Monday, May 31, 2010

Hijacked Blog -- My Jury Duty

I had jury duty last week.  I am hijacking my blog to write a bit about it because I don't feel like messing with the media and knowledge stuff.  Enjoy.

Monday, 8:15 a.m.

The county calls 125 people for jury duty this week.  I am one of 27 who showed up on time, and a couple more dribble in by 8:45.  Where is everyone else?  We spend our time connecting the social dots, chatting and getting to know one another while watching a flock of black-suited lawyers mill about.  Then comes our first break -- we haven't actually done anything yet -- and we rush for coffee (four floors down, 75 cents a cup of really bad stuff).  Everyone in the Clarke County courthouse is really friendly.  Kinda creeps me out.

9:30 a.m.

We're standing in a hallway staring at a door to the courtroom while lawyers settle the cases that never should have gotten this far in the first place.  Or maybe they're comparing recipes.  There are no doctors in the jury pool.  Do they sit around on the weekend at the country club, laughing becuase they never get called or never have to show up?

9:35 a.m.

Our names are called and we're told to sit in a certain order in the, um, pews?  Benches?  Whatever they are, we sit and await questioning to see which of the lucky ones get sat on a 6-person jury.  Six, you wonder?  This is misdemeanor court, so each jury has six lucky winners and one alternate to hear mostly DUI cases.  We're feeling good.  A DUI case lasts half a day, maybe a bit longer.  We get questioned one at a time on mundane stuff, such as whether we know the defendant, whether its possible to drink a little and still be okay to drive, etc.  The questions make it obvious what the defense hopes to show.

10:30 a.m.

The lawyers are studying our questionnnaires and then they call seven lucky names (six jurors and an alternate) for a Wednesday trial.  I get lucky (or unlucky) and don't get called, which is too bad because it sounded from the questions like a simple case.

11:10 a.m.

After a break, and more bad coffee, we start the voir dire again.  Black suits huddle up front.  Can lawyers wear anything but black?  The prosecutor asks me a few questions and says, "I think I had you for a class."  Oh great, a prosecutor is a former student.  I find this
strangely discomforting.  I get picked as an alternate for a DUI trial on Friday.  I think he got his revenge.

Friday, 8:15 a.m.

Coffee in the jury room.  It's nicely stocked with a fresh pot and a little fridge with soft drinks and water.  There's a connecting bathroom.  I could live here.  It beats my old dorm room.

8:30 a.m.

At 8:30 sharp the trial begins, so you have to give points for punctuality.  It's a DUI case.  The prosecutor does his thing, lays out his case in opening statements and the defense attorney does the same.  She uses "um" way too much.  Maybe she's nervous or just starting out in the biz. 

Here are the facts of the case: 

Basically the guy ran a flashing red light (the defense agrees to this) at 2:30 a.m., a light down near the Jittery Joe's roasters east of downtown where Hickory meets East Broad.  A cop happened to be parked nearby, filling out a report, and saw him.  Chased him down, pulled him over.  The guy smelled of alcohol and admitted to having a "two beers" at a club and was tired from working all day as a truck driver. 

We have audio, but not video, of the stop.  The guy is given a field sobriety test -- walk straight line, hold one foot up, dance like Michael Jackson -- which from the audio we don't know if he passed or not, though the cop says in testimony he did not.  We can hear a slurred voice from the defendant, a really polite cop (fairly young, about his 7th ever DUI stop).  In the leg-lifting thing, the cop finally stops it because he says he was afraid the guy would hurt himself falling, but the guy says he stopped it himself.  Regardless, he gets cuffed and taken to the police station.  The audio cuts out here (disc is full) and kicks back in later.  The guy has turned beligerant, especially when asked to take a breathalyzer.  He refuses, which is considered evidence in Georgia of some sort.

9:20 a.m.

A break.  Coffee.  One of the jurors has a 4-year-old celebrating his birthday today.  Two are teachers.  None are doctors.

9:40 a.m.

We're called back, then told to leave again.

10:30 a.m.

We're back, we hear more stuff.  Cross-examination of the officer by the defense is interesting.  She tries to show through various "ums" (9 per minute, yes I counted) that it's possible the guy was just tired, that he did everything was asked of him in the field sobriety test, and suggests he passed it well enough.

11:40 a.m.

The jury is sent to its comfy, coffee-filled room, to deliberate.  The judge tells me, as alternate, to go out in the hallway to deliberate by myself (it's a joke, and not a bad one.  I laugh.).

11:45 a.m.

I figure it'll take 15-30 minutes for a guilty verdict.  Yes, I've deliberated with myself and I've discovered any number of things, including a guilty verdict.

12 Noon

Okay, any time now.  It's boring in this courthouse hallway.  There's no coffee.  But the defendant is sitting over there, not so far away.

12:30 p.m.

Um, any time now.  I'm hungry, dammit.  I've studied the 5th floor in detail now, should architects want to make any improvements.

12:40 p.m.

I'm called back in.  Yes!!!  Turns out, we're not done.  The jury wants to hear the audio again, which is nowhere near as interesting as you might think it is because it's full of loud noises as the mic scratches his uniform, etc.  We listen to the audio.  The jurors go back to a comfortable room.  I go back into the hallway to study ceiling tiles.

1:10 p.m.

It is really boring out here.  And the art on the walls, it really sucks.

1:30 p.m.

Finally, the jury emerges and I'm called back in to sit in my designated "alternate" chair.  The verdict is guilty.  Duh.  Coulda told ya that at 11:40 a.m. (see above).

1:40 p.m.

I get two checks.  One is for $25 for showing up that day, the other for the $7 lunch we never had time until now to get around to, so I'm thinking of walking a couple of blocks to Doc Chey's for curry, but I'm so disgusted and tired I drive straight home instead.

End of duty

No comments: