12 November 2009

Twelve apathetic men and true...

Next week, I take my mom in for her eye surgery. I'm hoping of course that she can get a bit of her sight restored with the removal of the cataract. Won't be 20/20, but even to read large print would be a vast improvement. Those of you inclined to prayer, it'd be appreciated. If you have fingers, cross them. Thanks.

Anyway, every cloud does have a silver lining. The surgery got me out of going to jury duty. Like most Americans, I hate getting the notice for jury selection (I don't know how you folks Down Under do jury selection-I've heard it's 'rock-paper-scissors' but I could be wrong-seriously, someone fill me in. I'm curious). 95% of the time you make all of the arrangements to be gone from work, have the kids taken care of, whatever-you call the night before and the parties decide not to go to trial. Well, thank you! Although that's possibly the best scenario.

The second best (or second worst) ia actually having to go to the courthouse and sit in the jury pool all day waiting to see if the parties are going to actually go to trial or if the dueling attorneys can come up with a deal that satisfies everyone except those who sat there and read the Sports Illustrated from 1993.

The third worst option is to actually be selected for a jury. Modern court TV shows manage to wrap up capital murder cases in about 51 minutes, less commercials. The actual process of even a simple open-and-shut case consumes the entire day.

I've sat on precisely ONE jury. In fact, I was the foreman of said twelve good men and true. Seems during a police search of an apartment, the cops found a small stash of pot in the defendant's refrigerator. Pretty simple, really:

a) The defendant had marijuana in his possession.
b) The defendant made no attempt at a defense.
c) Possession of marijuana is illegal in the State of Illinois.

We trudged through the prosecution's case, listened to the defendant's attorney put up a half-assed attempt at a defense (really, I wasn't prejudiced then and am not now. I reckon the attorney was trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit. It happens.), sat through interminable recesses, and then went into the jury room to deliberate. We had one juror who, in true Clintonian style, wanted to argue the meaning of a fairly simple word like 'is'-hey, she was doing her duty so I can't fault her- and we took three votes before we reached unanimity.

We trudged back in and presented our verdict to the judge. Guilty. I don't know what the punishment is for possession of a few grams of pot is, but if he got more than a hefty fine it's overkill. He didn't do anything worth more than a day or two at the Graybar Hotel. Pay your fine, sir, and learn to hide your stash a little bit better.

This relatively simple case ate up the whole day. One imagines the dread a juror has when they get a big case that lasts several weeks-and are sequestered to boot. I could see this scenario now. Los Angeles, 1994.

'Don't let me get the O.J. Simpson case.'
'Don't let me get the O.J. Simpson case.'
'Don't let me get the O.J. Simpson case.'

Then the entourage enters the courtroom as the bailiff intones-

"The People v. Orenthal James Simpson!"

'Aw, crap!'

The process of trial by jury is interesting enough, and I suppose if you have a tough prosecution and a dogged defense, it can really be a brain-scratcher. Too often, a jury gets someone arguing some traffic law or fighting a DUI. Thanks, guy, for the civics lesson. Now pay your fine and get!

I'm not sure how impartial I could be if I got a rape or child abuse case. I reckon I'd not get past the selection because my opinions would probably cause the defense attorney to disqualify me. Might be a good thing for somebody.

Anyone else out there have experience with being on a jury? I'd have asked 'Who else out there has had experience with the judicial system?', but there's no sense in tossing a 40 mph curve ball for someone to smack out of the park.

yankeedog out.


  1. YD

    The jury selection rules for Queensland, Australia have been under review since April 2008 and a final report is due at the end of December 2010. (can't see why it takes so long to review something but it's probably being done by lawyers on large wages)

    My wife nor myself have every been selected for jury duty. A neighbour got selected twice within a month.

    Fingers crossed for your Mum.


  2. As I understand it you get the letter (escape if you can), trudge into town on the day and enter the jury pool and are called from there or not.

    Best of luck to your Mum.

  3. Gaz-My stepfather got a jury duty callup this summer. It'd have been a bit tough for him to go, since he died. Oops.

    Sounds like your process is about the same as ours. Some people never get called. Some get several summons over the course of a couple of years.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Bangar-Yep. You summed up our method in two dozen words! Glad to see Aussies try like hell to get out of the process like we do.

    And I appreciate the thought as well.

  4. I've always wanted to be selected but it hasn't happened once in 40 years! So it is with the case of TV and radio survey books. I have no faith in the ratings system over here.

    All the best for Mum. Will good vibes help?

  5. Birmingham wrote a good piece about being on a jury in Ipswich (redneck outer suburb of Brisbane) as a callow youth. I think it's in his compilation book Off One's Tits.

  6. Natalie-I've never been in on TV or radio ratings books either, nor have I been part of a political poll. Guess no one cares what we think.

    And nice to have you back here again.

    Thanks, and yes, we'll take good vibes!

    Doc-I have to read some of Birmo's other works. Other than the AoT series, they aren't readily available here. Rather a shame, but I'd bet Amazon has them somewhere in their giant warehouse.

  7. YDog have a look here.

  8. Bangar-All right! You, sir, are The Man!