In thirty seven years, I’ve never been summoned for jury duty. My number was due to come up, and it did, in the federal system. I knew dates when I scheduled my breast reduction surgery, and the doctor’s office thought I’d be fine to go sit around in a courtroom five days after having my chest sliced to ribbons. (They were right – breast tissue hasn’t got many nerve endings, so I don’t have much pain.) I was not ultimately assigned to a panel, and I don’t have to go back, so it wound up being a short term gig for me.
I rarely snark here, but there are times, and this is one of them, that only a snide and cynical perspective will do. The next few days will include observations from my day of civic duty. None of them will be polite. Let us begin.
Some people are stupid as shit, and I would not want them judging me. (You’ll find this thread woven into the fabric of this series.) Summoned jurors get instructions about how to report, when to report, where to report, what to wear, where to park, and the things forbidden in a courthouse. Also, they complete and return a million page questionnaire.
The Hunger Games wasn’t more clear about the selection process. Prospective jurors will know if they need to even show up as long as they call a certain robo-phone at a certain time.
No fewer than three people (of a fifty member panel) arrived unnecessarily. Listen, I called that number. It had an ID for me. It updated me every time. If these people had read the giant 30 point font explanation and followed its simple guidelines, they would have saved themselves a wasted day.
Deferrals aren’t a big deal, yet people fail to request them in advance. For Christ’s sake, my initial date was supposed to be during the time when I’d be in Chicago. I requested a postponement, and it was granted. Permanent postponement was also possible for some. Nobody over seventy even had to write a letter. Service was wholly optional. Tick a box. Boom. Done.
And yet people showed up who would clearly have been released beforehand. If they did this knowing they could, by appearing and making their excuses in person, actually fulfill their duty for three years, I’d understand. But I don’t think so. They were so dumb they hadn’t done the homework.
Here’s an example. One guy over seventy with a horrible back, a weak bladder, and possible dementia (I kid you not) came in. At least three of those qualifications would have been a permanent deferral. He could have completed the process in the mail. But he didn’t bother to read. Nor did his probable caretaker.
Another? Get this.
The jury selection process is basically a period of time during which people answer a shit-ton of questions that they have already responded to on the million page questionnaire. Some of these questions meant people were excused automatically. If you have, say, been convicted of or are charged with a felony and not had your civil rights restored, you are not eligible for jury duty, and the questionnaire clearly says so and instructs you how to communicate this in advance and save yourself a fucking hassle. One guy on our panel got to leave three minutes into the questioning because he had not, in spite of completing the form, paid attention to this detail.
Going forward, keep this in mind. Some of my fellow humans are not jury material. I would plea bargain my ass off and beg for a judge-only trial before I faced a group of my peers.
Stay tuned tomorrow to find out why I’m skeptical of the process itself.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.