Two weeks ago I received a jury summons in the mail. In California the system is “one day, one trial”. You call in every night after 7:00 PM to see if you have to report the next day. If you survive the week without getting called in, your civic duty is complete. If you are called in on any day during that five day stretch, and don’t get put on a jury, your civic duty is done. If you get put on a jury during that day, you stay for the whole trial and then your civic duty is done. The instructions were to begin calling in on Sunday, October 24 to see if I had to report for duty the next day. I called Sunday and was not required Monday. I called Monday, and Tuesday was a day on which my services would not be required. Tuesday had the same result. Awesome. Two down, three to go. I had a late meeting at the office on Wednesday and called at 7:04 PM. This time it wasn’t the usual automated message but an actual person whose recorded voice told me that I was not required for Thursday. I called Thursday, my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t have to report. I was met with a message that said, “You failed to report. Call and talk to a clerk and reschedule your jury duty.”
Oh hell no! I called Friday and talked to a lady who said I called at 4:04 PM on Wednesday. I told her I did not and read her the times of my check ins from the call log on my cell phone. Every single one matched EXCEPT WEDNESDAY, where their records were three hours earlier than my actual call in. I explained to her that she was insane and that the computer was wrong. She told me I had to reschedule but could bring it up if I had to report.
Fast forward to this week, where I started the process over again. I didn’t have to report on Monday but, sure enough, Tuesday was the day I had to go in. I knew it. I knew that raising that ruckuss would force me into the abyss:
After the introductory “welcome to jury duty, suckers” speech I approached the office window and explained my situation. There was nothing they could do, or so they told me. “Just wait it out today and you should be okay.”
That was the kiss of death, well, one of them anyway. Around 11:30 we got the good news that we had been released for lunch early and were off until 1:30. I went back to the office where a normally lovely lady I work with put a curse on me. As I walked out to return to the courthouse she said to me, “You know, with your luck you’ll get put on a jury at the end of the day.” The cackle that followed pierced the normal humming of the office but, being a half-full kind of guy, I chuckled and left.
The jury room has to be one of the most depressing places in the world. While I was in there I felt like one of those workers you hear about in China who makes iPhones and lives in a room with seven other guys in a 200,000 person dormitory next door to (and owned by) the iPhone factory. It’s totally depressing:
Everyone in there just wants to be somewhere else. The TV in the room wasn’t working. There was an old lady next to me reading “The Idiot’s Guide to Faith”:
There were three PCs set up in the back that I’m pretty sure were on dial-up modems. A ton of stuff was locked down, as is evident by this sign:
Fortunately, I was able to get to the one place I needed to get to:
Fast forward to 3:00 PM. I had another ninety minutes to go, two hours tops. That’s when they suddenly started calling names. They called a good dozen people up to the office and dismissed them. They then called another twenty people and that’s when I heard it. “Big Skeezy?” she said. “Here,” I happily replied, figuring it was my turn. “Those of you whose names I just called report to the fifth floor, courtroom. FYL.”
No, it couldn’t be! Had my co-worker’s curse really worked? There was still a chance to get out of it, I figured. I just had to answer the questions in a way that would make me sound as unappealing to the lawyers as possible. When we got upstairs they asked us the usual questions. Who were are, what we do, where we live, who we live with, what they do, etc. They then went into more specific questions. The defense attorney asked me if I thought I could make a decision that would affect the lives of the people involved. This was my chance.
“Not even a little bit,” I told the counsel. “I don’t feel that I, or anyone else, is qualified to make a decision that will change someone else’s life. Who am I to decide who’s a liar? That’s why I hate the judicial system. We have no expertise in these matters and have no business saying that someone is less of a liar than someone else is based on two guys who are probably lying to us anyway because they are trying to get straight paid.”
Counsel thanked me and moved on to the prospective juror to my left. He asked, “A couple of the people we will call as witnesses don’t speak English. Will you be prejudiced against them for using an interpreter?” It wasn’t my question but I nodded vigorously, hoping they’d add that to the list of reasons to send me home.
They didn’t. I got stuck on a damn jury. I’ve never in my life been on a jury and now I’m in the middle of damned jury duty. Unfortunately, cameras aren’t allowed in the courthouse but I was able to get this artists’ rendition of the exact moment I was told I had to serve on a jury:
I used to think that being on a jury would be an exciting experience. I’m all about doing my civic duty but, having been on the jury for two days now with no end in sight, I can honestly tell you that I would rather stay home and sew my face to the carpet than go sit in that damn box again. Once it’s done I’ll give you all a rundown of the case itself but, for now, I have to keep it all a secret. Court blows, but it’s nice to not be the subject matter for a change.