Trapped in Voir Dire Straights
by Calendar Hacksaw
I got a letter in the mail a few weeks ago from the folks down at the courthouse, inviting me to drop by and sit on a jury. It sounded like a good idea, so I took a day off work and drove over to the county seat just to see what it was all about.
Imagine my surprise when I got down there and found out that about 700 other people had received identical invitations.
The entrance to the courthouse was guarded by metal detectors and enough Sheriffís deputies and marshals to staff a presidential inauguration. They made me take everything out of my pockets and put it in a Tupperware bowl before walking through the detector. I never realized I had so much embarrassing stuff in my pockets. And then the metal detector went off again, and I had to pull out even more embarrassing stuff. I had no idea those things have foil linings.
Well, some young women came out to serve as "jury calmers," and they herded all of us into a big room and made us sit down for about an hour.
Then they picked about 60 of us for a trial expected to last ten court days, not counting Tuesdays, Thursdays and holidays, and said, "Go up to Department 20 on the 6th floor and wait around up there."
So we did, all 60 of us, waiting our turn on four different elevators, and there wasnít anything to do up on the 6th floor; no judges or lawyers or anything like that. But we waited there anyway, sitting on the hard marble floor, for a long, long time, wishiní we had got Razor scooters for Christmas.
Eventually a door opened, and a grumpy old bailiff with a bad attitude came out. He invited all of us to come in and sit down, which we did, and there was a judge in there and a couple of attorneys and plaintiffs and defendants and other bottom-feeders. Apparently, they had been in there all along, having a secret meeting.
For the next few hours, the judge and the attorneys selected some of us potential jurors to answer questions, and after they were satisfied with what they heard the judge impaneled a jury of 12 peers, plus two alternate peers, and sent the rest of us home with validated parking.
During voir dire (Latin for "public humiliation"), one prospective juror gave his occupation as "stockboy at Costco." Further interrogation revealed that his wife is a bankruptcy attorney. I wanted to shake his hand.
I didnít learn much about being a juror that day, but I did make a few observations, which Iím happy to share with you.
All in all, it was time well spent, and I learned a few things. Chances are I wonít get invited again for a year or more, which will give me ample time to finish cleaning out my wallet before encountering the metal detectors again, and maybe pick up a used scooter at a barn sale.
If youíre inclined toward a life of crime, hereís a suggestion: go down to the saloon late on a Saturday night and look at the people. Now, get up early the next morning and go to church. Chances are, the "faces you see in both places" will make up more than 50% of your jury.
You feeliní lucky?
Calendar Hacksaw hangs out at http://www.calendarhacksaw.com, and as he's getting on in years he's decided he can no longer live with deadline pressure. Therefore, from now on his column will appear only when inspiration strikes him, or for as long as the editor and publisher are willing to put up with his infrequent submissions.