Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Jury Duty: Day One, Part One

Tuesday afternoon I completed my civic duty as a juror at Hennepin County District Court. I wasn't allowed to discuss the case while proceedings were taking place, so I'll recap now that we've returned a verdict and have been dismissed from any further jury duty (until eligible again in 3 years).

I received a jury summons by mail at the end of July informing me of my two week jury service starting August 22nd. Included with the summons was a brief questionnaire (gender, race, age, etc). Once the jury office received my questionnaire, I could request call-in status and would not be required to report in person until the phone-in recording called my group number. Luckily, the phone-in instructions are straight forward. I obtained phone-in status and wasn't required to report my first day. My group number was listed in the recording to report at 9 am Tuesday August 23rd.
Shortly after 9:00, a woman from the Jury Office did role call by having everyone line up and scanning the bar code printed on our summons (what is the plural for summons?). Some of the jurors had sat there all day on Monday and never been called. She had us newbies stay for brief orientation where she told us about things such as:

  1. Payment of service: $20/day + mileage to courthouse as calculated by the address summons was sent to. As the courthouse is in downtown Minneapolis, $20 just about covers parking for the day. If you know a good place to park (early bird special on City Center roof is only $9 if you get there before 8:30), then you might have enough to pay for your lunch as well.
  2. Rules of court: no camera phones, all other phones turned off, no weapons, etc.
  3. How to sign in/out for breaks: dry erase board. OK to leave if sign on board is green, stay in room if sign is red- that means they are about to pull jurors from the pool for a panel.
  4. All other information was regarding people's bitching and moaning about being there and their various attempts to weasel out of jury duty. One one exception (a young mom with a 5 month old who was also a student), I just felt contempt for those people that somehow thought their time was more valuable than the rest of us.

Here's what I remember about the Jury Assembly Room. About 100 people spread out in a large waiting room. Mostly not talking to each other. There were some magazine racks and bookshelves with games and books. The jurors seemed to be divided into two trains of thought: those who had resigned themselves to jury service and were trying to make the best of it, and those who were going to fume and bitch until they were dismissed. I watched a young woman with acrylic nails work on a puzzle of cartoonish polar bears. Another woman slept. The few people who had dared to socialize were playing cards or chatting. Most people read. Otherwise the only entertainment was overheard cell phone conversations and two "Justice Talking" kiosks. The kiosks were decorated in red, white and blue with historical photos and headphones. Presumably you could listen to some kind of museum exhibit type recording, but I never had the pleasure of listening for myself.

There were television screens throughout the room. They were not showing programs, but scrolling screen shots of useful text.

  • "Shakes and Rumbles? Don't Worry! The Jury Room is located under Sixth Street and what your feel is the traffic overhead" (and I assume that prolonged rumble accompanied with the sound of a jackhammer was road work).
  • "Thought for the Day: There are those who's train of thought never leave the depot."
  • "You may sign out for 5 minute breaks!" (over a montage of Old Glory, Abe Lincoln's face, and the Capital Dome in order for us to feel nice and patriotic about being let loose for a smoke or a potty break for all of five minutes)
  • "Please do not use chairs as foot rests!"
  • "Thought for the Day: People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan."
  • "Any juror that arrived after 9:00 and missed role call, please check in at the office!"

There were a lot of exclamation points.

At one point, I checked myself out for a 5 minute break! I went to the bathroom. The women's restroom smelled like grape Robutussin. Which it pretty good as far as bathroom smells go. When I returned to the dry erase board, the red sign was up. 16 names were called at random as chosen by a computer from the jury pool. They called my name. We were all checked by guards with security wands and taken in a freight elevator to the 14th floor.

To be continued.

1 comment:

crazy j said...

I want the rest...so it better continue...too long of not knowing what case you got and stuff!