Thursday, February 28, 2013

"When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty."*

   I’m at the Los Angeles Superior Courthouse in the jury assembly room and my computer is only at 31% battery. I've been here since 7:45 a.m. It is presently 9:32 a.m. This is going to be a very, very long day once my laptop dies. 
Downtown. Spoiler alert: I took this when I thought I'd be leaving before lunch.

   The sitting and doing nothing is truly awful. It gives me a low-grade panic attack. Or maybe I’m just really hungry. I was going to go downstairs to the cafeteria during our break, but there was such a stampede to get out of the assembly room that it didn’t seem worth it. Plus, riding an elevator with 16 other people is no fun. And it seems that only 1 of 12 elevators in the building is operating today. If there is an emergency, we’re fucked.

   At the moment we’re just sitting here. How can that be right? Aren’t there supposed to be numerous jury panels happening at the same time? Oh man, this isn’t how I’d hoped to spend the day. They had a judge come in during “orientation” and give us a really long, heartfelt speech about what an honor it is to serve on a jury and how it’s really no big deal when you compare it to waiting in line for drinking water in a third world country. And I guess that’s so. But that doesn’t make the time pass any faster.
   Here are some photos of one of the greater celebrities to have served on a Los Angeles County jury:
What? Who's it starring?!?
Weird Al Yankovic! (Seriously? I bet people in Des Moines don't have to put up with this.)

   They also gave out a brochure during "orientation" with a list of places nearby and things to see. Oh yeah, because lunch break is an hour-and-a-half, I'll go explore MOCA. Thanks, Los Angeles County! 

Wait, didn't I just park at The Disney Concert Hall? Why would I walk back there?

Oh sure, I'll go buy jewelry. Or go to a church...and pray that I don't have to sit on a jury.
  Also, it’s odd that some people are STILL so inconsiderate about their electronics. I’m sitting in a smallish alcove off the main assembly room and one woman was having a full-on phone conversation and only ended it because “reception was bad” not because 8 other people were in the room being forced to hear one half of her boring-ass, loud conversation. Another woman is currently watching a show on her phone without headphones. It’s really fun to listen to what sounds suspiciously like a home video of a bunch of people sitting around in a kitchen talking about the weather. If you’re going to make us all listen, at least watch something good.

   Oh crap. We’re at 28% now. They just called the second group. It’s nearly 11 a.m. and the latest they can keep us is around 5p.m. Which means once my laptop dies I will have to figure out how to entertain myself for a possible total of 6 hours. Yikes. I guess I may have to read a book or think a thought or write some stuff in my list notebook with a pen just like in olden times. Or I’ll waste the day staring at all the crazy people. Actually, there aren’t that many crazy-looking people here. I thought it would be much worse. I guess most of the crazies stay off the grid and don’t get called up for this shit. Crazy like foxes.

   I’m very hungry now. It’s been 4-and-a-half hours since I ate breakfast. I can survive this. I know I can! We get a lunch break, but I was sort of hoping they’d send me home before that. Wishful thinking.

   I’ll update this when I get home. For now I’m going to save what precious little battery life I have left for a true boredom meltdown around 2 p.m. this afternoon.
This is a drawing of me. Trapped inside the courthouse.

   I’m back. 

   I didn’t get out of the courthouse until 4:30 p.m., after pleading extreme poverty to the judge who took begrudging pity on me. I was LITERALLY the LAST person excused from his court (which was, coincidentally, right across the hallway from the court of a certain Judge Lance Ito. Cool! Celebrity judge!) My judge probably didn’t believe I was poor because I was dressed so fancy. Ha ha. No seriously, he let me out because it was a criminal case and it was set to last for a month. There’s no way I wouldn’t have ended up living on the sidewalk after missing a month of work. 

   This was, of course, only after I’d listened to two hours of “voir dire” from the panel that had been called in before mine. ("Voir dire," as I learned from my juror instruction manual, is that thing of where they ask you a bunch of questions about your views in order to suss out whether or not you’re a Nazi or a pothead or an electrical engineer. Seriously—they bagged the electrical engineer. I think it was because the defense found him too rational.) When they finally stopped arguing and chose a 12th juror, I gasped really loudly and everyone started laughing until the judge informed us that it didn't mean anything: we'd have to come back tomorrow to pick an alternate. Finally, my poverty worked in my favor!!

   It was kind of interesting but I didn’t like not being able to go to the bathroom when I wanted to and I’m really bad at entertaining myself when I’m anxious. And I was incredibly anxious that I would have to serve on a jury. I don’t care how important it is to the justice system: I have ADD. And my laptop and phone were both kaput so all I had left was the old iPad, so I drew a picture (see above). But I also have photographic hi-lights from my day (also see above, and below). But when you’re actually in the courtroom, you can’t play with your electronics at all, so I was forced to listen and draw in my notebook.
Musings from my notebook during jury selection.

   The justice system is flawed. It takes a lot of time and people watch a lot of crime dramas so they think they can weasel their way out of things by professing to be heinous bigots or complete morons (and sometimes they aren’t lying).  I listened to these people who could barely string a sentence together (English speakers, all) claim things like, “One time I saw a case like this on the news and ever since then I’ve been incredibly biased towards people who do whatever it is this case is about.” Or, “My mom’s house got broken into one time in the 80’s, so I can’t be an impartial juror when it comes to crimes involving money-laundering.” I would have used the term the judge used, “misappropriation of funds,” but there were maybe only 4 jurors from the entire afternoon who would’ve been able to use the word “misappropriation” in a sentence. One guy kept saying he’d seen this case on the news, even though there’d been no news coverage of the event. They kept him, though, so it backfired. Ah, justice. But now they’re stuck with a liar. Oh well. He’s probably a decent guy who just really wants to go back to work tomorrow.

   Anyway, it’s over for at least 12 more months. In that time I’m going to have to somehow become a doctor because I hear from several reliable sources that doctors are never wanted on juries.

Or maybe I’ll just move. 
*Kind of true, kind of not. This quote is from Norm Crosby, a popular 70's comedian.

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