Thursday, December 31, 2009

Law and order

posted Thu, 24 Feb 2005

I didn’t get to watch a trial today. Today's jury duty thingamajig was just the general corralling of potential jurors. It was at the coliseum – the one built two coliseum/arenas ago.

I don’t know if this one is paid for. Neither of the other two are, including the brand-new one, and the basketball team we were so lucky to lure here has the right to tell the coliseum and the other arena that they can’t have an event the night of a basketball game or other event at the new arena.

But I digress.

I showed up on time, carrying a newspaper (I smuggled it in despite signs forbidding newspapers) and two novels. Then the hundreds of us there on time waited for all the latecomers, but Clyde Somebody, commissioner of jurors, warned everyone that lateness would not be tolerated in the future. He didn’t specify the punishment, but I wonder if people get thrown in jail for being late to jury duty.

Clyde said he expected that a lot of us were hoping to get out of jury duty, but that it was highly unlikely that we would, as there are no exemptions in this state. Most people are very glad to have participated once they have done so, he added, explaining (music to my ears) that jury trials were a unique part of our system of government and it was a privilege to participate. “There are no coliseums filled with potential jurors in Cuba, I can assure you,” he said.

There is a dress code for court, Clyde explained. No tank tops. Nothing vulgar or political written on shirts. No shorts. “Let me tell you how the judges define shorts,” he said. “It’s not like everyone else. Shorts are any clothing that go onto the body one leg at a time where the fabric does not go below the ankle.”

Miss Sophia, my Polish trainer friend who wants to be a lawyer but who has not registered to vote because she does not want to be called for jury duty, will be very surprised to learn that the county pulls potential jurors from driver’s licenses, the phone book, property tax rolls, and other sources.

Then the judge swore us in. After he explained the legal requirements to be a juror – citizen of the US, over 18 and under 70 (although you can serve if you want to if you are over 70), “not convicted of an infamous crime,” “not a habitual drunkard,” and “not of unsound mind,” – he told us it was “a crime to give bogus information,” meaning if anyone lied about not meeting the legal requirements, he would be in big trouble.

Once you’ve served on a jury in this county, you can’t serve again for another ten years, even if you want to. “That’s vigilantism,” the judge said dryly. “We abolished that in 1920.”

By 8:45, they had us starting to line up for the week we wanted to serve. Clyde had promised to have us out by 9:30. “After you get your week, you are free to go,” he said. “You’re done here for now. I would recommend you return to work because your employers know how long this process takes. They call us!”

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