I got the summons through the mail (which is not the most reliable thing over here) – a postcard type piece with a perforated edge to open… declaring what day and location you were due to report. There was perhaps 4 weeks notice – which is suffice for normal school months but quite worrying when you consider we’ve been away in the summer sometimes for 6 or 7 weeks at a time. You can turn down your first appointed date. A ‘get out of jail free’ type of excuse – just the once. Then there are no more excuses. Actually that is not quite true – when we lived in a different State we both received many jury summons but could always easily check the box for ‘not a US Citizen’ and get out of it quite easily.
But today I was due to report to the Courthouse at 7.30am. There was also a warning that ‘security lines and procedures can take up to 20 minutes’ and another claim that it was a grave responsibility to be IN the Jury room for your appointed time. So I drove to the correct location for 7.10am. And then saw 5 or 6 other people stood outside the main doors to the huge building. I wondered if they were waiting for their friends perhaps or were at court for a different reason. But no. This was the first clue the day wasn’t going to be running as it should have….. despite the official letter with the lecturing times, the court doors don’t actually open until 7.30am!!! So you’re told to be there at a time which is really quite irrelevant!!! And it was hovering around freezing whilst people were waiting around. I only got out of the car once I saw people go through the actual doors.
Now I was at the same courthouse just 10 days ago for Bee’s school function which also required me to go through security so I know the drill. The guys are specific about phones and keys…. liquids are fine, jackets need to come off. The guards today however were clearly not morning people; they seemed to shout at all us jurors as thought WE were late….. really ranting about what to take off to ‘speed things up.’ Sorry – but we were there at the right time. Any delays were not due to us. As a woman nearby remarked on hearing one guy yell about all watches being removed (I have a plastic Sw.atch for goodness sake…), “Well HE must have been bullied at school then!” Indeed.
Through Security and into the Jury room – where I had also spent time the other week. Approximately 200 chairs and a tv showing the ‘Travel Channel.’ Your summons had had a card you had to fill in with name and address (which made no sense as it was the same as they had on the front) and date of birth, occupation of you and your spouse and any kids…. Once those were handed in you sat and waited.
I had a book with me – Hubby had had ‘Jury Duty’ the other month so knew it was a waiting game…. The Announcer in the big room was very friendly – welcomed us her ‘early birds’ (yes but not by bloody choice, pet!) and told us where the loos were, free tea and coffee and which doors the smokers could go out of. She then announced that nothing would happen for 30 minutes. What? So why were we asked to come early? Oh – to ‘stagger’ our progress through yelling security it seems. She told us where the cafeteria was and then told us when to be back!
I read a little and tried to block out the fish being caught on the Travel Channel. Others (a few older gentlemen) seemed to view the holding area as a place to make new friends, share life stories with complete strangers or try and out do each other with tales of awful jury trials!!!
More people staggered in well past 8am and then there came the first announcement. 50 names were called and given a ‘new number’ and told to come and complete a questionnaire. I was not called. They waited a good 20 minutes for those questionnaires to be filled in and returned and then found that one – a man named Harold – hadn’t completed his. Well turns out old Harold was deaf as a post and hadn’t heard his name being called (cue great excuse to get out of Jury Duty)…….
Then a judge came down and gave a talk on the valuable service Jury Duty is despite a lot of people hating it (can’t think why) – he was talking about bias and the use of the jury to eliminate this…. it was semi interesting.
Still more people straggled in.
I got a heavy smoker plonk himself right down next to me despite other empty rows. Always infuriating. Actually it’s almost a draw between his phlegmy cough or his smoky smell being the most annoying issue – oh and then his dropping his alt.oid mints on the floor……
The announcer returned and this time called up 75 people to get new numbers and complete questionnaires… again I was not called. Fine by me. It was now 9.15. Then the announcer said we’d soon watch a ‘dirty movie.’
Pardon? She actually said ‘Jury movie’ it just SOUNDED like ‘dirty movie’ – to me at least (I was already formulating ‘mishears accents’ as an excuse to be excused.) The film was actually quite informative for about 10 minutes – with other previous jury panelists talking about how they had hated doing it – being called up – but had actually learnt a lot about the legal proceedings and felt proud to have served etc. How they had bonded over the case, taken notes etc. There were none claiming to have sold their stories afterwards. After the first 10 minutes it then became rather patronising. I was surprised they didn’t explain which way to hold the pencil when filling out your questionnaire……
After the movie ended again female announcer hopped up to tell us that their building runs on ‘court time’ rather than ‘normal time’ so whilst it seems we were all waiting a long time (what – over 2 hours with no juror leaving the waiting area?) there was lots going on upstairs with the judges and lawyers deciding which cases would proceed today….. So, erm, we’ve all been called in even though there may be a surplus of us? Yes.
Then at 10.15 she told us that 40 of us would be ‘released’ as a trial was being postponed…. and my name was one of those!!!! So I got to leave after having been there almost 3 hours….for nothing.
There would still have been enough left (125) for the questionnaires to have taken out those ‘unsuitable’ and leave sufficient for a jury pool and to have some discarded by the legal eagles in the court room. I escaped quite well. And hopefully won’t get another call up any time soon.
My friend yesterday was saying you are more likely to get called up for this if you vote… and I did indeed vote in 2012 so perhaps that is why I was selected? I actually wouldn’t have minded getting called in for a trial – as Hubby is in town and can help with the kids etc. But to show up and not really be needed…. some would say a lucky escape whilst other (?) may feel it was rather a waste of my time?