I was not picked for jury duty, and my number in the pool was high enough that I’m not sure whether I was actually eliminated or just that they got the required number of jurors they needed before they got to me. The process itself was … fine, I suppose? It would have been significantly more fine had the St. Joseph County courthouse #3 at any point investigated the concept of moving air, or a similarly comfort-related concept called don’t cram sixty fucking people into tiny rooms during a pandemic. Unfortunately, neither of those rules were followed and I suspect that, despite being one of three (3) people who remained masked for the entire process, I have contracted Covid, Anthrax, monkeypox and probably rabies and fucking wandering womb syndrome as well.
Honestly, the most entertaining (or at least worth talking about) parts of the whole process were that 1) when the judge is conferring with attorneys they actually play static over the intercom to make it more difficult to pick up what they’re saying, and 2) the absolutely outstanding level of rudeness of the cop manning the metal detector on the way into the courthouse. Actually, a few things about that:
- I walked in behind a handful of people on the way into the courthouse. All of them put masks on as we were entering the courthouse; I assumed that they were mandatory. The moment everyone but me got through the metal detectors, they all took their masks right back off again. The hell?
- The cop was barking “Do you have a cell phone?” at everyone who came in. The gentleman in front of me answered in the affirmative. The cop actually picked up a copy of the summons we were sent and yelled at him about whether he’d read the “big box at the bottom,” and made him read out loud the part where it said to not bring cell phones into the courtroom.
- Three of us, including me, set off the metal detectors and were waved in without further investigation, so apparently the pistol I had taped to the small of my back was fine. I said I didn’t have a cell phone, though, so all good.
- I happened to be sitting where I could hear people coming in while we were waiting for everything to start, so I got to witness it when the same poor bastard who had gotten chewed out about having a cell phone realized that the room he had on his summons was different from everyone else’s. He made the mistake of asking the cop about it, and the guy yelled at him again, because you’re supposed to call a number the night before you have jury duty to make sure your trial is still happening, and this guy hadn’t done that. “You did not do what you were supposed to do!” the cop yelled. “Why would that be? Do you not know how to read instructions? I’m surprised you found the courthouse at all!”
The other big realization of the day is that people get too tied up in hypotheticals and don’t think shit through very clearly, but that shouldn’t be surprising because I teach and so I should know how fucking dumb most people are. It was still weird– and, frankly, it clearly had one of the attorneys confused– to see how many people indicated that they would not be able to render an impartial verdict were the defendant to choose not to testify. Several different people expressed variations on “I wouldn’t be able to make a fair decision if I didn’t hear both sides of the story,” which sounds reasonable and good so long as you don’t think about it at all. Like, y’all, we just had “beyond a reasonable doubt” explained to us a couple times. It’s not all that complicated a concept. The defendant does not have to testify. Period.
- This was an armed robbery case. The defendant was caught on video robbing the store, clearly showing his face. There were several eyewitnesses to the crime, including the arresting officer and the store owner who was robbed. The robber dropped the gun while fleeing the store afterward, which had his fingerprints on it and was registered in his name. Before committing the crime, the thief posted a selfie on Twitter and Facebook of him outside the store and holding the gun, with the caption “Bout ta rob these motherfuckers.” In this case, I really don’t need the defendant’s version of the story. Guilty, thanks.
- Keeping with the metaphor of armed robbery. There were no witnesses other than the shop owner, who picked someone else out of a lineup and furthermore described a thief of a different race and gender than the person who was eventually arrested. The defendant has a solid alibi documented on social media for the time the crime was committed. There is video of the crime and the thief is clearly not the person on trial. In this case, again, I don’t need to hear from the defendant to decide to exonerate them.
These are both exaggerated, but it was really weird to hear so many people claim that they could not and would not be able to come to a conclusion without hearing from “both sides.” And again, the defense attorney was visibly surprised. The prosecutor had a similar situation in trying to ascertain if everyone understood the concept of “accessory to” being the same as having committed a crime; ie, you drive somebody to rob a bank and act as the getaway driver as well, but you weren’t the person who went in and robbed the bank. You’re still getting sentenced for bank robbery. Now, you could argue about whether this was fair, but the number of people who wanted to “what-if” this relatively simple hypothetical was still kind of alarming. No, the person wasn’t carjacked. Yes, they knew the robbery was happening. No, we’re not going to posit that someone was killed and the robber had promised not to kill anyone. Please stick to the current hypothetical, Juror 42. You know what, never mind, I’m rejecting all of you. Go home.
One way or another, I’m free for two years. Still haven’t made it to a trial. Hopefully next time it’ll be on a cooler day, but … yeah.