Yeah, so, the first rule of jury duty is you don’t talk about jury duty.
But, I didn’t actually get picked for the jury, so I guess it’s OK for me to talk about it now, right?
Oh, and apparently you are not supposed to talk about your jury duty on social media. They should have mention that to me earlier in the process.
I have never been selected for jury duty before. I have never had to report to the courthouse. And while I was feeling bad about the inconvenience to my coworkers that I was out of the office for several days not working, I was super curious to see the legal system in action, live and in person.
While I was in the jury waiting room at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco, before we are assigned to cases, I sat in a corner and watched people file in. Among the chosen ones were a blind man and a man with a huge leg cast. “Shouldn’t they be excused from jury duty?” I thought to myself. Then a bunch of folks filed into the waiting room late. The clerks were judging them, “That man is blind and he found a way to get here on time.”
After everyone was seated, the clerks made us watch an orientation video. I was hoping for an episode of “Law & Order.” Instead it was a 20-minute video about the importance of jury duty. There was footage of waves crashing on rocks. I have no idea why. Then there were interviews with people talking about how interesting serving on a jury is. Ugh! Quit boring everyone! We have an amazingly creative population in San Francisco. Can we get someone to make a better jury duty orientation video? In lieu of payment, you can get excused from jury duty for life. Any takers?
So anyway, I had jury duty, but I was never selected for a jury. I never got to sit in the jury box. I was never talked to. Instead, for three days, I sat in the courtroom while the judge and lawyers asked really personal questions to more than 50 of my fellow citizens while about 25 of us watched. It was weird.
The judge on this case has the same name as a standup comedian. I didn’t know if I was reporting to a trial or a roast. Sadly, it was a trial, a really unfunny trial.
It was a criminal case, so the judge was asking people if they have been a victim of crime. For three days, I listened to basically everyone in the jury box describe stories of how they have been victims of crime. I listened to stories of crime, violent crime, domestic violence and alcoholism. It was depressing as hell. I know that I will never be selected to sit on a jury and decide on the cuteness of a puppy. (“Your honor, we find the defendant guilty; guilty of being adorable!”) Every case is going to be a big bummer.
While you are in the courtroom you cannot read or screw around on your phone. You have to sit there and listen. I have never been fascinated and horribly bored at the same time. I got tired of listening to everyone’s stories. I got tired of listening to people who were clearly just trying to get out of jury duty. One of the potential jurors would answer every question with a long-ass story. I just wanted to jump out of my seat and screaming, “Cool story! Dismiss her! You are not going to pick her!” Instead, the judge and lawyers asked a ton of followup questions, just to really drag things out. Then they dismissed her.
There was a potential juror who said she couldn’t be fair. She wouldn’t be fair. They quizzed her over and over, like she was on trial; like they were going to get her to slip up and say, “Never mind. I’ll be totally fair.” Once again, they dragged it out for a while and then they dismissed her.
Not only did they love dragging out the jury selection process, they also loved taking really long breaks. A three-hour break here, a 90-minute break there. No wonder everyone says the legal system is so backed up.
I found the entire process kinda frustrating, because I was just an observer the entire time, not a participant. I mean, I guess that’s what I want. I don’t think I want to sit on a jury. I don’t want to sit in judgment of someone. Also, I don’t want to be trapped in a room with 11 strangers and we can’t leave until we agree on something. I worry that I would just say, “Ugh, fine. He’s guilty. Can I go now?”
I thought being in the courtroom would be like this: