Posts Tagged ‘jury duty’

This past Monday and Tuesday, I “completed” my jury duty, which is to say I sat in big rooms for two days waiting for my name to be called, got asked a handful of questions designed to determine whether I’d be a fair juror, and was ultimately told I didn’t have the right stuff and to come back in six years.

I’ll skip the part where I talk about how terrible jury duty is—the 20-minute wait in the cold to get through security (and having to take my belt off every time), the various mispronunciations of my last name (the worst being “Cassell”—really?), and the general inefficiency with which our group of 50 people was herded like cattle from room to room for seven hours—and instead I’ll jump to the part where I actually found the process, dare I say it, interesting from the eyes of a prospective juror.

The past two days reminded me of a job interview I went on when I was 22 or 23. It was for some sort of newspaper or newsletter that covered the fluctuation of oil prices by the barrel, a topic I had no knowledge of or interest in. But it was a full-time, paid writing gig and would have been my first job after college, so I told myself it was fascinating and hoped I’d be selected.

After getting through the first round, I met with a higher-up who spent a half hour telling me how tedious the process of writing about the ever-rising and falling cost of a barrel of oil can be, and how I might find the job boring after a while. He was offering me the chance to eliminate myself as a candidate. I just had to say the magic words, I imagine something to the effect of, “You know what? This job actually does sound pretty boring. Thanks anyway. I’ll let myself out.”

I wanted the job, though, so I did my best to feign interest in oil prices, but he saw through me and I wasn’t called back. That’s sort of how I felt the last two days while waiting to be selected for a jury.

One by one, prospective jurors tried out their pre-meditated excuses why they couldn’t serve as a juror on a drug case:

“I don’t speak or understand English…though I’ve lived in the U.S. for 40 years.” (Probably the most common one I heard. The judge would ask a follow-up question after this excuse and they’d always say, “What? No, I don’t understand.”)

“My cousin had a drug problem…or sold drugs…or counsels former addicts…or served time for drug-related charges.” (This was a popular one, and leads me to believe there should be an HBO series about Manhattan residents’ cousins and the drug trade. David Simon: call me.)

“My uncle is a police officer.” (OK…)

“I can’t serve in this case for personal reasons.” (Not very imaginative, but apparently good enough to be excused.)

“I find it rude when someone speaks to me indoors while wearing sunglasses.” (This one’s weirdly specific, I know. The defense attorney, who was a bit of a schmuck, had those Richard Belzer tinted lenses. When the prospective juror said this, the attorney’s response was, “I’M BLIND!”)

Meanwhile, I was content to be myself, without any spin or slant, and hope that some obscure detail about me, like my clothes or my tone of voice or maybe even the existence of this very blog, would rule me out without having to fabricate or exaggerate some damning, “un-juror-like” detail.

As it turned out, the defense attorney, the “blind” guy (though I suspect his eyes were just light-sensitive), didn’t care for me. In his final few minutes of voir dire, he expressed that he was “worried” about me because he thought my personal feelings towards an overly aggressive, sometimes rude defense attorney might cloud my judgment. This might have been true, though I don’t remember telling him my personal feelings. Do eye rolls count?

A while later, I was dismissed and thrown back into the jury pool.

From what I could gather, the first part of the selection process was about who could serve as a juror (must speak English, must live in the correct borough, must be available for the next two weeks if necessary), and the rest was spent allowing every lousy excuse why someone couldn’t serve as a juror, like the sunglasses thing.

I don’t know what the answer is to making the process of jury selection more efficient and I don’t expect the courts to listen even if I had one, no matter how much I might tweet it from the mountain tops. But it did confirm the suspicions I’ve have for the 12 jury duty-less years I’ve lived since I turned 18.

Jury duty does, in fact, suck.

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