Thursday, June 19, 2008

Today's adventure: My Civic Duty

Today, I got called in for jury duty. The summons came to my old address, so I was assigned to a courthouse almost 30 miles away from where I live now. I didn't know until I got there that I could have transferred to another court, because it's supposed to be within 20 miles. They don't mention that on the summons...

Anyway, it was mostly a very boring day, until near the end. I brought some knitting and a book to read. I'm reading "The Nature of Monsters," by Clare Clark, and I'm knitting up a garter-stitch washrag on the bias, in Sugar n Creme cotton in the Midnight Magic colorway. My name was called right away to go with 34 other people to a courtroom (which I was glad for, because the majority of the 150 people in the waiting room voted to watch a movie that I had no desire to see on the ginormous television; and because this guy sitting behind me was text messaging someone, but his keypad volume was very loud, so the "boop boop, beep beep boop" sound was really getting on my nerves!).

I had to wait 10 minutes for an elevator to take me up to the 11th floor, because the stairs are for emergency use only(!). We all finally filed into the courtroom, and they started calling numbers. They selected 18 people (I was not one of them) and asked them to state what they did for a living, how many kids they have, if they were married - that sort of thing. Then the judge gave some admonishments about not talking about the case, not going to the scene and doing your own investigating, blah, blah, blah. The lawyers were then given the opportunity to ask the potential jurors questions, to weed out any jurors they felt would not be impartial, or would not be able to pass judgment on another person.

I happily knitted away on my rag until the bailiff gave me the stink eye, and told me to put it away, and listen. Like I need my hands to listen! That's specifically why I chose that mindless kind of knitting, so I didn't have to pay attention to it, but my hands would still have something to do. You don't mess with the bailiff, though, so I put it away. Here's how far I got: Okay, I don't know why the picture is sideways, but I'll learn how to fix that later, I guess.

We broke for lunch, there was another 10 minute wait for an elevator, and we had an hour and a half to feed ourselves. I went to a Subway really close to the courthouse (not in the safest of neighborhoods, btw). I ate and read, and still had more than half an hour till I was due back, so I went back to the juror waiting room. Not much going on there, and they were watching Transformers - part of which was filmed at Universal Studios, right in the area that burned up. That made me a little sad, so I went up to the courtroom - no 10 minute wait this time.

Once we were let into the room again, they began letting potential jurors go back to the waiting room. Those of us who had not been chosen originally were to be called to fill in the gaps. See, they call up 35 people to get a panel of 18 to narrow down to a panel of 12 plus two alternates. They got down to 12, then called up 6 more, questioned them, excused others, filled in spots, and finally swore in the 12. I had not been called up to this point. There were two extra people who were in the running to be alternates, and then they called up two more people.

I was one of them.

We gave our info, said yes and no in all the right places, but this time, the lawyers did not question us. They spoke with the judge off the record, and then it was decided that I would be Alternate 1 and one of the two extras from earlier would be Alternate 2.

So I have to go back tomorrow at 9:00. I'll get paid $15 per day, plus $ .34 per mile one way (I guess this is where the 7 extra miles helps out). That amounts to $24.18, roughly $4.00 an hour. Half of minimum wage. This trial is expected to last until next Friday. Two of the original 12 tried to weasel out of it after they were sworn in, by saying they couldn't afford to be away from work that long. The judge said they had to stay, because they didn't mention it sooner. One guy starts summer school on Monday; the judge is making him stay, too, but he is kindly starting court at 10:30 to give the guy time to get there after class.

And that's today's adventure!

Edited to add: Verdict made on Monday - Not guilty!

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