Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jury Duty - Day 1

What a day... what a system... what a cross section of New York...

I can go to jail for what I"m about to say in this post... but fuck 'em. They'll NEVER take me alive !!!!

So I'm called to court. Turns out I'm in New York County Criminal Court. New York County = Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. Summons says to show up at 8:45. At about 9:45 they start the orientation schpeel (lesson learned... don't EVER show up on time). Multiple warnings about no cell phones or blackberries if you go into the court room.

About 11:15 they call names out of the drum... 80 names. Yup... 80. That includes me. All 80 of us stand out in the corridor for 20 minutes until they open the doors to the court room (right across the corridor from the jury room). On our way in, court officers instruct us to turn off pagers and blackberries. Once seated, Judge askes some general questions and excueses two people who claim they don't meet the Judges requirements. From the remaining 78 people, they do a 2nd drum drawing and select 24 people (not me). The remaining 54 people stay in the court room in case anybody is dismissed from the jury, they will pull more from this pool. Meanwhile, court officers are wandering around telling people "Sir, you have to turn off that device."... and people are saying "Wait... just a second... I just have to..." UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLE !!! They simply can't go w/o their fucking blackberries... and they think it's OK to try to reason with the guy.

Prosecutor, two defense lawyers, and defendant are introduced. Indictment is read. Dude (definitely a thug) is accused of Assault in the 2nd Degree. On [such and such] night at 1am on 126th St, he allegedly "hit somebody with an object, to wit something heavy, causing him harm." That's pretty much verbatim.

Judge passes out laminated sheets w/ 9 questions to the 24 prospective jurrors, but instructs us all to stop doing anythign else and pay attention because we may end up as one of those 24 prospective jurrors. Court officers tell more people to shut off their cell phones and blackberries.

First guy hems and haws a bit about "not sure if I can be objective, but I'll try"... judge says "try isn't good enough. Can you promise that you will be objective and follow my instructions and apply the law as I describe it? You need to say yes or no. You can say no... it's not a problem... but you have to give a definite answer." He mans up and says "Yes, I can do that. No problem." OK, that's the first guy... so now EVERYBODY knows this... right? (riiiiight!!!!)

Next guy whips through the questions no problem... "1 - live in upper east side for 21 years. 2 - I'm a dentist. 3 - don't have physical or mental reason why I can't serve. 4 - don't know any police personally 5 - was never victim of a crime..." etc... Cool... wer'e cooking now.

Next juror... whips through 1 and 2 and then at 3 says... well, I'm on perscription diaretic... so I have to use the bathroom often... like right now. Judge says, OK, let's have court officer escort you into jury room so you can use the bathroom and when you come back we'll continue questions. At which point, she shuffles in to jury room and everybody waits... and waits... and waits... and then finally she comes back, shuffles over to her seat... and Judge anounces, "It's lunch time... let's all take break and meet back here at 2:15". Muther Fucker !!! Why the hell were we waiting for this bitche's bathroom break just to come back and announce lunch. WTF !!!

OK, walk around China Town and Little Itally. Back at 2:15 sharp. Doors open up at 2:40-ish. Back to Jury questions. One dude looks like smart sophisticated educated man, but is clearly a lunatic. "Judge, can I come over and talk to you in person?" "Fist just answer the questions. Where do you live, sir." "Well judge, that's what I don't want to say." "I don't want you to give me your address... just your neighborhood." "Well, I really don't want that revealed in public." "Is it uptown or downtown!!!" "Uptown, your honor." "Fine, next question." Then he went on with no problems for the rest of the standard questions. WTF is the big fucking secret of his neighborhood? He doesn't want us all moving in and making the rents go up?

A few more crazies in the pool... one old timer who was COMPLETELY deaf. Judge asked court officer to go get the hearing aid device for him. Si we wait... and wait... and wait... ok, tries it on. Can you hear me now?? Good!!! Seems to do OK w/ the headphones, and judge says specifically "Be sure to keep those on the whole time so you can hear everything." Two seconds later he take them off.

One lady "I don't think 126th St is a place I'd like to be at 1am. But I though about it over lunch and I can TRY to overlook that." Judge says "You know people do live there, right?" She's like "Yes, I know... it's just not a place I'd like to be."

My (least) favorite lady says "Well, I'm a clinical psycologist, and I have empathy for people." Judge says "Do you think you can be objective, follow my instructions, and apply the law according to the evidence?" Lady then says "Well you know... it's kinda like..." and attemts some kind of non-verbal communication... squinches her face up... shakes her hands on the side of her head and says "It's like... you know... ". Judge says "I'm sorry. I didn't understand your comment. Can you be clear in your answer?" Again she squinches her face up... shakes her hands on the side of her head and says "It's like... sort of... yeah..." Judge says "Yeah? What are you agreeing to when you say 'Yeah' ?" Lady says, "well, I'm a clinical psychologists and I have empathy for people". This goes on for seven fucking minutes... "Can you apply the law as instucted"... "Maybe... I can try my best..."

Now appart from the deaf guy in the Jury box, there's another "officially" deaf person still in the jury pool. She brought her own sign language interpreter. The deaf woman looks well dressed and alert... the interpreter looks like she's freaking homeless. But the whole time while she's signing away, she's making the most halarious funny faces like a freaking cartoon character... totally characaturing everthing anybody says... rolling her eyes... sticking her tongue out... making retarded faces every time somebody said something retarded.

THEN... lawyers get up and ask their questions. Prosecutor was consice... asked if anybody had problem with understanding the "beyond a reasonable doubt" burden of proof. Asked if they had a problem if there was no DNA, no video tape, and only ONE witness would testify (which is apparently what will happen). Mystery "uptown" guy has to say "but then we're gonna have to decide if this one guy is telling the truth." Judge says "YES, you certainly will." (it was as close to saying NO FUCKING DUH as a judge will come)

Then court appointed defense attourny takes the podium... apparently right after chearleader practice. What a fucking stupid retard she is. I won't be able to describe the useless job she did. Suffice to say she was supposed to be determining which jurrors would have trouble following "innocent until proven guilty", "prosecutor must make the case, not her or her client", and "prosecutor must make his case BEYOND REASNABLE DOUBT". While attempting to make these points, she ask questions to random people and when they answered she would say "and do the rest of you agree?" There's no way in hell she could have determined who would be able to meet her requirements or not. No way... no how... not the way she was randomly asking questions to random people.

Worst of all, she posed this convoluted three part question to mystery uptown guy... "what if there are multiple charges and they can't prove any of them?" "What if there were mulitple charges and they could prove all of them?" "What if there were multiple charges and they could only prove one of them?"

That's the simplified version... her version was sooo freaking convoluted I swear uptown boy was doing Venn diagrams in his head. He was clearly convinced these were trick questions and thought long and hard about each one... the judge told her to re-state the questions because they were just ridiculous. Then she said them very simply... and uptown guy still had trouble giving the obvious answers... "don't convict on any", "convict on all", "convict only on the one." This was just tooooo dificult for the two of them to get straight. There were audible groans in the room as people realized that this poor thug's livelyhood rested in the hands of an idiot... and possibly another idiot in the jury box.

Soooooo... FINALLY... judge tells us all, take 20 minute break. Lawyers will decide who they will keep in the jury, and who will be rejected. 45 minutes later, we go back into the room and they announce they will keep 8 of the 24 jurrors. Yes, 16 were rejected. This concludes today's procedings... all 54 of us have to go back in the morning to fill in the now vacated seats.

BTW: they rejected deaf old timer, uncomfortable w/ 126th street lady, clinical psychologist, and uptown boy. How they picked the other 12 rejections, I'll never know.

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