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Jury Duty

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So…

Somebody posted to the comments that I should go to jury duty and report.  And I did.  Go to jury duty, that is. 

So here’s the report.

First, you have to understand that I really and truly hate the parking situation at and around the Superior Court.  I’m not interested in parking in the municipal garage half a mile away–and the one place I’ve ever been mugged.  I’ve lived in New York, London, Paris and Detroit, and I got mugged in Connecticut.

I’m also not much interested in parking on the street, where you get forty five minutes and then have to run down from the jury waiting room to plug in quarters again.

So I got my friend Carol to drop me off on her way to work, and my friend Richard to pick me up.  And yes, these are the same Carol and Richard who appear in my acknowledgements pages over and over again because they keep saving my ass in all sorts of ways, and the ones who saved the manuscript of Hardscrabble Road when a virus ate my hard drive.

At any rate, Carol drove me in and dropped me at the Superior Court just before eight thirty.  I signed in and took a seat, and I will admit I was rather surprised at how few people were in the waiting room.   I’m willing to bet there weren’t twenty of us all told.  I know there weren’t as many as thirty.

The fact nagged at me a little, but not as much as it might have, because there was a new wrinkle this time–they let us keep our cell phones.  They used to confiscate them.  They don’t any more. 

So, I had e-mail to check, and lots of the people around me were playing games on their Blackberries.

Then the Clerk of the Court came up and turned the television off–I forgot to mention that this place has the single largest flat screen TV I’ve ever seen so that potential jurors can watch the news while they wait–

Anyway, she turned it off and played a half-hour video tape of instructions on What It Means To Be A Juror.   I’ve seen this video every single time I’ve been on jury duty in Connecticut, which is well over fifteen years now, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know what it said.  I watched anyway, because I didn’t want this woman to decide nobody was paying attention and she had to run it again.

When the tape was over, the Clerk came back, turned off the television set again, and said, “You’re considered to have done your jury duty if you’re here as long as I need you.  If I don’t need you any more and you’re sent home, then you’ve fulfilled your obligation until 2013, no matter now little time you’ve spent here.  I called you in because we needed to pick a jury for a civil case today, but I’ve just been informed that that case has settled.  You can all go home.”

And that was it.

It was nine thirty, and I was calling Matt and Greg at home and Richard at work asking for somebody to spring me, and Richard came along and did it while I sat on the front steps of the courthouse in the heat and got harassed by a pack of little girls who were playing some kind of game that required running around and slamming into people.

Mostly me.

But that was not the end of it.  About an hour after I got home, we went out for a couple of minutes to the grocery store.  And when we got back, the mail was waiting for us.

In that mail, there was a summons to jury duty on September 24th.

It must have been sent out–well, I don’t know when it was sent out.  In the middle of scheduling me for yesterday, though, I’m sure.

They really can’t call you up more than once in four years, and I called the jury administration this morning and pointed out that I’d done my service yesterday, such as it was.  So that’s taken care of.

But still.

The whole thing makes me crazy.  I will never get on a jury in the state of Connecticut.  Between lawyers and judges who were family friends and lawyers and judges I dated in high school and law firms representing people I’ve either sued or been sued by–there just isn’t anybody left.

The one time I was on jury duty in New York, I did get put on a case, and a murder case at that, but the case ended in mistrial and that was that.   That case was interesting on a number of levels, not least of which was the fact that the defendant didn’t speak a word of English and needed an interpreter.  But I never did learn enough about it to make any guesses about what was going on there.

In the meantime, I read my way through a fairly early Agatha Christie novel called Three Act Tragedy.  I don’t remember ever having read it before, and I found it sort of disappointing.

The premise was actually very good, the mystery was pretty solid–but for some reason, the thing is written in a way that brings Poirot into the book almost not at all.

Christie always concentrates more on the suspects than she does on the detective, but this was not like that–Poirot shows up for a few paragraphs in the first third, then a few paragraphs for more in the second third, then gives the solution at the end.

The result was a book that lacked any definable shape.  It isn’t a detective novel in any sense of the word, not even the traditional rely on suspects sense–but it also isn’t any other kind of book.

I’m being vague here.

I will say it was a shame.  The last Christie I read–and only a couple of days ago–was Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, and it was first class.  This just felt unsatisfying and drifty, in spite of having, as I’ve said, a really excellent premise and a really excellent mystery.

But I have been noticing something, to take us back to those discussions about what mystery readers are most interested in.

If what you’re concerned with is watching the detective detect, I don’t think Poirot’s your man.  He tends to ruminate a lot, go “ah, but I know,’ and then hit you with the solution in the end.

You can no more watch him detect than you can watch Santa come down the chimney.

I’ve got to run off and get serious.  We had a whole row of thunderstorm early this morning, and more are supposed to be coming.

Written by janeh

August 5th, 2010 at 9:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses to 'Jury Duty'

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  1. You seem to have a lot more frequent jury duty than we do. My first thought was that you have a lot more people and therefore a lot more criminals and trials, but then I realized that of course you also have a lot more people to form the pool from which you draw the potential jury so it should all balance out. But it doesn’t seem to. Maybe you do have a lot more trials – I have certainly heard that claimed about the US, that people sue other people very frequently. Or maybe the US system doesn’t have as many crimes or disputes that are settled by a judge or magistrate sitting alone, without a jury.

    I also don’t recall anyone here being called in, only to be sent home, although I expect it happens sometimes. My experience – being notified ahead of time, at home, that I wouldn’t be needed after all – seems to be more common. A friend was excused because she had a newborn child she was breastfeeding – she joked with the officials that she could bring the child as proof, but of course she needed a doctor’s certificate instead.

    Cheryl

    5 Aug 10 at 10:26 am

  2. Okay, I’m confused.

    Here, I’m required to serve ONE day every FOUR years–is that really more often than you’re required in Canada?

    If I got picked for a case, it would mean having to serve until the trial was concluded, but otherwise–one day every four years.

    The second jury duty notice was a screw-up on their part. I called this morning and was immediately taken off the lists until 2013, which is the next time I’m required to serve if called.

    janeh

    5 Aug 10 at 11:13 am

  3. In my province, there isn’t any fixed frequency or amount. I’ve been called twice in….lots of years. More than 22 since I last moved to my current home town, which is the largest in the province and probably has the most trials of any kind. I suspect lots of people, particularly those living in small rural communities, have never been called at all. I don’t think I know anyone personally who’s been called for jury duty and actually had to sit on a jury – or even go down to the courthouse.

    So – no required minimum frequency; and it appears (perhaps as a consequence) to be a very infrequent duty.

    Here’s the basic information:

    http://www.justice.gov.nl.ca/just/court/jury.pdf

    Once called, you can’t get called for three years. But there isn’t a word about having to do it once in four years or anything like that.

    Cheryl

    5 Aug 10 at 11:54 am

  4. Here in CA, we have lots more people and trials than in Canada or Connecticut. Jury duty can come up as often as once per year, even serving on a trial will only excuse you that long.

    Of course, unless you’re on voting rolls, have a driver’s license, or own property (and pay tax), you don’t get called. This is the reason many people don’t register to vote, incredibly.

    We happen to be part of LA County, here, so we can get called for county as well as city trials. They identify a large group of people who call in every night for 5 days. You can be asked to show up in person for one day, or if you are not asked, your 5 days of calling in fulfill the duty. Of course if you get assigned to a trial during that one day, you serve until it is done.

    If you get put on a trial during the morning, it could last less than a day, and then you’re still on the hook until the end of the day. People have been put on trials at the very end of the day.

    I get called about once a year, and get excused due to the wheelchair situation. My husband and son get called too, but generally get out with the call-in routine. But this is the reason my husband has served on four felony juries, he just gets called year after year.

    Lymaree

    5 Aug 10 at 12:22 pm

  5. Wow, Lymaree. That’s a lot. My experience is a lot more like Cheryl’s, though I’m not in Canada. I’ve been called once in the last 24 years, and was not seated on a jury (the case was settled).

    Annual jury duty seems like a lot to me.

    MaryF

    5 Aug 10 at 1:31 pm

  6. I learned about this a few years ago when I was called every year for about five years in a row, even though the last three years I wasn’t required to serve.

    It turns out there’s a big difference between your legal requirement for serving and their legal requirement for calling you to duty. They get your name from legal records. If you don’t want to be called, ever, get rid of your house, your car, and un-register to vote. I forget where else they get your name. They do NOT cross-reference your name and address with people who have served. That’s YOUR problem, not theirs.

    When you get a summons to Jury Duty, there are options to tell them you’re not eligible and options to tell them you’re not required to serve, even though you are eligible. YOU have to give them the number off the paper you just got from the clerk.

    My sweetheart gets called up every so often and has to prove he’s not eligible. He has a driver’s license, so it’s his problem when they call. And my father was encouraged (by the clerk) to claim permanent excuse once he hit 70.

    Also, that piece of paper that says you don’t have to serve until 2013 is only for State of Connecticut jury duty. I don’t know if other states recognize that, but I know from more personal experience that it does NOT apply to Federal jury duty. Yeah – I got called to both kinds in the same year. I was miffed.

    Federal jury duty seems much more complicated, too. I was called to serve two days of jury selection (I ended up excused from both for various reasons). But I’ve worked with people who have been selected for Grand Jury duty. That was eighteen months, three days a month (one day a week). They all ended up unable to take a vacation. They had plenty time from the company, but the logistics became impossible for them. It was horrible to watch.

    carolstone

    7 Aug 10 at 2:01 pm

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