Thursday, June 05, 2008

Day 2 of jury duty

Just a quick update before I head off to bed. The only reason I'm up so late is that I don't have to be in court until 9:30 tomorrow morning, which is really late for me on a regular workday. So I can give everyone a quick rundown of Day 2 of Jury Duty 2008.

At the end of Day 1, I was one of the jurors waiting to be seated for a trial involving an armed robbery suspect. One by one, each juror was called up to be seated in the box, and one by one, they were dismissed by either the prosecutor or the defense counsel. Finally, I was the last potential juror left in the gallery, so when they dismissed one more, I had to go sit in the box and talk to the judge.

He went through the standard questionnaire, like did I know the defendant or the lawyers, and had I ever been a victim of a violent crime. I went through all the basic questions with no problems, but the last question was if I thought the criminal justice system was fair and effective. I said I could not honestly say that it was, based on the large number of overturned convictions due to DNA evidence of people who were innocent but found guilty in our so-called "effective" judicial system. I also thought about the fact that the U.S. has a greater percentage of our population incarcerated than any other first-world nation, and more than many despot nations that we act so morally superior to. Our prison sentences are exceptionally long, and yet it seems like it's not much of a deterrent to crime. I'm not saying I know what the answer is, but I could not honestly say, as all the other jurors already seated did, that the criminal justice system is the best it can be and is fair and effective. So the judge dismissed me.

I went back to the jury summons room - I call it Purgatory because it's basically a large waiting room where you wait for a judge to call for jurors for a particular case. After lunch and a couple hours of waiting, a judge called for about 80 percent of the jurors in the room, including me. When I got to the courtroom, I found out why - the case was that of an aggravated sexual assault of a child under 13 years old. It's going to be a difficult time picking 12 jurors and 2 alternates to try that case. At the end of Day 2, we were just getting through the preliminary rounds of voir dire (Latin for "speak the truth") where people were giving their excuses for why they were not able to serve as a juror for this trial, which could last two weeks or more. Tomorrow morning we'll seat the first 14 jurors in the jury box and start weeding out in earnest.

The whole experience has actually been pretty interesting for me, and of course, I'm making excellent progress on my reading. I completed three graphic novels (Lucifer Vol. 3 and Vol. 4, and Saga of the Swamp Thing) plus I'm up to Chapter 10 in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight. If I don't get chosen for the child rape case, then my service will be done tomorrow and I can resume my normal life on Friday. I'm really apprehensive about the possibility of serving in this trial, not just because of all the work I'd miss, but because of the subject matter. Despite my usually cool exterior, I'm a pretty squeamish person at heart, and I have no wish to get involved in such a horrifying incident.

That's all for now - hope everyone is doing well.