Jury duty. Just the name sends shivers through our spines. We all cringe when the form comes in the mail.
Now that we are done obsessing over the Conrad Murray trial, I thought I would share my recent jury experience. I didn’t end up on this jury, but I did get to spend two days with a pool of the exact 49 other people I would not want to sit in judgment of me, should I be so unlucky as to need such a service.
Initially, it was hard for me to believe that a pool of 50 potential jurors was called for what was to be a jury of 12, with 2 alternates. I thought it must have to be a huge multi-week trial, possibly involving a celebrity, for only one out of every four of us to qualify. And then the voir dire started, and the excuses started flying. And I understood why they called 50 of us.
The judge (who happened to be a long-time friend, which I’m sure is part of why I was dismissed) started by asking if anyone had a financial hardship – which is defined as whether you would not be able to pay your rent if you had to serve on a jury for this trial, projected to be five days.
There were the musicians – Juror #10 and Juror #17, who had to always be out looking for a gig. No gig, no rent, they said. There was Juror #2, who told us she ran a day care facility, but it sure seemed as if (with no employees and apparently only one client) she was looking after her own grandchild. All of them – excused.
There were three pregnant women – and I swear one of them was about 43 weeks pregnant. There was Juror #27 –a Judge Judy audience caster who claimed that as an independent consultant, if she wasn’t there to do her job, the producers would find someone else who could, and she would be fired. She also claimed that as a New York transplant, she would not drive on LA freeways, so she couldn’t use the time before court began (10:30 am) or during the long lunch hour (noon to 1:30) to run up to Hollywood, cut her audience members checks and return to court [news flash – Judge Judy’s audience is PAID!!] Our Judge attempted to argue with her – how ironic would it be, she noted, if someone from Judge Judy lost their job because they performed jury service – but this ex-New Yorker was quite determined to get booted off this jury. And she succeeded.
Then the philosophical questions came. What did we think of the legal system? Had we ever questioned the veracity of a law enforcement officer? Would we give more weight to one person’s testimony over another?
Several of us were convinced that Juror # 8 was stoned. He seemed like a disinterested anarchist who wanted to sound intellectual to me. He claimed it would be absolutely impossible for him to arrive at a guilty plea for the defendant without knowing what the penalty might be, even though the Judge told us we would not be involved in the sentencing process. Juror #8 also claimed he had general mistrust issues with the justice system. Bye bye.
Then there was Juror #19 – when asked, he admitted that not only had he gotten into several fistfights in his life, once he and his brother had a scuffle which ended in police being called. Another of his fights ended up in court. This cat was happy to admit that he did not trust the LAPD. And he looked so mild-mannered. See ya Rocky.
Juror #23 was an art gallery manager. Aloof doesn’t begin to describe him. He did not talk with other jurors out in the hallway. He was not interested in talking about the art in his gallery. I have no idea why he was excused but he was one cold fish.
And then there was my absolute favorite – Juror #48. She was an elderly African-American woman who told us during voir dire that she used to work for the Department of Public and Social Services, but that she has grown lazy since retiring. She said she falls asleep if there is nothing interesting happening in front of her. I can vouch for this….and guess what? She snores. And she could not, for the life of her, figure out how to turn off the ringer on her cell phone – which kept ringing – with the Miami Vice theme song as the ringtone.
What an interesting opportunity to temporarily co-exist with people in completely different walks of life – anonymously – as everyone had a number pinned to their collar and no one ever exchanged names. And I hope never to see any of them again.