Saturday, September 09, 2006

Jury Duty vs My Attitude Problem

Sigh... I missed my first opportunity to be rejected for jury duty. Everyone with last names beginning with A-R has to report on Monday.

I should want to do this, but the most I can summon is being willing to do this. Not that I have a choice, since I will be held in contempt if I act on any unwillingness to serve. Really, I SHOULD want to do this. It's a cool thing. I want a "jury of one's peers" to mean more than having your fate decided by 12 people too stupid to get out of jury duty. Surely we can do better than that.

Juries are the finders of fact in the United States legal system; they determine which side has proven its case, including whether a criminal defendant is guilty or not. Judges, on the other hand, determine the legal questions shaping the trial and can decide facts if litigants waive the right to a jury trial. So, okay... I can do my part with that process.

Potential jurors who make it past initial screening are then presented for a particular trial and before the particular litigating parties and lawyers (government prosecutors and defense counsel in criminal trials, lawyers for plaintiffs and defendants in civil trials) as well as the trial judge. Lawyers and the judge then conduct voir dire, a process by which they ask potential jurors questions to determine their suitability for that particular trial.

Lawyers can challenge a potential juror "for cause," arguing that the potential juror has some kind of bias that makes him or him unable to make findings impartially. Once the trial judge has ruled on such challenges and made any removals for cause, lawyers for both sides then can exercise peremptory challenges to remove potential jurors themselves.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I might still be rejected and return to my regularly-scheduled life. I'm so small-minded that that's what I want, but I'll do the right thing. Really. I will. But the burning question on my mind right now is "can I take my knitting with me?". We are informed by the insultingly phrased and toned recorded message that the first day involves significant waiting. Who's surprised? But can I fill that waiting time with knitting, that's the key question. Yes, I have reading to do, and yes, I'll be prepared with it. But the world would be a happier place if I could alternate knitting and reading.

1 comment:

Michael said...

You might consider calling the county clerk's office and asking. As I recall, the one time I was ever summoned for jury duty, some women did bring their knitting with them--but that was 20-some years ago, and people have gotten a lot more paranoid about sharp pointed objects since then.

My mom is still peeved that in her life she's never once been summoned. I got that one, and wound up serving on an insurance case, but haven't heard from them since.