mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Jury duty, done...

So I had Jury Duty today, the first time I've ever had it. I managed to avoid it for the years I was in college, as well as while I lived in Baltimore City, but I got served last month by Baltimore County.

I didn't want to reschedule, because I figured I might end up getting it during Christmas break, when I was planning on being out of town. But the timing turned out to be awful - we're in the middle of a major deployment at work, and most of that has become my responsibility. Plus, we were having a consultant from Microsoft come, and she was originally going to come today - I had to push it back to next week, and pray that I wouldn't get stuck on a long case and miss it.

Given the summon's threats of $1000 fines or 30 days in jail for not showing up, I figured I should proabably be there, and on time, and given the fact that the instructions came with a list of "if this garage is full, use this one, and if that one is full", I figured I would need to get there early to get a good parking spot. So I went to sleep early, made sure to get up early, and got dressed and out the door by 7:20 for my 8:30 summons time. The instructions said to dress appropriately - collared shirt, slacks - so I put on a pair of cargo pants, a long-sleeve button-down shirt, and a pair of black Doc Martens.

I got there around 8, and had no problem getting a spot on the fifth floor of the first garage. I walked to the courthouse, took out my keys, and went through the metal detector - and it went off. Oops, forgot the cell phone. Took it out. Still went off. Took off my belt, even though I've worn similar belts through airport metal detectors years ago without issue. Still went off, and I'm out of ideas. Finally, the security guard asked me if I had on steel-toed shoes, and I remembered that my Docs were. Took them off, went through fine.

After that, it was a whole lot of waiting. Wait for a while, line and up and get your form stamped, parking validated, and $15 payment. Wait for a while. Watch a video about how great the jury trial system is. Luckily, they had wireless, and the speed was good, although they blocked a bunch of ports - I couldn't sign into Novell Messenger for work on port 8300, or get to the NibblerCam. Unfortunately, they didn't have a whole lot of plugs, and the battery on my Macbook Pro was getting low. Luckily, after the video we were allowed to move, and I found an end seat near a plug (earning me an odd look from the cute brunette in the seat next to it, who got up and left soon after, but hey, I had juice). Waited some more. Repeatedly posted my status in the Fatwallet OT Random Thoughts thread. By 12:30, they hadn't called anyone, but said that they had two cases waiting after lunch. Be back by 1:25. I went to a 7-11 a couple blocks away, grabbed a couple hotdogs and some chips and headed back. Took off my shoes going into the courthouse, earning a "you don't have to do that" from the guard - I informed him that I did.

Went back to the waiting room, wolfed down my cold roller dogs, and waited. We were told that they had two judges who would soon be calling for jurors.

A little after 3, we were told that one of the judges would come down to talk to us. He thanked us for our service, told us we wouldn't be needed, and we got to leave. I called my boss and told him I would be back at work in 15 minutes. Unfortunately, I didn't count on the fact that it took me half an hour to get out of the parking garage, thanks to 138 jurors leaving at the same time and one parking attendant.

Went back to work for an hour and caught up on all the emails that I had gotten from our helpdesk about the deployment.

So how did it go? Well, pretty much as well as I could have hoped - I didn't get called for a case and don't have to go back for another 3 years. I was dreading getting called for a case - first of all because of having to miss work - I know I'm legally required to, but I still hate doing it - and also because I don't really feel I'm in any way qualified to judge if someone should go to jail or if a company should have to pay a huge sum of money. I thought it was funny that the videos and literature repeatedly told people that if they get excused from a jury based on a peremptory challenge, they shouldn't feel bad, and if they don't get picked for a jury they have still served by being there. I'm thrilled that I didn't have to serve on a jury.

Before jury duty, my general thought on the idea of having professional juries instead of citizen jurors was negative - why, one bad juror who always voted guilty or innocent without looking at the facts could deny justice to thousands of people. But the reality is that most people who go to jury duty don't actually serve on a jury - they are just there in a pool in case a trial actually occurs, but most are settled or pleaded, sometimes right before the trial would have occurred. Most people I've talked to who have had jury duty haven't actually served on a jury - my 67 year old dad has only actually been on one once, and my 66 year old mom has never been.

Which makes me wonder how efficient it is to take 138 people every day away from their jobs so that they can sit in a room, watching crappy movies, reading the paper, and surfing the internet. I'd at least be in favor of a mix of professional and citizen jurors, since the pros would probably just spend most of their time sitting around, being there if needed. Causing companies to have to lose their employees, while paying them to sit around, just seems like a huge dead weight loss, and it's kind of amazing that we put up with it.

I also have to wonder - do they really put anyone in jail for 30 days or fine them $1000 for skipping jury duty? And if so, can I get a jury trial if I'm arrested?


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