Thwarted by the Judicial System Once Again!

September 15, 2011

…Well maybe not once MORE, but definitely once.  When faced with the prospect of sitting in a room with my fellow Americans to perform that most sacred of civic duties, I immediately knew that this would be a great opportunity to BLOG, because I’M A CHILD OF THE 21ST CENTURY.  Little did I know that blogging is strictly verboten in these hallowed chambers.  So, this combination liveblog/stream of stray observations will be brought to you after the fact, straight from courtroom 261, Brooklyn. [UPDATE: and several other places.]


8:40 AM: The jury duty movie is fantastic.  I mean FANTASTIC.  It opens with a bunch of Renn Faire people reenacting an execution (?) scene somewhere in the Catskills where a guy got tied in a bag, thrown in a lake and then somehow emerged again to the delight of the gathered horde.  “Is this fair and impartial justice,” Ed Bradley narrates.  IS IT?!  I personally believe that more criminals should be punished at the hands of Faire folk in lovely pastoral settings.  Clearly they suck at drowning people, but it would be pretty scary to be thrown in to a lake while in a bag.  The film goes on to some person-on-the-street reactions to getting summons (“I don’t WANT TO,” “What if it’s MURDER,” “I hate habeas corpus!”) and then cuts directly to a scene from Perry Mason.

9:00 AM: Diane Sawyer just assured me that my exclusion from a jury is in no way a reflection on my intelligence or integrity.  Thanks, Diane.  I gotta say, her portion of the movie is a real snore.  Why don’t they just show the whole Perry Mason episode?  Or Matlock?  He was a genius, that Matlock.

9:10 AM: Well isn’t this nice.  They end the movie with more person-on-the-streets, except these interviewees feel honored to serve.  See what they did there?  A man with a voice like Don Cornelius is now showing us how to tear perforated paper.   He could have a much cooler job than this.  Several people are here on the wrong day.  How is that possible?  These perforations were pretty confusing though, so I’m glad there was a demonstration.  Apparently nearly everyone is going to be on a jury!  Exciting! 

Is it bad that I am annoyed at how long it is taking to go through these very simple forms?  Is this a sign of being amongst the Liberal Elite?  There are clearly some people around the room who are confused by questions like occupation, work hours and employment status… And now more people have stood up to say that they do not have a basic understanding of the English language.  Don Cornelius is a very patient man; I can hear at least 3 guys tell him in clean English that they don’t speak it and he is not showing the least bit of annoyance.  I’m getting antsy so I am going to retire to eat the cheese plate I bought for breakfast.

10:25 AM: It seems that the entertaining portion of the day is effectively over.  Don Cornelius did a little comedy routine regarding the rules of the day and how people try to take smoke breaks and go back to their houses.  I moved to the “lounge” area where people are allowed to eat, drink and talk on their cell phones and it is much less majestic than courtroom 261.  MSNBC is on and I’m trying really hard not to watch because COME ON, who is sitting at home watching the news at 10:30 in the morning on a Wednesday?  NO ONE.  Which means that these hours are filled with inane non-news about where Casey Anthony is at this very moment and a crack report on how “having a good laugh makes the pain go away.”  WHO. CARES.  I hate you, 24-hour news cycle.

11:04 AM: The girl sitting behind me is singing the song “1+1” by Beyonce aloud to herself and she doesn’t even have headphones in.  She’s real bad at it.  I wish she would stop.  Unrelated, what if you got summoned for jury duty, your name was called and you reported only find out that this whole jury system is just a front for acquiring human test subjects for scientific research?  WHAT WOULD YOU DO?


11:39 AM: Don Cornelius called my name (Rupashaareee Gangopadeyhee is how he pronounced it) and I just walked from the main court building on Adams Street to another, shabbier building on Schermerhorn Street where I am once again sitting.  The juror administrator dude who shuttled us from one place to the other is a normal sized man with child-sized hands and an extremely pointy head.  He freaks me out.  I already miss my old digs in the 261 lounge.  Also, my butt is sore from all this chair action.

1:40 PM: This whole process is really quite arduous and could do with some streamlining.  My compatriots and I were led to yet another room where I guess the proceedings of whatever case this is will be taking place and were introduced to the attorneys as well as the defendant, whose name I promptly forgot about 3 minutes after I heard it.  That is probably for the best since I am not supposed to discuss the ins and outs of it all with you, the general public.  We were sworn in and then released for a nearly two (!) hour lunch break.  Apropos of nothing: the judge is a very attractive man.

I fear this may be the end of the blogging of jury duty for now, as laptops are probably not allowed in the courtroom.  Also, I’m going to do like the old man in front of me and take a refreshing, sitting-up nap.


Day one is now over and guess what!  I have to go back for day two!  Important updates: turns out the attractive judge suffers from some sort of paralysis as he has one of those spiffy automated wheelchairs and these bizarre braces on his hands which I assume help him to control their movement.  He is also a very nice, patient man much like Don Cornelius.  There are two ladies serving with me now who really can’t speak or understand English all that well but the Honorable Whatshisname is taking it in stride.  The freaky dude with the child hands, however, yelled at everyone a lot and I have half a mind to complain about him to someone who I’m sure won’t listen or care.  Everyone had to publicly answer a bunch of questions about their ability to be an unbiased juror and now here we are.

I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a better way to handle jury selection than to make people sit in a room for 5+ hours only to have 50% of the people selected at random try to beg off the trial but then the fairest arbiters of someone’s fate may well be a group of strangers who don’t REALLY want to be there in the first place.  I leave you with the Law & Order theme song because it is awesome.  (And I bet you didn’t know that it’s 3 minutes long!)


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