Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Jura Duta"

I'm now one month into serving on federal petit jury. For the next three months (since I've already served one), every Friday after two I have to call to find out if I report the following Tuesday. If I do have to report, I have to call again Monday night to make sure the case hasn't been settled at the last minute. If the case hasn't settled, I have to drive down to the courthouse on Tuesday morning:

courthouse at dawn

and report to the jury room.

I'm not sure what I expected jury duty to be like, exactly. I envisioned sort of a cross between "Law and Order", Chicago, and that time the Legion (and honorary Legionnaire reserve member, Insect Queen) had to face Mordru and the Devil's Jury:

Adventure Comics #370

So far, it hasn't been like any of those things.

It's actually really boring.

I'm not allowed to talk about any of the trials, but according to my friend Sonja, who is a lawyer, I'm totally at liberty to talk about the experience. Like I said, so far it's been pretty boring, but I've gotten a lot of reading done. The people at the courthouse are very polite, and the lady who greets us each time and organizes the pool is downright friendly. She makes coffee for us, and gently reminds us to call every Friday. The first day we were there, for orientation, she also showed us an "all about jury duty" movie from the justice department, which lied to us.

The movie (vintage late 1980's based on the narrator's "Knots Landing" shoulderpads, feathered updo, and frosted lipstick) told us that it starred real jurors, who would talk to us about their real experiences, but the busy busy businesswoman who was too busy to be on jury duty was Kathy Fannon, the lady who played Betty Sterner in Serial Mom, the movie that I show potential romantic interests to see if we're compatible. If they don't laugh at least once, it's not going to work out. Anyway, I suppose it's possible that Kathy Fannon was a businesswoman, then a juror, and then decided to become an actress, but it seems more likely that the people in the movie weren't actual jurors like they said they were.

I don't mean to harp on it, but it seems kind of dishonest to talk to us about the importance of honesty and then lie to us in the orientation video.

I've only had to go twice so far. Once I didn't make it to the panel, because they filled it before they got to me, and another time I was stricken during voir dire. I don't know what my trigger is for being struck from the panel (too educated? obvious liberal? flaming homosexual? Yankee?), but two other people have been struck every time I have: the retired deputy sheriff and the lady who got arrested and convicted of a misdemeanor in the 1970's, and feels that the cops mistreated her. She talks about it loudly and often during voir dire, and she keeps getting struck from the panel.

She doesn't talk about it any other time, and nobody asks her when we're in the jury room (I'm certainly not going to), but people talk about a lot of other things, and I'm starting to get a bit of a feel for the people there.

There are less than ten people who seem to be younger than me.

There are a lot of retirees. A lot. Maybe there are a lot of retirees in our federal district?

There's a lady whose southern accent is so strong and slurry that when she talks about jury duty, it comes out as "jura duta", as in "Ah cain't buhlieve ah have jura duta ag-yin."

One guy drives for almost an hour on the interstate to get here. The district is several counties, and he lives pretty far.

There's a youngish guy, kind of a hippy type, who wears those shoes with toes and reads a lot of Asimov. I thought he might be fun to sit by, but he asks a lot annoying questions about the location of recycling bins in the courthouse, so I don't sit by him.

There's also a lady who keeps wearing a fanny pack over her shoulder by the strap, like a purse. It's not a purse, so I don't sit by her either.

Which just proves that I should get called for a jury: I'm really good at judging.


Super Grover's Girl said...

It's definitely because you are a Yankee. That's a hanging offense.

Keri said...

It's still waaaay better than fielding poorly spelled and miscapitalized emails from Tara and Amy about not getting into Humes!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Joel! I've been following your blog for some time now and i've been rather intrigued. I'm thinking I might like to ask you out on a friendly date sometime. Email me at mrober55@utk.edu and we'll chat!