to try to write me a letter saying I was too disturbed, but I declined (too late to submit one anyway, I think).

I am trying to surrender to a lack of control in my life these days. It’s the best thing, really. Can’t really figure out where I’ll be in the next few weeks right now.

I have NOT googled for the guy’s name, but I did try to find the court calendar and they have a page for “high profile” cases. (Something is wrong with the search engine if THAT is what comes up and I can’t find “court calendar” beyond clicking around the court website.) They said this one has a gag order for him. Oookay then, guess I’m not surprised on that. When I found the court calendar, this trial is scheduled to run until November 4. HOO BOY. It’ll be fun to tell my boss that one.

I have been planning my court wardrobe. The boringest, plainest, darkest clothes I can find. I don’t want to stand out in this one, I want to blend in with the nearest wall. Pants every day, probably. Trying to look unattractive.

In other news, found out I get to go to a funeral on Saturday. Whee. Fun times.


Here's how day 2 of jury duty went:

I arrived at 8:10, and the jury duty room was full by 8:25. They're starting multiple cases at a time, so our panel was being kept in the jury duty room and all the other ones were being booted out until the hall, which was crazy full. Basically we sat around until 9:05, when someone finally came out and took roll and then said she'd have to ask the judge if he wanted to wait around for the three people who never showed up or not. (Really?) We waited some more. Even though I'd peed before I left, I started getting paranoid about whether or not I'd have another chance before we went into the courtroom, at which point I probably wouldn't be allowed to leave until lunch. But if I left at the wrong time when they took everyone out, I could be in trouble... I didn't even really need to GO, but the paranoia kicked in.

Then they started ruling people out based on their questionnaire answers alone. They'd call out something like 6-8 people at a time every 5 minutes, and those people were allowed to leave while the rest of us whined. After the third round was called, I finally dared to go pee. I made it back in time to see another couple of rounds called and get partway through reading my sixth magazine before we were called into the courtroom around 9:50. The bailiff said that this was actually going really smoothly, given the circumstances. Ha ha. Believe it or not. Maybe about 40 people or so got dismissed based on the questionnaires, most of us were still left.

Then came voir dire at 10 a.m. I have to say, this is not my favorite thing. I know, I know, we have to be fair and all that...but you know what? I'm not super thrilled at letting a possible criminal know my name and my job and exactly where I live. Not to mention the poor bastards who've been the victims of terrible crimes and they're forced to have that called out to an entire room of strangers, plus someone who oh, might want to take note of that information and keep it in mind if/when he gets out of prison. (I say this specifically because this dude is also up for stalking charges and I cannot help but wonder, you know?)

Much to my shock, I wasn't one of the first 20 called up into the box, like I have been the last two times I've been to jury duty. The judge announced that he wouldn't ask questions, but the lawyers would, based off the questionnaire.

For purposes of brevity, I'm just gonna summarize the sort of things that were asked about:

• anyone that has anything to do with hospitals or abused kids.
• retired lawyers and law enforcement (guess who got the boot real fast). They would get asked about how all the laws have changed since their day.
• anyone with disabilities—the guy with an artificial voice box and the guy with hearing issues were off fast as well. The prosecution actually said that the former guy “could sell that voice for a haunted house.” There was also a guy with short term memory issues who couldn't even remember the questionnaire any more who got out fast.
• anyone with connections to the town it happened in.
• anyone who's had any dealings with law enforcement, or their relatives did, or were crime victims, or abused, etc.
• Previous jury duty service and what happened there.
• Have you heard of this case before? I gather someone wrote “sounds like murder to me” on his questionnaire.
• Do you know anyone involved in the case? --a few folks did.
• The one guy from another country got asked about how things would be handled in his country—he got the boot medium fast.
• Do you have any hidden anger going on against police?
• Do you inherently trust any testimony because it comes from a cop?
• Is this case freaking you out already? Are you terrified of the gory corpse photos that we're going to show you? Some folks got the boot for that, much to their relief, I'm sure. Especially the lady who was threatening to have this set off her heart condition.
• Do you have daughters? Guess why on that one.
• Hoo boy, did they nitpick about some people's boring jobs that sounded like they had nothing to do with the case whatsoever.
• And every time someone had any degree beyond a bachelor's, they were all flabbergasted and asking nitpicking questions about that. I don't know why they'd be shocked that in an area with a big university they'd get some scientists and postdocs.

On other notes, they didn't seem to like responses about domestic violence, specifically the ones that pointed out that a victim might be afraid of the guy enough to want to drop charges. Ray Rice was brought up off and on, for obvious reasons. And for whatever reason (and we'll get back to this one later), the prosecution seemed to want to argue that the victim did herself in through her own bad choices? I know that doesn't sound right (and I hope for the sake of everyone involved that this isn't where the argument is going), but... I also don't get why it seemed to be a problem when people said they weren't judging women for not leaving.

I was trying to keep track of who they booted and for why, and that felt like I was trying to keep track of some kind of sporting event or something. It might have been easier to do had I not been hiding in the back, but I figured that between the crocheting and the notetaking, I'd better not be seen doing those things. They booted about 9 out of 20 people on the first and second rounds of questioning. By the end of the third round they were supposedly seating the entire jury and one alternate—then the judge said to come back at 1:30 for the rest of the rounds.

At this point I was reasonably assuming that I wasn't going to be spending lots of time in this boring little town, so instead of being a good girl and eating the lunch I brought, I treated myself to a lunch out at a sushi place that used to be located in my town until they moved here. The restaurant was great when it was in the old location, but I am sad to report that none of the food I had was very good. Disappointing. And after that, I went to the hidden used bookstore that I normally can't go to because they're only open during work hours, and found a few books I'd wanted and couldn't find elsewhere.

After lunch and the long line through the metal detector, they called six more potential alternate jurors. And they still didn't call me! Amazing. I wish I knew exactly how many preemptory challenges they were all allowed—I tried to keep track and it was just too confusing. I definitely remember that the defense ran out of them and said so at one point, but then he kept using more and more anyway! What the heck? How is that working?

You would think that the jury would be set by now. Or that they wouldn't need to go through to a fifth pass after the fourth. But nooooo. They kept booting people off the jury over and over again, late in the period. (Especially whoever sat in 7 or 12, they never seemed to last long.) So they had to go through a FIFTH pass. At that point they decided that the 12 jurors would be set, so they had them sworn in and called in four more people to seat 2 (out of 3 total) alternate jurors.

Guess who got called in for THAT one. Yup, yours truly finally had to get called up there. Whee. I had been wondering what the hell they'd ask me about-- after hearing the previous questions I figured there'd be lots of potential things to bring up with me. The defense said I wrote the most of anyone at the end, which made me laugh and ask if I got a prize for that. (It boiled down to “look, I'm not all yay about domestic abuse, but I'll do my best to be fair because that's the nature of the job, you guys have to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt and all that.”) Which is pretty much what I said during the question too. The prosecution asked abut if I'd seen the hashtag Yes All Women and I was all, “I don't read Twitter, but yes, I've heard of it.” So now it is in official court records somewhere that I don't read Twitter, hah. Anyway, I said that yeah, there's plenty of reasons why a woman might not leave, I think it's kinda sanctimonious to say what I'd do when I haven't been in the situation, it's easy to say I'd leave until you're in it.

The defense booted the chick ahead of me in line for working with abused women. The prosecution Yup, I was the last person booted out of the trial. GO FIGURE ON THAT ONE. Especially since it was the dang prosecution, which (ahem) I would have been more likely to be sympathetic towards in general. Their loss, I guess. The jury was half men and women, which surprised me because I would have figured they'd have gotten more women off of it.

I still don't know how I feel about this. Well, I don't mind missing seeing gory photos, and spending days on end with a fellow of highly dubious character wondering if he's going to stalk me if he gets out of jail. And my Halloween costume won't go to waste and I can still go to Halloween parties here. On the other hand, I really wouldn't have minded a few weeks off from work, and if we got to convict the guy I would have been pleased. I immediately looked up the case when I got home, of course, and....yeah, let's say I hope they can convict, because holy crap there. I bet there will be tons of evidence.

I enjoyed the rest of my afternoon off, though— I went home and changed out of my boring, blend-in-with-the-nearest-wall court clothes (because if a possible murderer and stalker is gonna stare at me for weeks on end, let's uh, not stand out, eh?) and later went thrift store shopping on a sale day. I also looked up the case while I was home. OH DAMN. It’s this one.

Note reference to horrible crime photos in the first link. I suppose technically I'm included in the second one, which gives more info on the jury process.



Went back to work today and told the story of my near-miss to everyone. The aforementioned coworker who was worried about it was very relieved to see me. But even more shocking was that one of my coworkers knows someone who WITNESSED the murder and is on the testimony list. Who knew?

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