Thursday, June 18, 2009

Altadenahiker Does Her Civic Duty (sort of)

When I walk into a federal building, my heart races and hands go clammy. Something to do with the austere, authoritative atmosphere, the stench of gray, the chairs of a thousand butts. Erase your face here. You are nothing but another foot of the great shuffling public.

I've been on juries before, but only vice. I can do vice, I mean, I can sit in apparent judgement of what is considered vice, because I think (perhaps mistakenly) that no one ever died from vice.

But this time it was criminal justice, where all the cases, apparently, were the Big M or attempted M, and could last for weeks if not months. We saw an orange jumpsuit escorted down the hall. I kept swallowing The Scream. We Norskis invented The Scream. I'm a skip-in-the-sunshine girl, I can't do this.

How can a blithering pool of jelly do this?

Jean and Miss H were in for jury duty lately, and neither of them blubbered (internally or at least bloggedly) about it. In fact, Jean took the time to work on some sketches. How did she do that? I tried an essay, for like five minutes. Here it is: Oh please, not me, not me, not me, not me.

Then I got called to a panel. And eventually got off the panel. (No, I didn't act like a fool, it wasn't for emotional reasons.)

I met a lot of nice people today; always do in situations like this. Funny, how with people you've never seen and will never see again, you both share some intimate thoughts. Like your plane is going to crash or something.

And the judge seemed suitably judicial, but thoughtful and even sweet. Not everyone got excused.

I'm excused. It wasn't me, it wasn't me, it wasn't me.


42 comments:

  1. It wasn't your time, KB. They'll see you in court later.

    I'm just curious, (as the girls will say) what other situations find your heart racing as your hands go clammy.

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  2. I was so impressed with Jean, too. I can't imagine being so productive. At least you are done.

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  3. I've only been called once. The odds of being called in Vancouver seem to be roughly equal to winning the lottery.

    Naturally I was dismissed. I didn't even care if I got picked, But I suspect I didn't conceal my basic cynicism and 'hang the bastards' approach to justice as well as I thought I had.

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  4. Hang the content (sorry) ... some nice language structure here.

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  5. We share intimacy with strangers because its "safe".

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  6. they said of the old Norsk guy;
    "He loved his wife so much he almost told her."

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  7. Wayne:

    You want to be on jury duty?!

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  8. The last time I was called for jury duty they were trying a man who molested several young girls. You've never seen so many people in one large room wishing for the same exit visa.

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  10. I mean, this process of dehumanization weighs heavily against the American belief that we are innocent until proven guilty.

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  11. Oh please, not me, not me, not me, not me.

    rock on

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  12. Last I looked, Americans (how about I say "western nations") believed in democracy and equality, too.

    Actions, not beliefs.

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  13. Off topic: You were really ahead of the curve with your banana barometer.

    Feature in LA Times Calendar section about two banana-related art exhibits.

    And my PCC newsletter features a photo of new public art - a giant fiberglass banana tree.

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  14. the last time I was called it was incredibly tedious---the defendant didn't speak English, so everything, even a bug fart, had to be translated. I managed to excuse myself by ending up in hospital with kidney stones.

    the spousal unit is up next week...we'll see what lovely things await.

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  15. Trish, a two-mile run and two showers to get "institution" off my skin. Sort of. Brrr.

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  16. The truth is that the counts really need smart people like you on these cases and they usually don't get them. 

    I'm as guilty as the rest of you who have never served. My stately is to approach the bench for anything I can think of. I've never served. I think it might be interesting, put I'm just to busy doing something important like rebuilding the Eiffel Tower out of rice crispy squares.

    WV crant (I just crant bring myself to do it.)

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  17. BTW, TRISH, LOL, TIGGER, NFW, POSSLQ, TIGGER, 73-78, POSSLQ, SIS, 71-77

    WV, HEERNEST, APPROPRIATE

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  18. Break out the croquet set, I'm game.

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  19. My brother (going on 20 years of unemployment) and who lives in my mother's basement got on a jury. For a N/West Pasadena gang murder. Unbelievable. Like my good friend Eddie M, I can scream too.

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  20. Jury of your peers, PA. How are you at croquet?

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  21. Blog Editing Police DepartmentJune 19, 2009 at 9:49 AM

    Jezz, Mid-Town, get some sleep and proof before you publish your comment.

    (1) The truth is that the COURTS...

    (2) My STRATEGY is to approach the bench...

    (3) interesting, BUT I'm just to busy...

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  22. I heard that!

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  23. The first time I got called in I was not even a citizen. At least that was easy to get out of.

    I'd be a horrible juror, I can't sit still that long and listen. My mind wanders, by the end of a day I would have no idea what was said.

    wv: humen

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  24. 's ok. I can't spell either. Just ask K, he saves me from embarrassment all the time. And Virg. And Wayne, who uses the CUED (Canada U English Dictionary).

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  25. Jury duty really is a mix of boredom, anxiety and a sense of truly being a citizen. Also has a little bit of "scared straight" thrown in for good measure. If being in the jury box is hard to deal with, imagine being in the defendant's seat. For that reason alone, I go when called. All modesty aside, I figure it's one less idiot deciding the defendant's fate.

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  26. In the case of the child molester, it was a slam dunk case, the only way he was going to get off was on a technicality, which, thankfully, he did not. When you're raising kids this kind of thing makes you queasy. It was best to let leveler heads prevail.

    I friend of mine, a complaintant, has to go to criminal court soon and I volunteered to go with her, but she wants her privacy. Court is a surreal experience on every level if you're not used to it.

    wv boximmo

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  27. Congratulations on doing your part for our court system.

    I served on a jury for a murder trial almost a year ago. There are lots of things I'd rather do, but I don't regret it. It was tedious, interesting, frustrating, informative and I saw a part of society in the trial that I'm never exposed to and don't ever want to see again. I'd respect myself a little less if I had intentionally avoided my responsibility. And, I met a lot of highly intelligent and very successful people that had no problem with being there.

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  28. I'd say, just close your eyes and think of England; it's your duty, and if you were a defendant you'd want a jury.

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  29. Yeah, but I wouldn't want a jury that had been penned up in a room all day, fermenting in their hostilities. and, I told another friend of mine, that lighting in the criminal courtroom makes everyone look like an ax murderer.

    I am entirely serious about this: For the potential jurors, they should rip out some of those filthy airline chairs and put in exercise bikes and yoga mats. If I were a defendant, I'd want a jury that had expended some energy and released some frustration before they came in to judge my case.

    WV: Carbi. Uncanny, isn't it?

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  30. KB - Were you at the Federal Building downtown or were you at the Criminal Courts Building, which is a County court that I refer to affectionately as "The OJ Building"?

    I've been on several juries. It's fun as long as it's a short, simple case. I was recently on one where they charged a woman with making death (terrorist) threats to her boyfriend. They had her on tape (he called 911 during her rant and held up the phone) throwing a hysterical tantrum because he had thrown all her stuff out of their house. In the tantrum she threatened to kill his entire family by mentioning each one individually. "Your mammy, your pappy, your grandmammy..." Problem was half of these people were already dead, and the other half were in Louisiana. We acquitted her on this count and also the count where she supposedly threatened her boyfriend with a toy gun. Her boyfriend knew it wasn't a real gun, and he was probably a drug dealer who was familiar with real guns. I couldn't believe they brought the charges. The judge, whose name was Rice, I believe, was really good.

    It was the public defender's first trial. We told him that he should not have his client dress as if she was going to a prom and he should not click his water bottle during arguments.

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  31. I'm totally with you about the penned up part; it took days to recuperate from my time this Monday. Way too much sitting in a closed up room.

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  32. I was only called once, and I ended up on a jury in a liability case that lasted 3 or 4 days. It was dull/interesting, as others have said. What impressed me most was the respect we jury members received, from the lawyers and the judge. We were treated like the most important members of the court.

    I didn't love it, but I do consider it my duty. I'm never bored in the pen if I can bring something to write on or to read.

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  34. I agree Petrea. A liability case is like vice, no big deal and no sleep lost. The murder circuit is different.

    So Terry and Keith, you were on that. My blue hat is off to you both.

    Earl, it was the OJ Building. I was so stupid, I thought Criminal Jus Building referred to any crime. Shoplifting, for instance.

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  35. Well, KB, you are right that in the OJ Building (LA County Criminal Courts Building) there are trials for everything from murder, to kidnapping, to drug dealing, to shoplifting. There are also criminal cases in other courthouses throughout the county, like Pasadena or Santa Monica. The Federal court, on the other hand is in the tall, reddish Roybal building closer to Union Station. In that court are trials for federal crimes like bank robbery, civil rights violations, or perhaps 'regular' crimes committed on federal property, etc.

    WV: affai (next time you're planning an event, add an "R" to your affai.)

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  36. Yeah, gotcha. A murder case, geez. Way different. Could last for months, could put you in danger, could test moral mettle...hard to say. I might freak out entirely.

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  37. Earl, I believe the crimes are separated by floors. I was on the killing floor.

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  38. I think you're right, KB. I think the killing floor was the 8th or 9th, maybe. I actually sat in on the OJ trial one morning. They had a lottery for 7 people to go in each morning. I only work a couple blocks away so I figured I go every morning till I got in. Got in the first day I went.

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  39. Justice delayed is justice denied??

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  40. You got away, huzzah!

    I've somehow wormed out of jury duty the handful of times I've been called. I was happy about this more because I'm lazy than scared though...but a big case would be nerve wracking.

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  41. The wonders of the jury system! How much I gave up to take my place in Japanese society. Still, all is not lost and the legal system here is finally getting round to the idea that maybe it's best not just to take the word of the police on whether someone is a criminal http://gurugurujapan.wordpress.com/2009/05/21/jury-system-starts-in-japan/

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