Monday, November 2, 2009

The Potato Chip Story Part 1

At long last, I'm finally going to tell the jury duty story that I promised would come.

Saturday before last, Mom checked her mail, and a jury summons for me was included in the stack of mail. It had been forwarded from their old address, but I have no idea why the municipal court had that address for me. I've not had anything (driver's license or voter's registration included) with that address on it for over 6 years. I wish the stupid thing had gotten lost in the mail. It had been sent at least a couple of weeks before, and just got to me five days beforehand. If they had hunted me down for not showing up, I would have been able to explain why I didn't get it since I had not lived at the address it was sent to in that many years and my parents didn't even live there anymore.

Municipal court only handles misdemeanors that are punishable by fine. The last time I had a summons for municipal court, it was for the afternoon, so even though this was for the morning, I really believed I would not be there long. In and out and about my merry way.

So, I show up at City Hall for the 8:15 AM start time. Around 8:30, the court clerk finally starts doing a roll call of jurors and seating them in order. Random order that the computer spit out except for the fact that the first 10 last names she read off started all started with an "A". I was seated in position 15. They were picking two juries of 6 people each. Seat #15 wasn't a very good position to be in if they kicked anyone out during the voir dire.

The clerk read off what had to have been between 100-150 names off her list. She read a lot of names. Of all of those names, 34 potential jurors were there. Actually two said weren't eligible before we were seated, so I guess 36 showed up. While a number of those people probably chose to be irresponsible and not show up, I'm pretty sure quite a few of the people had moved and their summons didn't find its way to them. I know for a fact that two of the people on the list had died. Those were just names I recognized and one of those people died in an accident that everyone in town knew about. I guess no one looked over the list ahead of time.

So, we have everyone seated in order. OK, let's take a break. Why? We haven't done anything. Evidently a new listed has to be printed of just the potential jurors there. Dad works at City Hall and wondered down the hall to see if I had gotten stuck yet.

While I admit, that getting out of work for the day wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world, I had things to do since I am off work this week. I just didn't have time for this knowing what I wanted to get done.

Back into the courtroom/city council chambers we go. They are picking for two juries - first up - for a speeding ticket. No jury shuffle required (crap!). The judge goes throw his deal asking if anyone is insane (I thought about raising my hand since that might be subjective). Potential juror #8 is off the hook because he doesn't understand and communicate English very well.

Then, we go through a series of questions. A woman on the front row (potential juror #5) is the mom of a police officer and she says there's no way she's going to be impartial in all honesty. Potential juror #14 answers that she knows city attorney - he served as her husband's attorney in their divorce. Ms. Speed Demon decided that was cause enough to scratch her from the first jury. I know the city attorney too. I go to church with him. Does that get me off?

Once the first jury is selected, I'm eighth in line and know #5 and #14 in front of me probably aren't going to make the second jury either.

After another break (let's get this thing going already!), we get ready for jury #2 to be selected. The defense attorney for this case was a character. Before selection even begins, both attorneys have to talk to the judge more than once. The defense attorney evidently wanted longer to question potential jurors than the city attorney thought he should have because there were some sticky factors.

Once they finally get their time figured out we endure at least 20 minutes from each side questioning the jury. Potential juror #5 still is the mother to a cop and still doesn't feel that she could be impartial. Potential juror #14 is still divorced, but she could be impartial because she was going to divorce the guy regardless of who is attorney was. The kicker though was that she had already heard about some things from this case in the district courtroom the day before from one of the attorneys. That got her off.

As the questions came out, it was evident what some of the factors of the case were. Because there was a racial slur made in the context of one of the charges, and there were two African American women in the front row, you know both of them would not make the jury because the defense attorney would not allow that to happen. My chances of getting on the jury were pretty good.

As they were asking if we knew any of the parties involved, a woman behind me said she was the cousin of one of the witnesses. She said she couldn't be impartial since it was her cousin. If it were me, it would depend on which of my cousins you were talking about. At this point, I was about ready to claim family (something I don't do often with my real family) so that I could get the heck out of there.

This defense attorney had this loud, obnoxious personality that sitcoms are made of. (I later found out that is a "TV attorney", you know the ones that advertise at 2 AM - that explained so much.) He would lean over in an over exaggerated way to hear what the judge was saying to potential jurors like #14 telling what she had overheard the day before. During the vore dire, he let it out that the alleged assault involved potato chips. I could just tell this whole thing was going to be stupid. After the judge had already told everyone to turn their cell phones off, his rang in middle of selection. That did not go over well. He answers, "I can't talk right now," slams it shut and apologizes to the judge.

Evidently, I didn't roll my eyes enough during jury selection. I was the 3rd member selected on the 6 jury panel.

Jury #2 was dismissed at 11 AM to come back at 12:30 PM for the start of the potato chip trial. I was livid. I didn't want to waste my day on a ridiculous case - and it had to be if potato chips were involved.

I begrudgingly went to get lunch, check emails and prepare for an afternoon I was not excited about.

I promise that part 2 of this story gets funnier. It posts in the morning.

1 comment:

Mark said...

enjoying it already, looking forward to part 2 :-)