Recently my younger son had jury duty for his very first time. He asked his mother and me about it and we gave him various stories about each of our encounters with the judgement making side of the judicial system. Well his jury duty was pretty damn easy and inconsequential. He went in on Monday and they let him go around 2:30. Then each day he was to cal in at 5 pm the day before and 11 the day of to see if he was supposed to go in or not. Not once the rest of the week did he have to go. So he got to sit home all day and sleep and play X-box. What an easy jury duty experience. My brother also got called into jury duty this week, He had the misfortune to be summoned for the downtown Chicago location. At least he got picked for a trial so he won’t be bored sitting there.
I myself haven’t been picked for several years now, so I am sure it is coming up. For a while there I was getting picked once a year and it was getting pretty frustrating. Not sure how it is where you are or how it is here now, but for most of the times I went, in Illinois it is what they call ‘one week – one trial’. That means that you either show up each day for a week or you get one trial and you are done. if that trial only takes a day, you are still done for the week.
For a number of years I worked in a 2 person shop. Me not being there for a week is pretty tough as the other person couldn’t do everything I could do. Now when you first showed up for jury duty, they used to give you an opportunity to show or prove to them why you shouldn’t be there. You always had that one idiot who thought if they went in spouting racist things that they would be let go, but that isn’t the case. They make you wait anyway and you just look like an ass. I would go in an explain that the business itself is dependent on ME and if I am gone for longer than a day or two it would be detrimental to the business surviving. It was true, and worked most of the time. Then around 2008 or so it stopped working. You weren’t getting out of it anymore, you were stuck.
So I get called to go to the branch my brother is currently at. Not a nice neighborhood. I show up and am trying to figure out where the hell I can park. I see one of Chicago’s ‘Finest’ ticketing a row of parked cars so I pull up and get out to ask him if he knows where I can park. “What the hell are you doin’, can’t ya see I’m ticketing dees guys? You want one to? ” he bellows at me. Ooookay. I just say sorry and that I had only wanted to ask him if he knew where jurors were supposed to park. He then pointed me roughly in a direction and said to get moving before he wrote me a ticket. Nice guy. I find the parking garage and get in without issues but it is a long walk to the courthouse. The line to get in is even longer as you stand there with some of the finest humans ever assembled, waiting to go thru the metal detectors. I manage to get thru THAT mess and find my way to the jury room just in time.
We all sit down and get this 45 minute speech about how voting is our civic duty, we should be honored to be here and so on. I look around the room as they guy is talking and I swear it seems like half the people are asleep. Also noticing that just about everyone in the room was white. Wonder how that ‘jury of your peers’ things is going to work out if there is a black defendant. Hmmm. He then finished by saying if anyone thought they had a reason that they should be excused from jury duty to come and see him. Well, I didn’t even bother as I saw the first 30 people up all just return to their seats. Looks like I am here for the long haul.
2 hours into the day they call my ‘number’. Myself and about 50 others get escorted into a court room where they seat the first 12 and the rest of us are in the gallery. The judge then addresses us all saying that we are here today as potential jurors for a case involving a gas station robbery. The lawyers for both sides will be asking us some questions and then will decide afterwards who stays and who goes. So they start off asking the first potential juror seated some pretty simple questions. Are you or any member of your immediate family in law enforcement? Are any members of your immediate family in jail or have been in jail in the last 10 years? Have you ever been the victim of a crime like robbery? Occasionally there were followup questions and it went on. Every 6 people they would stop and say Juror #3,4 and 5 you are free to go and the empty spaces would be filled by those of us in the gallery until they got 12 to stay. Well for that first time they got 12 before they got to me so back to the jury room I went.
I had barely sat down when they called me again, so off I went to another court room. This one involved a robbery of a used car lot. The questions asked were mostly like the previous one but some added ones about our opinions on used car dealers. I thought that one was kind of odd. When they asked me the question about being a victim of a robbery I had said that yes, my car was broken into the year before. They asked me a few details about that and 10 minutes later myself and 4 others were let go.
After lunch I get called into 3 more court rooms. The first one of the afternoon was like the first of the morning. They got 12 people before they even got to me. The second one I was towards the back of the line and thought I might make it out one more time without being called. However each lawyer was just dismissing people like crazy. The case was about a guy who claimed he was beaten by a mechanic when he complained about his bill. So we get the usual questions, nothing weird, so I can’t figure out why people are being let go. My turn int he box and they ask me the generic questions, which I answer, and then they say ‘jurors 11 and 12, you can go”. WTF! I didn’t really want to serve on this jury but what the hell was wrong with me that you didn’t want me? Now I was mad!
The third one we go in and I am the second one in the box. This is a shoplifting case and they ask questions like “Have you ever shoplifted” and “Have you ever worked in retail and had to deal with shoplifters”. I had answered no and was picked for sure to be on this trial. After we got 12, the judge had us enter our juror numbers into a computer that marked us down as being selected for a trial and then we were free to go for the day (it was already about 4 pm), report tomorrow at 9:30 right to this court room for the trial to start.
Well I got lucky because by the time I got home I already had a phone message saying that the defendant had settled and since I was listed as having ‘served’ I was done for the week. Woo hoo! Lucky me! I got the rest of the week off! Except that I already was ‘off’, since I had closed my store by that time and was unemployed at that moment. Could have used the distraction.