Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"The Court thanks you...

...and excuses you from further service." Sweet, sweet words!

I made it into the Long Beach Superior court building at 0745, as ordered and, after a security search more intense than you'd go through at an airport, made it up to the jury room, from which the hapless conscripts were sent off in groups of 30 to courtrooms after a none-too-brief "orientation" program..

The only building I'd rate lower on the depression scale would be the old County Hospital, specifically the morgue facilities. Gad, what a miserable place. Everything painted in various shades of Death Row Brown, and people wandering around whose appearance and facial expressions make it clear they'll soon be heading to Big Max for 25-to-life or, worse, the big LWOP.

I will say the judge seemed a good sort. Since we ended up in the Civil Division, he probably enjoys jury selection more than the trials themselves.

My first "oh, bleep" moment: the judge said those who made the cut would be deciding a personal injury case. Damn. The old "slip-and-fall" gag.

The "voir dire" process began with the judge asking questions and getting personal information. By the time he'd gotten through the first dozen, I'd picked out ten I wouldn't let on a jury if they were the last ten people on earth. People whose grasp of English was, shall we say, tenuous, a woman who felt the system had treated her (and her family) badly in five accidents they'd been involved in in the past few years, a guy who had been to law school and fancied himself another Perry Mason, and a couple who simply didn't seem to be inhabiting their own bodies.

For various reasons, court broke early for lunch and restarted late. This is, I'm told, typical. None of the food items available in the building looked as if its sell-by date was from this century, so I went outside and grabbed a Hebrew National dog and Snapple off a cart on Ocean Boulevard.

Fortified, I got back in and it was time for the attorneys -- three, one for the plaintiff and two for the two companies he was suing -- to take over the questioning. The plaintiff's lawyer seemed reasonably sharp, one of the defense lawyers acted like a graduate of some mail-order law school ("If you can draw this dog, you too can be a Famous Lawyer!"), and the other didn't appear to have a detectable pulse.

By this time I was getting damn nervous. They were booting humans off the jury panel, and keeping the zombies. And, worst of all, I was getting ever closer to taking a seat in that box. I was certain one of the three shysters would dump me; after all, what little we had been told about the case meant that my, well, "professional expertise" might be an issue. And I asked the judge a question about the introduction of videotaped testimony (which supposedly was going to be part of the trial) that made the no-pulse attorney wince. It was the only sign of life I saw from her.

Suddenly, all three attorneys accepted the twelve (plus two alternates) they had. I was next in line.

A narrow escape!

Being on the panel with those people would have been sheer hell. I can see the jury deliberations taking weeks after a two-day trial.

But that's them. I trotted back to the jury room, handed in my badge, grabbed my fill-in-your-name-here certificate of Good Citizenship and beat feet back into The World....

I have to admit it: I was secretly hoping I might get roped into being among the jurors in the next Trial of the Century. I could use a good book deal!

14 comments:

lowandslow said...

I've been on several juries, and like you, I was dismayed by the people who made the cut. Of course, they were probably saying the same thing about me. Haha Turns out it was interesting, and the time passed quickly. But I can imagine if one party went "Court TV" and dragged things out for weeks. Ugh! Glad you escaped with your senses intact. :)

Anonymous said...

You chose Hebrew National? That's all that's important. Those are the best hot-dogs on the planet because god told people how to make them. They make my day. -Lauren

MrScribbler said...

If it's not Hebrew National or Nathan's Famous -- but only Nathan's in the NYC area -- I ain't eatin' it, Lauren!

likeisaid said...

Paul always gets picked for the jury. He loves it. Last time he was on a death penalty one. He was a little nervous about that one but something happened and it stopped. Plea bargaining maybe. I have never been and never want to. :)

Am I entrying this twice or even at all?? Grrr, I have trouble posting here lol.

John said...

This had me cracking up all the way through. Great stroy 3with a semi-happy ending.

Since I'd be reluctant to send someone up the river if I didn't agree with the law they canned me quick in Miami. Haven't had the honor of a call in Memphis.

Hard to imagine them finding twelve people in one room here who could dimguish between the words jury and jewelry.

John said...

I'm sure I had no typos when I first wrote that.
Although I did flunk the letter test first go round. Maybe it's a good thing they didn't put me on a jewelry

gillardia said...

I'm glad you escaped that one, Scribs!

Gill

Kashew said...

Last time I was summoned, hey dismissed all but 30 people right away. Of course I was in that 30.We waited an extra 10 minutes, then they said they decided not to go to trial. Since I was a part of the group that stayed, it shows that I did my duty and served.WOOHOOO!!

Hebrew National all the way, cuz they answer to a higher authority :)

DAL said...

I have only been called once, but by moving to another district before I received the notice, I managed to escape.

Hang the nrphimrc!

MrScribbler said...

I was really looking for a chance to be the one who stands up and says "guilty!!!"

Civil trials don't cut it that way.

Birdie said...

I guess living in Germany keeps me from being called *grins*
My brother has been called many times... his boss probably doesn't like that!

elin said...

Here in Denmark we have another kind of procedure.
But I have been in court, and I won :-)

Miss Contrary said...

What exactly were you doing in a courthouse?

MrScribbler said...

I was being an almost-but-not-quite juror, miss contrary.

I was also wasting eight hours, and spending $4 for a dog and drink....