Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Had the distinct pleasure of following up my nice long ski trip with a Monday in jury duty. Now, let's get something really straight here. I like jury duty. And, no, I don't just like it because I get out of work. I like it because it's deeply interesting to me. At face value, it appears to be a complete waste of time, but here's your chance to experience the way the process works...for better or for worse. You could have a cat that killed his wife with his bare hands sitting there in the courtroom staring each one of the panelist down as the attorney drills. I don't know about you, but that opportunity alone never presents itself to me. Not that I like hanging out with guys that killed their wife with their bare hands, but it's pretty cool a couple of times. The process of jury selection is pretty awesome too. The two lawyers go through a process known as voir dire which if you say it in West Texas, it kinda sounds like you're trying to order the duck. It essentially means that the two lawyers go through a process of elimination rather than selection. Whoever's left, is the jury. Of course, you don't want the morons in West Texas to know about the elimination vs. selection process because they'll just eliminate themselves. You know, the "I hate black people" guys or the "I was beat by my husband for twenty years" lady. Whether it's true or not, we'll never know. Guess they want to make sure they make it back to the house for the Showcase Showdown.

But why pass up the opportunity to see the system in action? To me, going all the way down there and then doing everything you can to get out of it is like going to the zoo, but passing on the lion cage. Or like going to a strip club, but just checking out the gift shop. Not that I know what that's all about. The county doesn't have enough cops to go out on roundups of all the cats that didn't show up for jury duty. You really don't have to go if you don't want to.

Nevertheless, here I sit in the jury room and I start thinking that there's really four types of potential jurors in Potter County. I tried to name a fifth and I'm pretty confident it's only four.

Pretty self-explanatory. They'll do anything they can to get out of it. They'll even admit to being a bigot, a racist, a short-minded moron, an alcoholic, a wifebeater, a caregiver (not that there's any correllation there), an uneducated, uncultured and uninspired nincompoop. It usually happens when you get into the courtroom. The hands start popping up. Yesterday, a physician said that given the nature of the case (aggravated assault--which the lawyer kept referring to as "agg assault"--I thought that was pretty ill, but it's not like "aggravated" is really that long of a word), he doesn't think that he could be a fair juror in the case because serious injuries to ones body makes him really upset. What? The judge asked that he be removed. I imagined them taking him out back and threatening to wail on him with a metal pipe. There was just something about the way the judge said, "You're excused from the courtroom, sir." It was kinda mafioso and suggested it wasn't the end of that cats jury duty. But serious? I'm a physician and injuries to the body upset me? Dude, how do you make it through a day?

It's important to know that once you make into the courtroom, only if you're in the first two rows do you really stand a chance at getting selected for a jury. It's called the "strike zone." Most of the questions are directed at those couple of rows. If you're on the back row like I was today, it's a 99.9% chance that you'll eventually get dismissed. At this point, I've forfeited the thought that I was going to serve so I was just counting down the minutes trying to have fun with the experience while I was there.

The lady right next to me raised her hand and began sobbing (whether genuinely or not, the jury's still out) and said that she was once beaten and doesn't think that she could be fair and impartial in the case. "Ma'am, I appreciate your candor," said the lawyer. Seems I never hear the word "candor" except in a courtroom during the jury selection process. What the lawyer should've said, "Ma'am, I appreciate your candor and reliving that horrible experience that obviously traumatized you for years. I must add, though, that despite your public admittance to this terrible event that happened to you, I wasn't likely to ever pick you for a jury anyway so it really wasn't necessary. As I said before, I'm probably going to pick all of my jurors from the front two rows and given your location on the back row, you'll likely be dismissed anyway so I would just keep my mouth shut and avoid yourself the public embarrassment and emotional toil." She was dismissed though. Probably more on the performance than anything else.

Another man was dismissed because he was once shot in the arm by his best friend in a disagreement. His story was he apparently was so traumatized by that event that he couldn't set it aside and be objective should he be selected for jury. What in the hell? Not only is that like a public admittance that you failed to graduate from high school and you live in a trailer park, but it's also letting everyone in the room know that your brain is sorely underdeveloped and not only can you not work with simple concepts like logic and circumstance, but you have no notion of forgiveness and salvation. You're a moron. Go home and watch the Speed Channel.

If you really don't want to be there, I'll say it again: DON'T SHOW UP. They won't arrest you. They don't have enough cops here to care about you dodging jury duty. Plus, it's not like it's the first time you've dodged the cops so don't act like you just have to do the right thing. Stop taking up places for those that really want to be on a jury. It's a free drinking day for you. You can have that coveted 10:00AM beer that you never get to enjoy anymore and then tell your friends some lie the next day about how you served on a jury and convicted a hardcore murderer to death. And, yep, it only took one afternoon.

Admittedly, it's probably the smallest percentage, but it wouldn't be the first time I fall in the smallest group. You don't really want it to go for more than a day beause the pay really sucks, but you still hope that you can at least experience the raw emotions of a man sitting in front of you either convicted or cleared of "agg" assault. I mean, this is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. I don't know many people who have 20 years on this earth to spare. I gotta think that good or bad, that was something worth witnessing. Plus, I just wanna know what happened. I'm always that cat that's watching COPS and am bummed out when the cops get there two minutes too late. I wanna know what went down. In fact, I wanna see it. In slo-mo.

This one's a weird one. They so badly want to get picked but all the while act like they're too cool for school. It typically comes off as this "I'm too busy to spend a day here" kinda act yet they showed up which either means they fear a witch hunt if they don't or they so badly wish they get picked. It's like, to them, there's something wrong with wanting to serve. Like it's not the cool thing to do and they've spent their whole life trying to be that cool. It starts in the jury room. When asked to raise their right hand, they look around to see if anyone's looking, reluctantly with a smirk they raise their right hand, take the oath and then slump down in their chair looking over their shoulder acting like they can't wait to bolt. Then, when they pulled into a panel and are seated in the front two rows getting drilled by the attorney, they can't sit still as they wiggle around in excitement.

To spot them, you have to show incredible patience and have to be a seasoned people watcher. They're very sly. They don't always appear as obvious as the first two.

It's particularly funny watching older folk do it. When they're in the courtroom, they act so bored and underwhelmed yet when they hit recess in the hallway, they can't shut up as they shuffle around from congregated potential jurors to congregated potential jurors approximating his chance at being selected saying things like, "Man, I hope they don't take me" when in reality, that's precisely what he wants. He wants that validation. That selection. It makes him feel important. Included. To this man, I say, "It's alright to want to be on a jury. It's hella-dope. Don't feel bad. Don't feel stupid. It's what our country is all about."

This is the remaining 85% of the people there. They don't know whether the summon was an arrest warrant, a parking ticket or an eviction notice. If they're lucky enough to actually figure it out, they show up and the party starts there. They just kinda follow everyone else. If everyone sits there waiting, they sit there waiting. If someone gets up to get some coffee, they help themselves. They sometimes might even pick up a magazine knowing they can't make sense of the words on the page. The hilarity really begins when they get invited into the jury room for selection/elimination.

Give them a chance to open their mouths and dudes just can't possibly help themselves.

There's a fool-proof way of identifying these morons. It's when we're ordering the duck...voir dire. I'll give you an example from Monday.

ATTORNEY: Today's case is about aggravated assault. Mr. XXX XXXXXX has been charged with aggravated assault with intent of serious bodily injury to Ms. XXXX XXXXXX. Yes, sir?

MORON #1: I don't think a man should ever hit a woman. Period. No exception.

ATTORNEY: Sir, I certainly appreciate your opinion. Do you think that your strong opinion might hinder your ability to objectively reach a ruling in these matters should you serve on the jury?

MORON #1: Well, no, I'm jussayin. I don't think it's right, but I can put it behind me.

Say it with me now:

Another one:
ATTORNEY: Would any of you have a problem with relying on only one witness in this case if that one witness is a Amarillo police officer?
MORON #2: Hey, sir, one of my best friends growing up is a cop.
ATTORNEY: Okay, is that going to affect your decision in these matters should you--
MORON #2: Whaddya mean? I don't gather.
ATTORNEY: Well, sir, if you were selected to serve in the jury trying this case, could you put your relationship with an Amarillo police officer aside?
MORON #2: Wha?
ATTORNEY: Does your friendship with the Amarillo police officer affect your feelings on this case or would you be able to put that aside and approach this case objectively.
MORON #2: Oh yeah, man. Sure I can put it aside. It wouldn't affect anything.
Again, say it with me:
I'm just trying to get out of here as soon as possible. It seemed like everytime a hand popped up like a prairie dog, the world came to a screeching halt. I don't care if you think it's wrong for a man to hit a woman, if you like cops, if you hate cops, if you smoke weed, if you once got a ticket for speeding even though you were going five miles-per-hour under the speed limit, if you got shot in the arm, if you once lived in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Shut up! Stop talking. Stop raising your hand. Everytime you speak, I lose brain cells. By the time I left there, I could barely find my way home. If he dude farted, he wouldn't be able to stop himself from claiming it. If you ever wonder what slows down the judicial process, it's the process and the fact that the process includes more idiots than the customer service line at Wal-Mart. It's remarkably...uh...remarkable. Imagine you're falsely accused of some horrendous crime. Like they just got it wrong and you're sitting across from twelve of this dimwitted dog turds and they're either going to acquit you of all charges or lock you away for forty years. Do you feel comfortable that the system is working? Do you trust these people to set you free? What does it mean if your tried by your peers? Do you really trust your peers? Would you rather anyone but your peers try you? Who are your peers? I don't know if I'd feel completely normal with twelve of anyone in this town deciding my fate.
It's a bizarre system we tolerate. Fun to take in once every year. They can keep calling me. I'll keep going. It's my civil service. I can't help myself in that way.
Speaking of the system, this Guilty Simpson record is so damn ill. It's the Madlib mix of his new material in the first of twelve installments of the Madlib Medicine Show. Buy it, homie. It won't disappoint. Dare I say I like it better than the proper Guilty Simpson album. Slammin' stuff.


Anonymous said...

"bizarre system we tolerate" well maybe you would tolerate justice better in another country where there is no due process except torture execution and other injustices didn't read all your scribble but sounds like ridicule of a system at least making the effort for justice unfortunately opinions are much too common these days oh to matter in such times

j3 said...

it's the perception of justice where there might not be...that's difficult to swallow.

at least no due process except torture and execution might lead to less crime and a better quality of living.

perhaps the joke that our system is perpetuates such idiotic behavior.

sarahsmile3 said...

I can't tolerate absent punctuation. I'm looking at you, anonym-ass.

Anonymous said...

YIKES a she-beast! whoops lost control and punctuated sorry

scumdog steev said...

j3 - agreed that the jury "empaneling" is weird. I've had jury duty several times, but only been picked for a panel once. That resulted in me serving on a jury in an "agg robbery" case. (We convicted him.)

Also agreed that most people who raise their hands during voir dire are annoying; the judge makes it pretty what sort of circumstances they're interested in and what counts. He also (in the case I was on, anyway) said, "answer the lawyers' questions with a yes or a no, we don't need to hear any more explanation than that." I wasn't in the front two rows, but I didn't say anything during voir dire (I didn't get any questions directed at me), so I think that's what got me picked.

I find it odd that when I've told people that I have jury duty, the majority of them immediately start telling me ways to get out of it. "Just tell them that everyone should fry!" and the like. "Uh, I'm not interested in getting out of it, thanks."

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