The best of the least desirable.
This is the conclusion I made after Juror 6 was dismissed at 4:20 pm yesterday. Unfortunately this is a self-assessment.
Things started off well in the jury assembly room. I spent the whole morning online, writing my little posting and researching YouTube for a clip. I worked right through the first break, posting just before our hour and a half lunch was announced at 11:30. I still wasn’t quite ready to eat, so I sat there at the long table along the wall and read on for another twenty minutes, figuring by now the stamped to the cafeteria had subsided.
After a fairly decent lunch (since when did they go Bistro at the courthouse anyway?), I got back to the room just in time to find someone had taken my prized seat with the electrical plug. Oh well, I had a full laptop battery so I sat down and settled in for a long stretch of reading OS posts.
About 1:30 the announcement came, “We need a jury panel in courtroom 22. We will call names alphabetically.” I barely raised my eyebrows as the the two college aged kids next to me winced, announcing they were sure to go then. Wrong, they called one from each alphabetical list...until they reach the M’s, then they began taking three from them. I struggled to remember what place my SM had landed me on the S list. Not far enough.
I shut my computer and packed up to head up to the courtroom. Forty of us. The baliff, a very large man with a bad crewcut announced he would be in charge of the jury. He made a few remarks which made us smile, mostly having to do with if we were chosen we would get paid $15 a day. Then we all filed in and sat down. The two attorneys and a law clerk, along with the accused eyeballed us as we took our seats.
The defense attorney was a blonde woman, the prosecutor a good looking young man. The accused, a clean cut Hispanic kid. Then the bailiff announced the Judge would come in and we should all rise...after we were all sworn in. I don’t know about you but I love group swearing ins.
The Judge came in, told us to take our seats, praised the beauty and plushness of the courtroom and realized his microphone was not working. “They just fixed it yesterday...”
We all laughed as he continued, “...not all courtrooms are this lavish, this one is often used for ceremonies.” Oh cool, so I had a rocking seat. Where’s the popcorn?
They said they would randomly select twelve to go sit in the jury box. I was number six. I did not feel like a lotto winner, but...I would have a seat closer to the judge and the cute prosecutor. Things could have been worse, and quickly it seemed to turn that way.
The jury questionnaire was on the seat. As I read over it, things like; “Do you have any family members or friends who have had a bad experience with law enforcement?” Um-m-m, I suppose I would have to answer yes. As I looked over all the questions I realized that numbers 4, 6 and 12 all were things I would have to fess up to. But first, we are told the case is about obstruction of a law enforcement officer in the line of duty, by an inmate in jail. Oh right. The “people” are bringing the case against the young man (incarcerated already for something they didn’t tell us so it wouldn’t taint us) on behalf of the “assaulted officer”. Okay dokey now, things are much clearer.
But first, we needed to tell them about us by answering the questions written out on a sandwich board. Name, city we live, occupation, how long we have lived there, spouse, their occupation, children....blah-blah.
When my turn came I said my occupation was a writer. Big mistake, the judge probed, “What kinds of things do you write?” Huh, do I say I blog? No.
“I write books.”
“Uh-h-h...” my mind is racing, autobiography...no, then he’ll want to know what is so interesting.
“Mrs. S...this isn’t a job offer.” The room busts up laughing.
“Non-Fiction.” I say.
“Court or crime related?”
“Um, well I am working on one now, but not using their real names.”
The judge lowers his reading glasses to peer over them at me. He smiles. “Ok.”
Then he goes through the questionnaire with each of us. When he got to me, I had to fess up, “I’ve had family members in jail, my husband and his brother are attorneys and were small claims court judges, and my son’s girlfriend is in this jail now. And... oh yeah, a family friend and former highway patrol officer is in prison for life for murder.” A gasp from the peanut gallery, and all eyes rivet on me.
Another adjustment of his honor’s glasses. “In California?”
“Yes, although...well...I didn’t attend the trial so I don’t know all of the facts, but he wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger, he planned it and hired the person to do it. Allegedly...well, I guess it isn’t alleged anymore now is it?” More laughter.
“What are your husband’s and brother-in-laws names?”
I answer adding that neither are practicing.
“Anything else, or serve on a jury or have you been a witness before?”
“I have served on a jury once. I was a witness for the IRS in an tax evasion trial in Nevada, where they were found guilty, then fled the country.”
“Mrs. S...did you reach a verdict in the trial?”
I thought of a few things more, but nothing that would impact anything. No names or anything.
The next few hours were spent listening to a very smart defense attorney give us hypothetical situations asking each of us by name how we would react.
Then the (cute) prosecutor began his questioning (voire dire) and the using of hypotheticals which were...well, let’s put it this way the first one out of his mouth caused the defense attorney to raise an objection. So this is how it would go. Yawn. After a side bench meeting he withdrew that by saying, “Forget I said that, I don’t know what I was talking about.” Okay.
“Suppose I have this yellow marker...” He whips one out of his breast pocket, “and I tell you it has red ink...” We look at him like he is crazy, “...is there a possibility it could be red ink?” In unison we the possible jury nod in agreement. “But, it probably is yellow.”
We sort of laugh. He turns to me. “Mrs. S, if I tell you it is snowing outside is it possible?”
“Not in California.” The room giggles. He smiles. “But is could be possible couldn’t it?
‘When hell freezes over, yes.”
I guess it was at this point he decided maybe I would have to go. However, for comic relief I was allowed to sit there for another hour and half as both side eliminated jurors, others were questioned and it seemed like they had their twelve jurors, me being the most surprised when we were told to take a fifteen minute break.
Upon returning, the bailiff noted juror number seven had “escaped” at which time I inquired of him, “But isn’t it your job to be in charge of the jurors?” He laughed along with the rest of the courtroom. Juror seven strolled in late and was promptly dismissed by the defense. That happened a couple of more times, jurors dismissed and thanked before the defense said, “I accept this panel.” She looked over at the prosecuting attorney knowing he had one more left to use.
“The prosecution dismisses juror number six. Thank you Mrs. S.” The crowd gives a sigh of collective disappointment; any one of them might be called in this final juror lotto; to take my place. I did get the last laugh.