Of course I can not divulge the particulars of the case I was NOT selected to sit on the jury of. Suffice it to say, harassment, larceny, yadda-yadda. However I can summarize the gist of my day and what I believe was my demise in getting a coveted seat in that jury box.
YES, I wanted to do my civic duty, to fairly and without prejudice, with only the evidence presented to me, decide someone’s fate. (Exciting stuff.) I was one of 80 plus people in the LARGE and dull as possible room who waited and filled out questionnaires—as well as watched some Jury Duty for Dummies video—before we were finally moved along to the court room. *A note about that big BORING room. It turns out one can use their WiFi, which I put to fabulous use in purchasing new shoes.
Again, I digress. This is supposed to be about my almost-jury duty experience. As we all cram into this tiny courtroom I see the regulars that we all know from TV—judge, clerk, bailiff, Assistant District Attorney at one table and 2 defense attorneys and the defendant at the other. Ok… so perhaps I am forming tiny opinions already, BUT I actually watched and paid attention to that “Dummies” video, and know what is expected of me. I am ready and willing for them to do their magic and change my mind, should I be wrong—doubtful. 😉
Like a scene from Wednesday night at the church bingo hall, they use that spinny thing and start calling names. They will fill up the 15 chairs set in the jury box. For this case they need only 6 jurors and 1 alternate. With 3 seats left to fill, in a PACKED room, I hear my name. YAY. Now the hard part. Answering the innocuous and not so innocuous questions. And, boy oh boy, some of these people questioned before me totally FIBBED!
The ADA, I have to say, wowed me from the get go. She came up to her podium, explained that we have all heard the judges instructions – which we sat patiently through – and she would not bother wasting what little time she had with that. But, she went on to say, “This is not Law and Order, I am not an actress, and cases are rarely settled in 43 minutes.” I was already impressed—not that I was choosing sides. Her questions were mostly general and slightly vague. But still, I could tell the couple of times I was asked to give answers, I made a good impression.
THEN, one of the defense attorneys approached the podium with his stack of our questionnaires in order of our seating arrangement – so he knew who he was speaking to, and unlike the hard to read ADA, asked some pretty telling questions.
“You see the defendant sitting there, do you believe you can be fair and impartial, neither sympathizing or demonizing him?” SURE.
“One or more of the witnesses may be testifying with the help of an interpreter. Will that affect your judgement?” NOPE
“Would it change how you feel, or make a difference in your decision, if after the People plead their case and rested, that I stood up and said the ‘Defense Rests?'” YEAH, I would like to hear both sides. (Evidently, the wrong answer.)
He went on for a while with more questions about the prospective jurors and our experiences and beliefs. Questions of previous brushes with the law, lawsuits, personal harassment, being robbed, whether just because something is stolen of little value, is it still stealing? (I believe I heard that question in the 5th grade), and so on and so forth.
Then the proverbial Sh!t hit the fan for me. He asked, “If someone is WORKING in this country but not a legal citizen, do they deserve the same rights as a legal citizen?” Trust me, I was not the first to speak! My mind was screaming, but if you know me, you already know how I feel about this subject. An elderly woman at the end rather quickly and loudly said, “Well they are already breaking the law being here so NO, send them home”.
I swear I only whispered to the woman sitting to my right. “It’s a civil liberties thing.” SERIOUSLY, that’s all I said, quietly at that! “Ms. Jaffie, did you say something?” “Yes, just pointing out that what you are alluding to is simple civil liberties.” I NEVER SAID I AGREED WITH THE PREMISE. Apparently I didn’t have to.
I was branded, right then and there. “LIBERAL.” And, this might be a good time to mention that, there I was wearing my gun necklace and all.
Well… as all the pertinent parties went to the back to deliberate over who the lucky jurors would be, I had plenty of time take a good long look at the defendant who had chosen his best grey, ratty t-shirt for his day in court. (And they tell US to dress appropriate for a courtroom.)
NO, I am not passing judgement, that would be wrong had I been chosen, but I wasn’t… So, I am just saying… well… “Guilty.” But what difference does it make? Not unsurprisingly, my civil liberties answer just didn’t play all that well with the judicial system’s idea of what makes a good juror. And in the end I didn’t get the chance to have my mind blown by the defense’s evidence or the people’s case.
I wonder if I can appeal this? 😉
As for the “TIMING” of all this… Today my niece was duly admitted and qualified to practice law in the southern district of New York! And more than anything, I want Sam to know how proud I am….and good luck, because from where I was sitting, the last people they want on jury are the smart ones and the majority of jurors may very well fit the “fools” category. 😉