Monday, March 9, 2009

Jury Duty

They dismissed me! They DISMISSED ME!!! I honestly feel like I got cut from the audition!!!

In January, I got a letter asking me to report for jury duty on 3/9. I spent weeks discussing with others what I could do to get out of it. It wasn't so much that I didn't want to step up to the plate and perform my civic duty, but I was seriously worried about my ability to sit still and listen. "Have SATAN tattooed on your forehead before you go in," suggested JS. "Ooh, good idea!" Or I could just say, "Well, did the bitch/bastard deserve it?" ZC suggested: "I like kids, preferably 12-year-olds, but I'm not picky." LM suggested I dress up as Princess Leia (a la Tina Fey on '30 Rock') and explain how it wouldn't be fair to use the Force in the courtroom... Ha.

And so the morning arrived. I packed magazines, my laptop, several scripts, a letter that I needed to answer, and my cellphone (on silent, of course). A caffeine-free Diet Coke, several of John's cookies, a small bag of raisins, and a cup of coffee. My fear of boredom and wasting the precious moments of my life in idleness (which finds its origins in countless, pointless teachers' meetings....) is a driving factor in my life and god forbid I sit with empty hands and an empty mind for more than three minutes...

I arrived almost too late to get a seat in the over-heated 'jury storage room': "36 Hot Disgruntled Jurors". There were exactly 36 of us, and 36 chairs in a room made for 12.....

[An older woman speaks up and makes what was supposed to be joke about how she never got called for jury duty while she was working, but since she retired, she's been called three times. Her business? Real estate. She adds that she wouldn't begin to try to sell her house now....]

[Another guy made a general discussion-starting comment about how poorly Purdue had done the night before, but no one bit.]

We saw a video about the jury selection process called "Duty, Honor, Privilege" which featured a cameo by Indiana Supreme Court Justice Randall T. Shepherd. He talked about how jury duty may seem like an interruption in your life, but it was really a duty, an honor, and, yous guessed it, a privilege. But I would be willing to bet somehow, that he was excused...

[I can't believe all these people around me who have book, no magazine... A couple do, but most don't.]

So then, after the vid, we're called out into the courtroom where it is infinitely cooler. I'm told to sit in chair #2, which is in the front row of the jury box. I see the punky young defendant sitting with his lawyer, who looks a little like KMac, at the table to the left; I see the very young DA sitting with a plainclothes officer (as evidenced by the shoulder holster gun).

The judge welcomes us and asks if everyone can hear. The acoustics are terrible, but I can hear. The lady in the third row can't. She asks why they don't wear mics. I marvel at this for a moment as the judge leans forward into his desk microphone to explain that they got a lot of things when they renovated, but getting them individual lapel mics was not one of them.

[Hmm. It really is a beautiful room. Wonderfully painted. Lovely woodwork. But what about those brass-plated electrical outlets ten feet up the wall? I know they're ten feet because they're taller than our flats. What could possibly be plugged into those?]

[And look at those stained-glass windows. Wow. Lavender flowers. Hmm. Rings a bell. Where have I recently seen lavender flowers...?]

The DA is now asking individual questions of each of the jurors. Do we know him? A couple do. I don't. He asks juror #1 (beside me) a question which eludes me now. And then he turns to me. "Mrs. Schaefer? You're a teacher?"
"I used to be, yes."
When kids came to you with a problem, how did you decide who was right? Who did you believe?"
"I didn't believe either of them. I only believed what I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears."
He then said, "Would you be more likely to believe this policeman because he has a gun and a badge?"
I frowned a little, and I said, "No."

The DA moved on and through the process of some explanation and some questioning, we learn that the defendant made threats to his ex-wife and his ex-wife's family. The policeman and some other people were going to testify for the wife's family. The hapless defendant's only witness was his father. Snort. Some of the questions involved whether or not parents tell the truth even when their children are in trouble. All of the parents who were questioned along that line said that no matter what, they loved their child, but they would still tell the truth. Right. I watch too much news and too much Jerry Springer to believe THAT for one minute. Parents will say whatever will get their kids out of trouble, jail, detention, a bad grade. You name it.

The older woman in row three asked if they were going to introduce DNA evidence because she knew that was something she could believe that. The DA said there wouldn't be any of that. She seemed disappointed. I was, too.

The longer the questioning went, the more interested I got in finishing out the day. I noticed the defense attorney and his client whispering and gesturing towards the jury pool. Hmmm.

When the DA finished, we took our restroom break. I took a 'text message' break and consequently was the last person to return to the court room.

Next it was the defendant's attorney's turn to question us. He was very friendly and personable and I felt myself being 'worked on' by this guy's charm. The prosecuting attorney alluded to it being a family disagreement. He asked if we thought it should be in civil court or criminal court. Geez, I had no idea. He told us that real 'court room drama' wasn't like it was on TV and that he would try to keep his objections down to a minimum. He asked if anyone watched "CSI". [No, but I just saw "CSI Neverland". Would admitting THAT get me out of here?] He told us that there was obviously a family disagreement with a lot of 'he-said/she-said' and we may see some courtroom arguing. [Wow!] And then he asked, "Well, what if we took a vote right now. How many would vote guilty? What would the verdict be?" Well, I was all set to vote guilty. I've seen his type countless times and I absolutely believed he threatened his (ex)wife and her family. Guilty? Hai-ll, yes! We don't need a trial. Why is this sawed-off young punk wasting the tax payers' dollars with a jury trial????

So then the defense attorney finished his questions and interviews and both attorneys went up to confer with the judge. Can I take out my magazine now? Can I, huh? I've been sitting here doing nothing for the past 90 minutes. I've watched the guy next to me take off and put on his watch more times than I want to count. Please, it's just human decency to to allow us a chance to read or check our voice mails or SOMETHING.

Oh. Oh, they're calling names of the six jurors they want to stay....and, I'm not one of them. I'm not! Why? What's wrong with me? It wasn't like they asked me to sing or something....

They thanked us, promised not to bother us for another 24 months, and dismissed us--and I was on my cell phone before I got to the elevator.

Our judiciary system--one of the modern marvels!!


  1. Mark was called to jury duty once. It was a drug trial -- buying and selling near a school. Mark was dismissed when said he thought the actual trial should be for price-gouging on the part of the seller since he (seller) had purchased the drugs in Chicago for considerably less than he tried to sell them in Indiana (Mark's views on these things don't necessarily conform to those of typical society). The defense attorney thought that was a fine sentiment for a juror, but the prosecuting attorney didn't. Go figure.

  2. Ha. Yes. I think I remember your brother. That's hilarious. My brother Andy was a bailiff (sp?) in an Indianapolis courtroom where they were interviewing prospective jurors. The question was: how do you feel about homosexuality? The juror's answer was, "Well, it's okay as long as they don't try to shove it down my throat." Andy said that he AND the judge actually had to turn away to hide their smiles...

  3. I was actually thrilled to read every detail of your adventure! I'm such a weirdo...