I am heading back to the court today for round two of jury selection. I breezed through the first round. Obviously I can’t mention the case itself, but let me tell you some things I learned.
People have immense respect for the court
I recommend serving as a juror at least once, even if it is hard to do. It does wonders for your sense country. I found it a humbling experience to sit in a packed courtroom, shoulder to shoulder, waiting for half-an-hour while the judge was in his chambers, with no one speaking a word above a whisper. No one had asked us to be quiet. It just felt like the respectful thing to do. The power of the courtroom image, and especially the American flag, is insanely strong.
Good job on that, America. The legal system always needs improvement, but we got the respect part right. That’s the hard part.
People are not timely
I was 30 minutes late for my 9 AM court time, but I knew it would not matter because the average person is even less organized than I am. People were still streaming in a full hour after the designated start time. And even that turned out to be way too early because the court itself had more than a one-hour delay just to get through security at the front door.
Individuals can be awesome, but “people” are a hot mess.
The judge does a good job of explaining that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. But the court process involves every potential juror hearing the charges without any reference to the intended defense. I will spend more than a day marinating on the visual image of the defendant and the description of the charges. That seems a huge hole to put the defendant in before a case even starts. We say the defendant is presumed innocent, but the process assumes guilt because that is the thought you live with for a day before even hearing the defense case.
A better system would involve the judge summarizing the defense to come, based on a note from the defense council. That would sound something like “The defendant is charges with X. The defense will argue that the accused is the wrong person and the evidence is weak.”
Excuses that Don’t Work
I learned yesterday that the following excuses will not get you out of jury duty:
1. I could be in contract default if I get on a case. And Dilbert will go into hiatus/reruns for perhaps a week. That is not the court’s problem.
2. I work seven days a week, often starting at 4 AM, like today, and none of that work will go away if I am on a trial. At least three businesses would slow down in my absence. But it would not be an economic hardship for me, which is what the court cares about.
3. I have a cracked tooth that my dentist tells me I need to handle in a few weeks to avoid an emergency extraction should it become suddenly painful. I already have a prescription for that eventuality because it is so likely. But I guess that is why the court has alternate jurors.
4. The judge does not care that I produce Dilbert every day and that I am (by bad coincidence) simultaneously in the pre-beta stage with two startup projects this month. The court does not care that you are busy. Everyone is busy.
5. Being a trained hypnotist and a person who writes on the topic of persuasion does not automatically eliminate you from jury duty. As one lawyer pointed out to me, they allow sales professionals to be on juries.
I am not on a case yet, so there is still the phase where the attorneys can question me in front of the other jurors.
Time to go write a comic or two before jury duty. Gotta go.