August 18th, 2008

Don't Hassle the Hoff

Jury Duty Day 1 - I Am Juror #1308946

Technically, I'm not talking about a legal case - since I have yet to be involved in any - so technically I'm not breaking any felony laws here. I am juror number 1308946 and this is my story.

One of the things you learn on your first day of Jury Duty is the knowledge that the badge number you're assigned is your badge number for the rest of your life. I am no longer a person, I'm an anonymous number in the meat grinder of the American Legal System. I feel like such a convict! Where's my soap on a rope?

Pierce County Superior Court, or some junk, located on 9th and Tacoma Ave in the heart of downtown T-Town. The summons told me free parking would be scarce, as their garage only holds so many spaces. So, to play it safe, I parked down where I park everyday - at the Tacoma Dome free parking garage, then I rode the free Tacoma light-rail train over to the Tacoma Theater District. The City of Destiny everybody; we've got it all AND a fucking glass museum, take that Spokane!

After passing through the crack security squad, being assisted by a man in a security uniform who looked like he was just last week begging for change to fuel his meth habit, I was ushered into a sterile, muddy cream-colored bombshelter of a room with wide purple office chairs in long rows, two televisions, and a VCR. Computer-made signs adorned the walls reading:

We Appreciate





and so on and so forth.

Two elderly gentleman volunteers and a short cheery woman named Jan kept us up to speed, letting us know where bathrooms are located and when to break; always mindful of the amber lights outside that supposedly blink when we're needed back in the Jury Room for the repeated lottery calls of perspective jurors.

This is how the shit goes down. Some cases only need seven jurors. Some, I dunno, 12 or 15. So, they always call more people up there than they actually need, so eventually they can weed out the racists and skeptical intelligencia until they're left with the Cream of the Average. Not too dumb where they'll let an offhand "towelhead" slip out, but not so smart that they can actually form coherent opinions about real issues pertinent to the case.

Or so I would assume. I've yet to get that far, actually. But, as of 9am tomorrow morning, I'll be one of 35 candidates to sit in on a court case presided over by Judge Circle. A female judge with the last name of Circle, I don't know what I'm more baffled by ...

One thing you'll experience very early on in the first day is the lavish praise that's heaped upon you. They're like a homely guy getting his first free feel of a boobie; after all the times getting shot down, he's just so grateful someone finally agreed to go home with him, he can't help but thank her repeatedly as she rolls her eyes and wonders why she let herself get put in this position. Everyone who talked to us - from the orientation co-ordinator to Jury-Bingo Lady Jan to the courthouse sheriff to one of the other very superior court judges himself - stopped just short of sainting us for our tremendous contribution to the betterment of mankind. We're no heroes, gentle civil servants. We're just your aged retirees with nothing better to do. We're your unemployed drains on society. We're your students on summer vacation from college, your schmucks whose jobs couldn't justify our worth to the company, and your fans of televised courtroom dramas which fail to depict the hours upon hours of monotonous waiting for a duty we no longer want.

Even in the 20-minute video they showed us after the opening monologue, it extolled the virtue of patience as this process kills precious hours from your life. To prove my point, I have for you Exhibit A. My schedule for the first day:

8:00am, check in.
8:40am, finished checking people in, time to start talking. Introductions, instructions, directions, dos and don'ts.
9:15am, a few words from a real life judge. Pep talk, praise, gratitude, hand jobs for the people in the front row.
9:30am, 1st Lottery Drawing. I'm not picked out of the 15 or so selected.
9:45am, movie.
10:05am, 2nd and 3rd Lottery Drawings. I'm not picked out of the 60 or so selected.
10:30am, break time.
11:15am, 4th Lottery Drawing. I'm not picked of the 35 or so selected.
11:30am, Lunch time until 1:30pm. I move my car to a closer location on the street (with free parking permit in hand), eat Taco Del Mar, sit in car and listen to radio.
1:35pm, 5th Lottery Drawing. I'm not picked out of the 35 or so selected. More break time.
2:05pm, 6th Lottery Drawing. I'm not picked out of the 20 or so selected. More break time.
2:48pm, 7th Lottery Drawing. I'm picked! Number 8 out of 35 or so selected in the Blue Group. We're told to wait. Anyone who hasn't been picked get to go home early. I become immediately jealous of the 40 or so people who get to walk out. More break time.
3:18pm, Other groups get to go to court. Blue Man Group is told to wait. More break time.
3:33pm, Blue Man Group told to go home, return promptly at 9am the following morning for final selection.

Interspersed throughout were corny jokes from Jan our name draw-er, questions asked from the jury pool that would easily have been answered by either reading the introductory pamphlet provided or simply waiting for the speaker to finish what he planned to talk about, and lots and lots of praying for death. Some people got picked more than once, only to be summarily returned to the jury pool. Others were never picked at all. Don't ask me how it works, all I know is I'm kinda itching for something to happen. I need to either get stuck on a jury and get it over with, or I need to be excused, because I can't handle all the anxious anticipation in the act of waiting! It's like some omnipotent being telling you, "You're going to be involved in a vehicular collision sometime in the next two weeks." You don't know when it's going to happen, how it's going to happen, or how severe the damage is going to be. Knowledge is power and the opposite of that is worse than anything.

Unless it's happening to someone else. I bet you get a sick satisfaction in reading this, don't you?
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