The jury rests

Being a citizen and now a resident of the USA makes me eligible for jury duty but it was still a surprise to receive a summons after being here for less than 2 years. And so, last Monday I found myself entering the local Chinatown courthouse which, luckily for me, was only 10 mins walk from my flat. I was actually glad for my chance to experience this important part of the American flavour of democracy, which is undoubtedly original, unique and influential the world over. According to George Washington’s quote on the supreme court “The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government” and I wanted my little taste of whatever that meant.

There must have been 300 of us, of varying colour, age and style sitting in one large room in rows upon rows of comfy seats. These seats were to play home to our buttocks for some period which could range anywhere from a few hours to 5 whole days; no one can predict how long you’ll be required. The woman beside me commented on the loss of productivity that this room represented and she was absolutely right. I’d ended up missing 2 weeks work for this and doubtless many of the people in the room all had jobs that they should have been at. If the ideal justice system requires a “jury of peers” then I suppose there really is no good way to avoid this “loss of productivity” as she put it.

We were “eligible jurors”, called up at random from the population and having no express purpose yet other than to make ourselves available and appear at the court. We were to wait until a court within the building decided that they needed a jury. If so, 50 of us would be selected at random and sent to the relevant court. That is where we’d be interviewed and the lawyers would cut down their sample to 12, sending the rest back to the big waiting room. The interview process is when people sometimes say crazy, racist things to ensure that they don’t get selected for the jury. Once a jury was selected, they could be needed in that courtroom for up to 5 days.

And so we sat there, waiting for men in black robes and curly white hair to summon us. No requests came in the morning so they sent us all out for an almost 2-hr lunch, which I used for a quick 40 winks at home. In the afternoon session we again sat there with no requests until 3pm when we were released into the wild, permanently. Apparently there’d been some scheduling error so a whole new batch of potential jurors were coming the next day and there was no need for us to return. We all received our letters of attendance which would keep us away from these courtrooms for another 6 years, assuming we didn’t commit a felony. And thus was my civic duty to this great democracy served – with a cheesy intro video, a lunchtime nap and a long, restful sit.

4 Responses to “The jury rests”
  1. Scott Ramsay says:

    Beurocracy at it’s finest

  2. sherine says:

    I was called up and ended up sitting in the communal waiting room for almost 2 weeks and then sent home not having partaken in any trial….I did however manage to get through Book 1 and 2 of Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) series. I consider that a success story :)

  3. kdisleaze says:

    The only thing I knew about this was when Carrie had to go on jury duty in Sex and the City (or as the woman said on the tv, dury duty!!) She had a guy sit next to her that pulled random fruits out of his briefcase and feel them, did that happen to you?

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