Thursday, January 11, 2007

Jury duty

This past Tuesday I was called to jury duty. For the benefit of those who have never done this, I'll give a report of what happened.

I was a little concerned about having to do this, mostly because I am self-employed. Although I actually think it would be kind of interesting to participate in the process, I don't have an employer to pay me for jury time, as most employers do (I guess they're required by law). But if I had to be there all day or all week, I would have to call each individual student to cancel or reschedule, and unless I could reschedule (which is a hassle for 40 private students) I'd lose the money, also my poor students have not had lessons for two weeks over vacation anyway, and some of them are having to re-learn their bow holds as it is... It would be fine for a day or two, but not good for two weeks. I sent in the slip to be excused, but it was denied; they no longer excuse people for being self-employed.

I called the court the night before as they said, and yes, I still had to show up at 8:00 the next morning. So, into San Bernardino at 8 AM I went, not having a clue what would happen. I kept my 3:30 class scheduled for later that day, hoping that I would either be excused or I'd be able to call the school to cancel it before then.

I arrived early, in case I didn't know where to park, which of course was the case. I parked in a lot that had absolutely no signs or any indication of who was/wasn't supposed to park there, but it did have quite a few important-looking men in suits and briefcases coming out of their cars. I took my chances. I had to stand in a long line to get into the courthouse--they were just opening at about 7:45, and everyone had to go through airport-style security. I put my purse on the X-ray belt and was about to take off my shoes to go through the gate, but nobody else did. Guess nobody has tried to blow up a courthouse yet using a shoe-bomb.

When you enter the courthouse, the first thing you see is a hot dog stand, which I thought was kind of strange. All sorts of seedy characters were hanging out there, eating pretzles at 7:45 in the morning. Were all these people jurors? Soon I noticed that they started heading upstairs to traffic court. Now I get it. But where do I go? There were no signs for jurors. Finally I followed another juror, who was as lost as I was, but we managed to go down several halls and an elevator to the basement juror assembly room.

I knew that there are 12 jurors on a criminal trial. I assumed that they pick several extras to dismiss if their uncles are the lawers or the defendants or whatnot. I even thought that there may be more than one trial going on that day. But I didn't expect to see about 300 prospective jurors in one huge room! I stood in a long line to get checked in, which grew longer until everyone had arrived, by about 8:45. With all these people, I figured I had a pretty good chance of going home early. As I watched the line grow, I thought, "All these people, in the San Bernardino area alone, and a new batch every day, and I don't know a one of them. There are a lot of people in this world!" I did, however, end up knowing one of them, a trombone player named Brett who is on the church vespers committee with me. He came and sat by me and we chatted to pass the time. He told me that last time he was called he did have to serve on the jury--it took them 2 days to select the jury, and 2 days for the trial. All day long.

After another half hour or so, they posted everyone's names in groups A-E on bulletin boards. I was in group C, along with about 75 others. Brett was in group A. After another half hour, his group was called up to the courtroom. I just waited; they never said anything about my group. (Bring a book.) After another half hour or so, he came back, he was excused--conveniently enough, his wife is due to have a baby in a few weeks, so he could use that. Groups D and E were also excused. Finally, at about 10:45, the judge came into the room for Group C. He said they had settled the case, so we were not needed. Thankfully, I got in line to receive my pink slip which said I was free to go and wouldn't be called for another year. I'll continue this story next year, when I'm sure to be called again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I got a jury duty summons a few years ago, myself. Luckly for me, I was interning in Orlando, and that got me excused.