Jury Duty Blogging
May 18, 2005

While this week's been hectic and left me little time for writing, today and tomorrow (at the very least), I am on jury duty which means...LOTS of time for blogging. I arrived this morning to find that much to my suprise, King County Superior Courthouse now has wireless access available to jurors. For an ADD wannabe like me, this is fabulous news. I won't lie and act like I didn't almost break out in the "running man" when I learned of this, but I'm a juror now so there's no happy dances allowed. I have to be serious.

So here I am in a room full of 300+ disgruntled individuals, no doubt unhappy about their selection as jurors. Meanwhile, I'm sitting here grinning from ear to ear because not only do I get to fulfill my civic duty, but I also get some much needed time to catch up on writing. Glass. Half. Full.

I can pretty much guarantee that the minute they find out I'm an opinion writer/columnist, they're kicking me out of this place. I don't even know if the word "impartial" is in my vocabulary. We shall see.

Posted by Ambra at May 18, 2005 8:28 AM in Blogging
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Lucky you!

Maybe I'm weird, but I lOVE jury duty...
Maybe it's because I'm addicted to Law & Order...
Plus, I really want to see what being on a jury is like first hand...

I've had jury duty 3 times in my life, but never gotten through all the way to the end of the jury selection process...

The closest I came was that I got selected to sit in the jury box, and then we were questioned by the judge and two lawyers... I look very young for my age... I was 25 at the time (33 now), but people told me I look like I was 18 and just graduated high school... so, the judge asks me what my occupation was... I said "phd student"... he asked what field and where: "u.c. berkeley, astrophysics"... at that, everyone in the room started chuckling, and the judge just smiled... i think he said something to the effect that you don't look old enough to be on your own yet... they asked what college I went to... i dropped the h-bomb, more chuckling... then the lawyers asked me questions... the prosecutor asked if i had any experience with the criminal system or personally know people in the criminal system... i said that I used to a youth advocate for non-violent first time juvenile offenders, and that i also was in a mentoring program for first-time juvenile offenders, to help them get back in school and stay out of trouble...

At that point, I think everyone heard enough, and I was eliminated (by the prosecutor)...
my laywer friends tell me that I will NEVER EVER get selected because of two things:
(1) Lawyers are petrified of having a scientist on the jury... apparently studies show that in the jury room, people just give in to what scientist say, because they are intimidated...
(2) the fact that I was involved in mentoring programs is a tip-off to the prosecution that I may be a bleeding heart liberal who believes in rehabilitation... so the prosecutor will always knock me out.

Try not to type too loudly when they're giving testimony.

[Yeah, I know you can't have your laptop open during a trial. Too distracting.]

It's a little bit of a letdown for jury duty when you find out that the lawyers are not as "flamboyant" as the ones on TV. And you don't get Judge Judy zinging the lawyers either.

I'll be curious to hear how you interacted with the other jurors during deliberation and how much you influenced the final verdict.

The one time I nearly served was a trial whereby the young woman had her wisdom teeth removed. It was somewhat painful for a couple of days afterwards (duh!), so she was suing the oral surgeon for pain and suffering. My contempt towards the young woman was obvious, so I wasn't selected.

Ambra, if you are selected for a criminal pool, you stand a chance of getting selected. Young, black, woman- defense attorneys will like you. Conservative, christian, writer- prosecution will like you.

Being a journalist/columnist may get you knocked out, though.

Ambra, get a copy of "Roughing It" by Mark Twain, and read chapter XLVIII. It should be required reading in any courthouse. Regards, Tom

You, impartial?

Ambra,

Here’s the story of my one and only experience at jury duty. I was called/threatened about 8-9 years ago to show up at the King County Court House (downtown). I always felt that as a middle aged white male, why bother I’d never make into the jury box.

I can remember fighting the traffic to come downtown, once there, you had the lovely experience of paying for your parking and fighting through the homeless smell and people. A tip, during your lunch break be careful, my wife who just finished up serving on jury duty last month, was regularly harassed by the homeless (bums) that hang around the courthouse, she even complained to the judge. Someone needs to do something about this situation.

Anyway, my first day I was seated in the jury box which at the time meant that you were in, unless an attorney pulls you out of the box. The trial was a criminal case against a repeat drug offender, who happened to be black male. I new I’d be out in a flash. We all got settled in and the attorneys began to ask questions. If I remember correctly they limited each attorney to a certain number of jurors they could ask to be replaced. I was asked one question, what’s my job, which was outside sales and I was immediately replaced.

The next day I was called to sit in on a civil case about women who had sprained her ankle in front of a store in Bellevue. She was suing the store owner because the slope of an asphalt ramp leading up to the sidewalk wasn’t at code and not properly marked, her complaint. She apparently got out of her car and walked up the 6-8 foot incline to the sidewalk, which was elevated maybe 5 inches. When she neared the top of the ramp she turned too earlier, just before she reached the sidewalk, which caused to her stumble, twisting her ankle. She was demanding $50,000. The property owner was offering $15,000 nobody would budge, so there it was, in court.

This time I was asked a couple of questions. One that stood out was from the plaintiff’s attorney – if someone walked onto your yard and tripped on your garden hose, twisting their ankle, would you be liable, my reply, a simple no without any explanation. The juror next to me, I guy my age told the attorney that he would consider himself liable. The funny part was later when the attorneys began to call off the people in box, I think the plaintiff’s attorney, by accident, pulled off the guy next to me who I believe gave him the answer he was hoping to hear.

I was in, we heard testimony over the next 1 ½ days about how unhappy this women and her husband were over the last 12 months because of this traumatic incident. In my opinion this was an example of two late 50’s people seeking money to fix their marriage and life. It didn’t happen – we sided with the property owner who unfortunately owned an older building that, when it was built, was perfectly okay and at code. Seems over time our litigious society had changed the rules & city codes whereby personal responsibility for ones self and simple bad luck wasn’t good enough, so it left an older property like his vulnerable to lawsuits, She got zero money and it turns out the property owner had done everything legally required to bring his property up to code prior to this incident – it just wasn’t good enough for this person.

A couple of observations; the attorneys for both sides were horrible and nervous. If you get selected, be the first person to speak in the jury room, ask for quick input from everyone to gauge each person’s position and get a preliminary vote. This will save time because as a female (a minority jury member too) your input will be valued the most. I’m not kidding; it’s likely the males in the room will feel much more at ease and ready to give their true opinion because we’re usually perceived to be heartless.

And finally have fun too, it might make for a good chapter in your life’s book..

Mike

Good luck with the jury process, Ambra! I sat on a jury for a murder trial in March. It was my first chance to sit on a jury and it was very educational. I didn't mind doing my civic duty, although I was relieved when it was over. Our lawyers weren't exactly boring either. Especially when the prosecuting attorney objected with, "Your Honor, I am SO offended!" using her best Ellenor Frutt imitation (character on "The Practice"). It was all I could do to keep from giggling. Frankly, I learned one thing about real trials that you usually don't see on TV. Whenever an attorney approaches a witness or the judge, they ask permission, "Your Honor, may I approach?" So polite. Oh, what was our verdict? Guilty of second-degree murder and guilty of felony firearm. He was only 18 when he committed the crime. What a waste.

I would LOVE to be on a jury, but I've never been picked, even though I've said nothing negative or "incriminating."

Wireless connection in a jury area?

Makes. No. Sense.

When confronted by the summons to Jury Duty, it took
the month's-worth of notice for me to get over the anger
and fear about it.

It was intimidating being in such a serious atmosphere
under such serious circumstances. But, by the time it was over,
I had come to thoroughly respect and appreciate it.

The most amazing thing to me was how 12 *complete* strangers
from the most radical and different educational, socio-economic,
racial, religous, political, and vocational backgrounds could
cooperate completely and seriously. It gave me a new-found
respect for America and her citizens.

I was just glad I wasn't part of one of those circuses
like Michael Jackson's trial!

PJ

Ambra,

If you get to serve on a jury, I'll be interested to know whether the judge (1) allowed you to take notes during the witness's testimony, (2) allowed you to submit written questions to the judge to ask the witnesses, or (3) gave you a written copy of the jury instructions at the end of the case.

Hope you enjoy the experience, and thanks for serving your community!

For what's it's worth, if you're self-employed, you can usually plead financial hardship and not have to even come it. Given the miseries of sitting there for hours, only to be bumped by one side or the other, it's an option worth considering. I used it a few years ago.

Neither side wants someone who's likely to be ticked off at the income they're losing. Lawyers on both sides like retired folk and those who work for corporations (such as Boeing) that give paid leave for jury duty. Such people will happily sit there for hours, thinking the wait is great fun. It beats day-time TV or staring at the office clock.

That said, sometimes if you're on a jury you can prevent a major injustice from happening--a thug from walking free or someone who's just getting harassed for nothing. That makes it worth the time, as does keeping tort lawyers from getting rich from frivilous suits.

And digs at "white males" are unfair. Give blood and you'll see that most donors fit that category. White women seem to be less likely (maybe it's the needle), and getting minorities to donate blood is a real problem for Seattle's blood bank. It's particularly bad when a matched donor is needed, as in a bone marrow transplant. Those generally have to come from someone with a similar ethnic/genetic/racial background.

That's a plug for donating blood and getting into the bone marrow donor registery. You could end up saving a kid's life for a mere day out of your life.

--Mike Perry


Mr. Perry said: "That said, sometimes if you're on a jury you can prevent a major injustice from happening--a thug from walking free..."

OR ... acquiting an innocent man who was unjustly accused...

Mr. Perry said: ..." or someone who's just getting harassed for nothing. That makes it worth the time, as does keeping tort lawyers from getting rich from frivilous suits."

OR ... making a corporation rightly pay for knowingly and negligently causing harm...

Just saying... I thought it was telling which way you see justice being served... these issues can go either way...

Strange synchronicity -- I spent a good part of today dealing with my own jury duty summons, which was for June 3, but which I asked to be excused from because I will be slightly radioactive at the time (gearing up for next round of cancer treatments, getting a body scan). I sent along a note from my doctor but it wasn't specific enough, and so they rejected it. That's a frustration right there: it's no one's business what my medical problems are, and if I have gone to the trouble to procure a note from my doctor, and my doctor went to the trouble to provide me with one, that should be enough. But, nooooo....

The nice woman at the jury selection office deferred me until September. I'm still on the spot regarding childcare, though. I'll have to hire a babysitter for the entire day, even if I get dismissed after an hour or two. I'll have to arrange for someone to pick up my 2 older kids from school. I literally do not have anyone around here that could cover for me, even one day -- most likely my husband will do the school pickups, and here's hoping my babysitter doesn't move out of town as she has been discussing!

I have no problem with sitting on a jury but I do have a huge problem with what I am going to have to pay for the privilege. I wish I could just defer this completely for another two years until all 3 of my children are in school full time; it would make my life a lot easier. But the jury selection process doesn't understand the idea that a stay-at-home-mom who asks for a deferment one year will likely still need a deferment the next, since she's still at home with those kids!

Good luck to you, and enjoy the fact that you can do this without disrupting anyone's life but your own.

Hey Folks,

Jury duty is not a privilege. It's a civic duty. It's a responsibility that comes with citizenship. Sorry for the inconvenience, but your community needs you. It's a random selection process, so you are not being picked on when you get the summons. With neighbors and friends voluntarily serving in the military, and risking their lives and their bodies to protect our freedoms and our way of life -- including trial by jury -- jury service should be viewed as the least we can do.

strange synchronicity cont. Hey, I just played the role of a juror in a commercial!

Question for the guilty... How do you live when God forgives you, but those around you cannot?

At the risk of sounding cliche, one day at a time. Literally.

It'd me funny if Ambra got picked to be on the jury because the defense and prosecution attorneys were nykola.com fans (or the opposite).

This past Monday I had my first experience with jury duty and was chosen for a murder trial. I'm a bit nervous and the fact that the trial won't start until March 20th is not helping matters. Can anyone give me any advice on how to get through this next month as I wait for the trial to begin?! UGH!

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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