Through the years, I've been called many times. This most recent summons makes me want to shout: "Get someone who has NEVER been called. I've paid my dues."
I did a trial run of going downtown yesterday to see what streets were closed, under construction, and where all the homeless people are camped.
Unfortunately, they seemed to be on most of the sidewalks downtown--especially on the sidewalks leading from the parking garage to the Jury Assembly Room. One poor soul was sitting on the sidewalk having a huge argument--with himself.
Since I've got a book plotted in which a trial is an element, I told myself this would be a good chance to take notes. I'm trying to see the silver lining instead of griping about having jury duty. Again.
I think, in total, I've been called 9 times. I wouldn't mind it so much because I do believe it's a responsibility we have as citizens, but I've learned it's expensive, frustrating, and scary.
Downtown Houston is about an hour's drive away if there are no accidents and no bad weather. You get paid $6.00 a day for Jury Duty.
There's only 1 garage downtown where you can pay $6.00 to park all day. The rest of the parking garages will cost you about $20.00 to $25.00 a day. That adds up fast.
I'm self-employed so time is money. Jury duty at best takes 1 day--if you don't get placed on a jury and are released.
At worst, you end up in a jury pool where it takes days to seat a jury. Then if you actually end up on a jury, there's no telling how many days you'll have to be in court.
Once when I had jury duty, we were taken to the courtroom where the attorneys laid out the facts of the case.
I immediately thought, "Why are they even taking up time for this lawsuit?" To me, it was frivolous at best and should have been dismissed.
This turned out to be an all day event. We were herded across to a restaurant for lunch (another expense since most places downtown are not cheap).
When lunch was over, we went back to the courtroom where the process of summarizing the lawsuit continued. At the end of the summation, the defense attorney asked, "Is there anyone here who has a preconceived notion of this case?"
Everyone raised his/her hand. Then they went person to person, asking each potential juror what their preconceived notion was. To a person, we all said, "I don't know how this case got to trial. It's obvious there's no good reason this man should be suing his employer." Or words to that effect.
The attorneys and the judge conferred. Then the judge said he was going to dismiss us all, but first he blasted each and everyone of us because we were denying this man his day in court. He went on at length, telling us how we were in the wrong and basically going against the Constitution.
He didn't say any of that in a calm voice. He was livid and vitriolic. I believe his last words were, "Get them out of here!"
If you've never been called to jury duty, this is how it goes. You check in with your summons. They review it and tell you to take a seat. Everyone gathers in a large room and waits. The process is usually as slow as molasses in January.
Eventually, they start calling names, and you line up. Then you're taken to the courtroom in which the judge, court reporter, bailiff, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, and all the accused are sitting. You're given a summary of what the case is. You're also told about how long they expect the trial to take.
Then the attorneys and judge question the jurors. They have all the information about you. They point you out, ask your name, your spouse's name, your home address, and any other personal detail they wish. They do this while the defendants stare at each juror as if memorizing the juror's face in case they'd like to pay you a visit at some point in the future or have their friends who are out roaming free visit you.
The paragraph above refers to a few years ago when I was summoned as a juror in Federal Court. There were hundreds of us summoned. We were told the trial would take up to 6 months!
Six months! Agh.
Everyone in the room groaned aloud. Who can set aside everything in their life for 6 months?
The case involved a big conspiracy with one of the charges being conspiracy to commit murder. There were 10 defendants, each scary enough to star in their own stalker movie.
It was unnerving to have 10 sets of eyes staring at you as you recited your home address. Several of the women on the jury panel were so intimidated that they looked scared to death. One woman was shaking and could hardly speak.
We had to show up for 3 days I believe. If you say anything that sets off a red flag to either of the attorney camps (I say camp because there were multiple attorneys on each side.), they bring you back to a smaller courtroom so the judge and attorneys can ask more detailed questions.
All the defendants are there too, and you're even closer to them as you sit in a chair in front of them, with a light shining on you. Everyone's attention is on you.
I was brought back because part of the case was armed robbery, and I'd worked at a credit union many years ago that had been robbed. I was dismissed because of that.
Next week, I'll be away for jury duty. Wish me luck!