Monday, June 20, 2005

To Tell the Truth ...

Unlike many Americans I've never been excited about Jury Duty.

Jury duty is crazy about me.

I've had to head down to the DC Superior Court once before for a petit jury service. "Petit Jury" translates to "sitting for eight hours". I think that's the case, anyway, because that is all I did. Petit Juries (if you end up on one) typically serve for about a week and handle small cases.

DC must have thought that I was a very good sitter because they elevated me. They've been trying to get me for a "Special" trial for years now. "Special" trials are special because they're held in a whole different building - though just as ugly - and can last six to eight weeks. You're officially on a "J" jury - it's called that because you'd have to be Jstupid to end up as one of the final 12.

Classes were an easy excuse to get these requests deferred, again and again, but I got a new form calling me in every semester. The most recent came in May and was set to start today.

I am still in class (I'm taking Spanish. Si.) - and I sent in the same excuse I always do. "I gots class, I can't do." This judge was having none of it. I had to go in today. Even better, I was to report at 8 am sharp.

I wasn't even aware there was a 8 Am. I knew about 8 pm, that's when all the good TV shows start. There's another one in the morning!

I arrived early - about 7:45am. I was hoping my tan pants and striped shirt said "Busy. I can't do," but I think they just said "Learn to iron correctly."

Turns out the building didn't open until 8am. DC is chock full of fun facts like these. They just keep coming, kids! Save 'em and trade 'em!

Once through the metal detector and relinquishing my camera phone (no cameras allowed) I was herded up to the juror's lounge.

When I think of "lounge," I think of shag carpeting with a kitchy color combination and some retro-furniture. Maybe that's what jury lounges look like in Miami. Not so in DC. Take an airline waiting area from the early 70's, squeegee every bit of charm out and you can imagine the jury's lounge.

"Special" juries are not allowed to sit around all day. You get in, you get a video orientation - complete with a definition of "evidence" - and then you're called up to the courtroom.

This sounds very fast, but I wasn't into the courtroom until after 11am. Workers there love calling out juror's numbers - to be sure we're herded in the right order. Those numbers are sacrosanct to them, I'm surprised they weren't branded onto my skin. I barely contained a "moo" as I sat in my seat, a seat a touch above granite in comfort. There were approximately 125 of us in the room. They need 12.

(One thing I have to say: Everyone there, from the security guards to the clerks to the judge was very courteous and helpful. If only some of them worked at the Department of Motor Vehicles.)

We all received a pen and a pad of paper, but the resemblance to a posh hotel stay ends there. Soon, (read: 35 minutes later) the lawyers for both sides piled in. I haven't seen so many lawyers in once place since the Fen-Phen convention of 2002.

I felt like I was right back in a gay bar - each lawyer sizing you up and trying desperately to make eye contact. The comparison is apt, in both situations you can end up fucked.

(A quick tip for the many officers of the court that read AtheC: Lawyers should not try to smile when they usually don't. They end up looking like Dick Cheney smiling - that is - a crazy jack-o-lantern on crack.)

The judge soon entered and he was wearing a wonderful black robe. Black really looks good on him. He addressed us and talked about the case. Here's where I have to get a bit ... vague. I can't talk about the case, or who was there, or what the case featured.

Thus began Voir Dire (jury selection). This part was OK because it allows me to use words like Voir Dire (and italics). Voir Dire is French for "Very Long Questionnaire." Well, that's what we needed to do, anyway. It's similar to the S.A.T.'s, but the guy next to me was in his late 50's and smelled of broccoli.

I can't tell you anything about the questionnaire either. They get pretty serious about this - they make you take an oral oath and sign and date the materials you hand in. They also shoot one perspective juror dead so you will live in fear. (Poor 01-0899!)

There are a few things that I can tell you (I hope):

1. The case is Jstupid.
2. [removed. better to be safe than sorry.]
3. I used 5 exclamation marks on the questionnaire.
4. Did I mention Jstupid?

At the moment I'm swimming in limbo. It's almost like an audition - if the lawyers like you, they bring you in for a call-back. I'm hoping that I am not their type. Any problems with serving (like, oh, a class that is costing over 4,000 dollars) will be heard after those call-backs. That part doesn't make much sense to me.

By the end of this week, I'll be able to hand in the letters from the school and my boss and be done with the whole thing.

They won't have 04-1809 to kick around anymore.


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