I got called to jury duty for the first time today! Naturally, I remembered the date but lost my summons. In the process of getting it reprinted I’ve been through 5 different courthouse buildings so far this morning, each with its own bag scanner and metal detector.
Now I’m finally in the jury waiting room, which has wifi, comfy seats, and absolutely nothing else. They say we’re all going to be called in to a case within the next 5-10 minutes, and the administrator(?) has pulled out a large brown metal raffle ticket tumbler. I don’t know what the prize is, but I feel like I might be in The Lottery.
Actually I’ve always admired the jury system, and jury duty always sounded like fun. (Of course, I have the good fortune of a job that pays full wage for days spent on a jury; state law only requires them to pay $40/day.) Maybe they’ll even ask me questions about my resume, opinions, and life history! It’ll be just like on TV, if voir dire were on TV, and also if I owned a TV.
EDIT: Well, it’s over. (I think.)
I was surprised, walking into the courtroom, to recognize one of the officers of the court as a relative! In retrospect maybe I should have been able to figure that out ahead of time.
Anyway, the session opened with the judge expounding upon the civic duty of jury participation. It was immediately clear that this judge takes pride in his sense of humor; every paragraph was infused with subtle levity. When the judge asked if anyone recognized any of the officers of the court, I raised my hand. The judge joked about us, saying
- “Come on, to have a conflict there must be some reasonable degree of consanguinity. You have what, a great-grandparent in common?”
- “Do you how many second cousins I have in a five block radius?”
- “You two do actually kind of look alike.” (This is true.)
- “Do you like him? Never mind.”
- “This is kind of funny.”
Anyway, I don’t know if I was really disqualified. All I know is I waited all day, and the guy with the raffle tumbler never called my name, while watching a performance that was like a trailer for a trial, complete with a brace of bulletproof-vested security officers around the dapper-dressed defendant.
The administrator just informed us that we are done, and cannot be called for another six years. Works for me.
EDIT2: Other thoughts
Being on jury duty in the County of New York (a.k.a. Manhattan Island) gives you a fascinating chance to learn something about a random sample of your neighbors. Among the 40 participants who were actually called up to speak, there were
- The heir to a famous name, the sort of person who manages a social justice investment fund as a hobby (and humblebrags about it in court)
- An unknown avant-garde artist
- A partner at a quirky ad/design firm
- One guy who pre-emptively declared that he did not believe in the death penalty, causing the judge to point out that “There’s no death penalty in the State of New York. Also, not even Texas kills people for [minor felony]. Maybe Georgia.”
- A ton of people whose close relatives had been convicted of crimes, or were currently in prison, but (when asked) confirmed that they felt they’d received fair treatment by the criminal justice system
- A few people who work in law enforcement, to one degree or another
- Five lawyers … all of whom were selected to be on the jury!
The courtroom is not as shiny and brightly lit as a Law and Order set, but the ceilings are enormously high.