sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

February 28, 2006

civic duty
posted by soe 6:38 pm

I believe that Americans have a responsibility to uphold the concept of democracy. As such, I vote regularly (even if, living in D.C., my vote matters less than yours). I pay taxes cheerfully. And I have been willing to serve on a jury, even though I have never been called.

Today, the full round of civic responsibility kicked in and I reported to D.C.’s Superior Court for my day of jury duty. I suspected I might get picked for a trial and thus hoped they’d get started right away, so I could be done by the end of Thursday.

They showed us a video to orient the 100 or so of us who were asked to arrive at 8 (another group arrived at 10; I assume they saw the same video). This video dealt mostly with how to be reimbursed for your travel expenses, but, sadly, that’s probably the question they get asked the most.

As soon as the video ended, a jury pool was called and my number was amongst those. Sixty or so of us queued up in a hallway for about 45 minutes while we were put in a pre-determined order. When someone finally came out, I thought, that’s the Mac of this court. I wonder who the Bull is (since there’s no one around in uniform)? It’s then that it occured to me that perhaps I’ve watched too much tv over the years.

Then we went into a courtroom where the judge (who was not as funny as Harry Anderson’s character, but, then, who is?) reviewed the basic details of the case that would be heard and the lawyers listed potential witnesses. Then the judge asked us to write down answers to some questions that could potentially disqualify us for service on the case.

Next, the judge called us up to the bench one by one so we could go over our answers with him and the two lawyers. This process took four hours.

As I’d suspected, my answers did not disqualify me from serving and I was invited back for the winnowing process, where the lawyers got to boot people they didn’t like the look of. Again, I was not one of those people.

So what does this all mean?

  1. I will be sitting on a trial for at least the next week.
  2. This trial is unlikely to be speedy given they took a full day to decide on the 14 people they wanted to have hear the case.
  3. It may make it harder for me to be in Boston Friday evening if I have to deliberate that day — and I won’t know either way until I’m dismissed for the day on Thursday.
  4. I will need to get to bed early the next few nights because it would be a miscarriage of justice if I am not at my sharpest when hearing evidence and deliberating about a man’s liberty.
  5. I will not be able to share details about the case with you until after it’s been decided. Don’t take it personally; I don’t want to be held in contempt.
  6. I will be very glad when my service is up and I’m off the roll call for the next two years.
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