Jury Duty

I spent the past month trying to come up with ways to get out of jury duty. None were very successful.So this morning, I went through the metal detector at the San Francisco Superior Courthouse without beeping, and made my way to room 007 (James Bond served up justice, didn’t he?). I had a piece of paper in my hand that I didn’t understand, and I got into a line that didn’t have a stated purpose. The man at the desk took my paper, said “Perfect,” and then called “Next!” No instructions. I just had to follow the crowd.The crowd was about 150 bored and irritated San Francisco residents. The crowd was business executives, construction workers, stay at home moms, trendy students, desk clerks, and tired seniors. The crowd was reading newspapers, napping, staring off into space, and playing tetris on their cell phones. The crowd was sitting in a room that looked like a bank lobby on steroids with pictures of the constitution on one wall, and artsy etchings of faceless white men with curly white wigs on the other. About 20 minutes passed before I heard a man at a microphone speak. “Welcome to the Superior Courthouse and thank you for fulfilling your obligation for jury service.” Oh, great! I’ve fulfilled it! I can leave now!, I thought. Did you know thoughts can be sarcastic? Anyway, the introduction commenced. San Francisco has a “One Day or One Trial” policy. This means you show up for the first day of your jury duty. If you don’t get assigned to a trial that day, you’re done. If you get assigned to a trial and it ends that day, you’re done. Most trials are no more than a few days. A week max. Jury duty is easy and fun. It’s about serving your country. It gives you a feeling of satisfaction. In short, Please don’t walk out of this room right now. We know you hate it, but please for the love of god just suck it up.They told us it would be awhile before the judge required our presence. I leaned back and pulled out my Treo to catch up on my email and pass the time — only to find that there was no cell phone service in this armored basement room. And suddenly, panic set in.Two hours passed, and the crowd went from bored to cranky. Eventually the announcer called a long list of names, mine included, and told us to go to the sixth floor to see the judge. Picture a miniature court room, and 80 cranky misplaced civilians sitting in every chair they can possibly cram inside it. Picture a geeky guy with black plastic frame glasses asking us to swear we’re going to tell the absolute truth (and nothing but the truth!) about our qualifications as jurors, so help us god. Picture a friendly blonde woman who starts her name with “The Honorable,” sitting at the front of the room in a black robe, explaining that this will not be your average civil trial.This will be a criminal trial.This trial will last four weeks. Picture 80 cranky misplaced civilians wincing in unison. The Honorable goes on to explain that if you have serious, legally-arguable hardship associated with serving for that long, you won’t have to serve. And if you know any of the witnesses, you won’t be able to serve. And this trial deals with an event that was in the local news, and if you followed that story carefully by the media, you may not be able to serve. And this trial deals with a particular event that many people have a phobia of or serious bias against, and if you do, you won’t be able to serve. Picture 65 cranky misplaced civillians sigh with relief.Picture your hero, Sarah Dopp, with a panicked look in her eyes, as she realizes that she’s in the minority group of fearless and ignorant jurors who don’t have any major conflict with living in a courthouse for a month. I will find out on Thursday if I’m needed to serve.Aaaaaannd… I’m freaking out.

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6 Responses to “Jury Duty”

  1. Ramen Junkie Says:

    The best way to get out of jury duty is to wear a temporary Swastika tatoo on your shoulder the day of selection.

    If asked be sure to tell the judge you hate “*List of disrespectful minority terms edited*” even if it’s not true. This will cover a lot of ground for making you a biased jourer and thus no one will want you on thier jury.

    I guess technically that’s not “the truth , the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

  2. dabetswe Says:

    good luck, sarah! you can tell me all about it later…if you do have to serve on the jury stand, that is..

  3. huge Says:

    Yes, telling them that you hate cops and are a card-carrying member of the ACLU also helps. But, then again, it sounds like you might want to be there. Freak.

  4. Stephen Says:

    I served on a jury in a criminal trial. It didn’t last four weeks, and we never deliberated because the defense attorney provoked a mistrial. But it’s a rare experience that you can’t buy and it’s a story to tell.

  5. Lin Says:

    I served on a medical malpractice jury and that trial lasted two weeks (last year). I agree with Stephen, that it’s a rare experience and I also feel that it’s an honor to serve…it’s part of living in a democracy, flawed as it all is.

    It’s beyond boring at times, but an interesting experience nonetheless.

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