Sunday, August 27, 2006

trial for jury, not trial by jury

my selfishness and busy life prevented me from enjoying the full drama of jury duty friday.

i've been summoned a few times, but this was absolute first time i had to show my face at the court for jury duty. even my school field trip to the court house was in oakland, thus make it my first time ever at san francisco district court house.

first off, it was super entertaining event.
second, it's super time-consuming event.
third, it's somewhat ...hmm... how do i say it politically correct?... hmm... i guess i just blurt it out, that's it's somewhat inefficient.

i'm getting on flight next friday, so that was supposed to be my ticket to get off the hook easy and fast. so i thought i might as well enjoy the show until i get dismissed, until my anxiety and fidgity almost killed all my nerve around 3pm when I start fiddle with my hands and keep bouncing my feet around making small noises.

so to tell the story, let's start at the top of the hour.

about 2 weeks ago i got the jury duty summon paper in mailbox, for monday 8/21 and that i had to call friday before after 4:30pm to know whether to come, to be dismissed or be put on-hold. i assumed i'd be just dismissed, like last half dozen times, so i just mentioned it to my colleagues and manager without much concern.
friday afternoon says checkback on monday, monday 4:30pm it says checkback on tuesday, on tuesday to checkback on wednesday, ..., so on thursday when i saw on that says 'show up 8:45am' i didn't really believe my eyes and i wasn't quiet prepared.

8:45am show up, so naturally i was fashionably late, getting off bus at the corner of 6th and bryant at 8:46am. I was worried stiff I might be led into jail for contempt of court for a few minutes of tardiness when i saw a long line of people at the entrance of the courthouse. Obviously it's not Macy's and it's not labor day sale yet. It turned out that the court had summoned all the 2 dozen groups of 40 people to the court house on friday, before next week's batch, that's like some couple hundred people trying to sqeeze into the court house metal detector and bag search at once.

The lady who walked around the line with speakerphone blasted that the line was indeed for jury and that once we get through the securty we should get to 3rd floor for jury lounge and check in.
It wasn't until like 9:30 when I finished getting through security and to check in.

It was like human flea market, so many people talking, cutting in lines, eating, laughing, and hustle&bustle.

I kept walking up to the jury lounge clerk asking 'shouldn't i be dismissed?' with my flight reservation stub. And, the clerk amiably told me to ask judge both times; guess clerks there are used to people pestering them with petit annoyances like this?

Anyhow, pocket search for having cell phone in pocket and a lousy cup of machine coffee that wouldn't dispense any cream nor sugar later it was 10 to 10 when I discovered by sheer luck that there were people using internet with laptop. I was supposed to be called in at 10am, but I thought if free wifi was available maybe the court house wasn't so bad. wifi was available, it just wasn't free. wasn't that expensive, $6 for the day, but if i'm sitting around for 10minutes and will be dismissed promptly by judge, was it worth it? It was much much later I found out it would have been worth it whole lotta.

at 10 past 10am we there were some 70-80 of us named to go to 2nd floor. At the door of courtroom i realized i was to attend a criminal court session. wow, how impressive.

i've faithfully been watching court and legal drama and read about every single one of john grisham's books so i thought i knew much and i was eager to see the evil criminal and fast paced and super fancy trial. i could almost feel the rush.

it took another 15min on roll call and stupid this and that and another 5minutes for the small lady in her 40s or 50s show up and sit down as a presiding judge.

as i anxiously sat on 3rd row on right side of the court seating to be dismissed and set free, there was this guy sitting on 1st row of left side seating that stirred up the crowd with his 'excuse me...' as he approached the bench that almost made the cop in court room to get up in reflex, to stop the guy. It turned out that he's got outstanding felony charge and he didn't think he should sit like rest of us and wait for turn to be dismissed.

Well, it took a bit of drama but he did get dismissed when we returned from recess an hour later. I thought why would the guy want to proclaim to every strangers in the room about his felony charge? Well, that's him, I guess.

It was shocking to know a dark colored lady sitting on left side of the table facing judge in black suit was a defendant in criminal court. she doesn't look like a vicious killer nor manipulative con artist, nor deceptive spy. oh well, that shows how naive i can get.

she was charged with some minor dismeanor, that would charge up $400 fine and record, that she's fighting. Oh my... I've seen people buying dress more expensive than $400. If I didn't know that I might have endured next 4hours a little better.
some 80 peoples' whole day sitting around listening all kind of silly things so she might be acquitted of felony charge and $400 fine?

I didn't say what my father usually say on things like this; give them a fair trial and hang'em. It's a joke. And, there's no need to talk about hanging anyways.

It was more like hanging civilians with exceptionally long jury screening.

if a businessman spent this much of screening in running his business or if an engineer spent this much time design and spec-out the product, we might get a perfect world. judge, defense attorney and proscutor had a paper binder with seating charts of 18 prospect jurors slots drawn as a big box with slots and used sticky notes to put juror's notes, profiles, questions, red notepad for concerns and alarms and yellow ones for other notes.

i was pretty intrigue to see that note taking, and also court clerk writing down everything spoken in her shorthand. these are the details court drama always seem to dismiss.

then the full drama began. 18 prospect jurors were selected and seated, and judge ordered the rest of us to have a piece of paper and a pencil to write down answer to what judge ask/address to these 18, to recite when one of the jurors get bumped out and an open seat is to be yours. like it's a blessing. ho, hum... maybe it is so for some.

there was this ex-security guy i thought would surely be dismissed, with his silly and pompous talk and acts but he didn't. there was this guy who told judge how biased he is about the subject it took no time for judge and both lawyers to dismiss him. one of those power wheeler & dealer at big company who talk his way out of unprofitable work like this. sigh*
and, there was slight mental case here and there, divulging personal information nobody in that room need to know.

the judge was fairly humourous, detailed and patient. also was pretty sharp to laywers sneaking in the same questions twice or putting words into the mouth of juror. that part was really like in the movies.

the judge recessed for lunch at noon until 1:30pm and that is when she allowed people to approach bench, one at a time, to explain why one should be excused from previlege of serving as jury. haha... one lady from jury got dismissed for economic hardship, and another guy that was sitting next to me for both economic hardship and childcare issue. sucker!

when i went up, i realized my flight reservation may or may not do the trick, so i gave her two reasons. one was the business trip flight and the other that i might have medical case because i have low blood pressure and sitting 8hrs a day for this might make me faint. she didn't buy that. i was already feeling pretty claustrophobic and stuffy with lightheadedness and faint hunger, but i wasn't gonna fight for it. when i gave up on going out for lunch and returning to face security i headed up to the jury lounge, it was already 12:30. with some trouble with laptop's internet connection, and another cup of machine coffee, it was 12:50. why bother with internet for 10min? so I went to wait for the court session to open. wasn't until 1:15 when we were allowed in, way way after both lawyers and defendent got allowed in at 1:05. so much for requiring us the prospective jorors to be prompt.

around 2 is when the judge let laywers to drop jurors from the seats, start refill and interrogate some more and let go some more, until they have 12 jurors and 2 alternates.

doctors got dismissed, people who vocalized being victim of some related crimes recently got dismissed, a chinese lady who's been living in san francisco for 30years got dismissed on basis of her poor english(oh! come on!) and so on. and there wasn't that promised recess every one and half hour at 2:30pm as the court wasn't really in session promptly at 1pm.

when i thought i might get up and dance and jump up and down, then stab myself to death with suffocation and boredom, at 3:10 was when 14 jurors got locked and judge released rest of us and also proclaimed recess.

so many questions, so many that if i was seated in one of those 18 i'd be tossed out at that first round of dismissal. and, to check-out at 3rd floor jury lounge, wait on long line and show the bar-coded stub.

lawyers, defendents get through security without wait, and is allowed in to court room without wait, and it's jury who wait and hurdle through lines and do check-in and check-out with bar codes? for someone's minor misdeameanor that would easily be corrected with a few spanking, some community service and small fine?

it was like what i often hear about early immigration processing line, treated like some luggage. hmm....

i call it trial for jury, not trial by jury.

on practicality level i'd say it's poor and not fair for jury.

on entertainment and education level, it was pretty intriquing. if i was just staying home watching ceiling, i wouldn't mind going through the whole process and watch the case being tried. for a minor case like this, i may not feel so guilty, it's not like that murder trial for famous people somewhere far away. and, who knows i might learn enough to write like john grisham, cheesy crime suspense. ^^


Post a Comment

<< Home