Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Juris Prudence or something

Among the random offerings in my mailbox the other day was an invitation from the Superior Court of Solano County to appear at 8:00 in the morning for jury duty.  The term invitation is a very loose interpretation, however, I chose to believe they were polite anyway.  I was given the option of phoning in the night before my service date to check the status of the request to appear and what not so I did that.  And was informed my presence was not needed.  So I foolishly made plans to go visit my youngest daughter and go to the  ballet academe' (French Ya'll...all ballet is French) to watch little Mila train to become a prima ballerina with the rest of the four year olds in her class.  Simply put that was a.d.o.r.a.b.l.e.  and yes, I did take a video on my phone and yes I did and do bore strangers spitless with viewings.  It is my duty.  The daughter and the adorable grandchildren and I  planned to have dinner after which I would spend the night.  This as a nod to the fact that I successfully watched someone elses kid without any serious or lasting harm.  Therefore Meg felt safe asking me to stay with her children while she scampered up to Tahoe to be with her hubby.

But I had been asked to call in at the end of the day the second day to check the status and I'll be go to hell if they didn't say right then and there on the phone that I should appear at 8:00 in the morning.  So I was able to watch the ballet and have dinner but then I had to go home to prepare for my day in court. 

Somehow I managed to get up and shower and make myself somewhat presentable and got to the court at the prescribed hour.  No mean feat at any time.  My fellow prospective jurors were herded in to a grim auditorium known as "Jury Room".  So we all scrambled for seats that were not near anyone else and proceeded to examine each other scrupulously, well I did anyway.  And my first thought was ,  "What part of that outfit is business casual?"  and my second thought was, "No mirror at your house?" and so it went.  I'm nothing if not judgemental and this was prime hunting.  So anyway then we got to watch a jury movie which I remember nothing about, then we were divided in to groups I, II and III.  I was in group I and assigned to a judge and court.  Wonderful.  So then we got to fill out some forms and mill around and I scooted off to fetch coffee, which I had to pay for.  Sign of the times...Then my group was called and 12 of my compatriots were chosen to be in the first group of folks to sit in the jury box, then an additional six were chosen to be alternates.  I was not chosen and I figured that this was all groovy and what not, but I would soon be on my way to hearth and home.  

Not so quick.  I had not counted on the myriad of excuses the initial 18 would come up with.  Although I have to say it would have been a lot more entertaining if they hadn't been so passive aggressive with their excuses.  I didn't really care except that none of this was like Law and Order, The Defenders, Perry Mason, or L.A. Law and I was rapidly losing my sense of humor about the whole affair.  I did think the religious zealot who ranted on for a good long time about Judicial Law and Biblical Law and the differences and all that and he couldn't possibly compromise himself blah blah blah and judge was like "dude, you only have to consider judicial law here and your other beliefs don't count."  I thought that was pretty good, cause I thought the religious zealot was going to have a stroke. 

Well anyway  the attorneys for the prosecution and defense went through the panel and dismissed the best liars and every time one was excused someone from the six alternates had to go take a seat in the jury box.  To make this shorter, everyone was a bad liar and sooner or later almost all the jurors were excused and the extras (me and some 18 others) were eventually called and placed in the alternates chairs and as luck would have it the judge was tired of excuses and lies and the attorneys got rid of some more folks in the box and no one asked me anything and I was chosen as juror #10.  What-A- process.

So we were sworn in and the trial began.  Again not anything like I had been TV primed for.  Real lawyers are boring.  Or at least these two were.  The plaintiff was boring and I pegged her as a liar and probably on some really good meds. for her day in court.  The witness was a git and not credible and gross.  Then the defendant, whom we all had been sizing up as a scum bag proved that to be true with the possibility that he too was a liar.  And wasn't this just jolly?  So we got to the end of the trial and it coincided with the end of the day so we went home and we were threatened with all kinds of bad stuff if we talked about, researched, used a dictionary and all this other stuff about the trial.  Do you know Steve?  He's nothing if not persistent.  But I gotta hand it to him, he didn't try to wheedle anything out of me that compromised my position.  Good boy.  But what this really meant was that we got to come back for another day!  What fun.  So then were bored spitless with endless instructions read to us by the judge, then the boring attorneys rambled on and made no sense cause neither of them had made any points worth mentioning, and we had to listen and listen and listen.  And I wondered why the defendant was wearing the same outfit as the day before and I also wondered why he didn't put a little more effort in to his appearance.  I may be shallow.

So eventually we got to go to the jury deliberation room.  And unlike what you've read in your Grisham novels and seen on the TV, there were no refreshments.  Not looking good.  Well anyway I thought the attorneys had done a piss poor job of both defense and prosecution and neither had proved anything and so my answer was obvious.  You must acquit.  Never underestimate the power of a group.  So we wrangled and some people got hot, and I said yeah I thought the guy hit the girl, but no one proved to me he did and so that was that.  We did get taken out to lunch led and followed by the cops, and when we returned we voted and were hung at 9-3 not guilty.  Awesome.  We needed a 100% accord to deliver a verdict, but we were not able to do that and the judge was a little pissy, though he said we were good boys and girls. So then the court somebody or other polled us one by one as to whether or not we were hopelessly deadlocked and we were able to agree on that and so we were excused and the whole deal was declared a mistrial.   A fitting boring end to a really boring trial. 

I am exempt from jury duty for a year now.  Praise be.  I'm glad I went through and did it, another life experience and blog fodder.  Happily it was only two days out of my so full life and though I would have liked to have come to a consensus with all of us agreeing I did make an excellent contact with a guy who does BBQ catering and managed to get some recipes.  Every cloud has a silver lining.

Squidgy, JD

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