Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wheels of justice

Just now, at 51, I have had my first jury experience.

I had been called for jury duty before, but was excused because I was breastfeeding an infant.
And then I did that a couple of more times, and cared for a 90+ year old to boot.

My emotions this week probably were not helped by a sinus infection which made me feel like I'd been run over by a bus.  Or the early, early starts, in order to feed the critters and get to the county courthouse by 8 o'clock the first morning, 9 o'clock on the other days.  It put a serious dent in my coffee time each morning and the slow and gentle start to the day to which I am accustomed.

But there it was, fail to show and be in contempt of court.  My self and some 110 other folks, (based on juror numbers, it sure seemed like only 50 or 60 people actually showed) showed up diligently to do our civic duty.

It began with a note about parking.  Park in the parking garage, two blocks down.  Courthouse has poor parking situation. 

Parking garages do not fit my van... never have, never will.  So, first duty of the day is to park illegally and go inside and beg, beg, beg for a parking pass, so I will not get a ticket every day that I'm there. 

We know they ticket you there.
Tommy got a ticket while paying the taxes.  He parked in a blue parking area... the parking areas this week, were green and white and yellow.  I think they repaint them each week, in order to provide more ways to interpret who can be given tickets.  I mean, really... they have to make money somehow.

It would be really, really awful to have to pay a ticket to park each day, to do a duty for which I have no choice.

So, I go to the door.  I get in this long, long, long line. Everyone is pretty nice and patient,  lots of folks seem nervous.  When I get to the front of the line, it's kinda like being at the airport and the TSA.  Drop your keys (which they thoroughly inspected) and your turned off cell phone (which they thoroughly inspected) and your purse.  Which they searched with such a vigor that the man ended up holding a tampon in his left gloved hand while flashing a flashlight among my necessities... you know, a book, a comb, a lipstick, 47 cents (cause that's what I could find in the floorboard of the car) and my jury papers and my identification.  Also, and very important later in the story, my zipper bag, which I move from purse to tote to backpack with even more basics.  Hmmmm....

So, I think, I'm going to be well protected here.

There you go, young lady, move along through the metal detector.  (Hey,,, he gets extra goodie points, he said 'young lady'.)

Not going to detail every moment, but we get the standard "we need to know some stuff about you" run around and we swear to tell the truth and be honest and all that stuff.

Then we go through the process of being chosen for juries.  Three dockets a day, up to four (that's how many courtrooms there are) cases per docket, and 6 jurors each case.  The first day, I was chosen in the middle of the day for a case.  A 4th time of driving under suspension.  HUH?

I continually shook my head and looked at the other jurors to see the really pointless reasons why we were called to serve.  Sometimes, the proper procedures had not been followed... sometimes, the system worked beautifully.  But always, we were treated kind and courteous, by very professional folks whose job I now appreciate so much more than ever.

But, we're gonna move forward to day two.  On day two, I determined that I had never in the last 25 years or so, had to sit still for so long a time and be quiet.  So, I inquired with some knitters who said, "sure you can take your knitting'  "I did, a few months ago"  So, I pop my knitting in my bag and go stand in line.  The same bag contents of the day before, except add knitting.  Tiny size 2 double points, plastic ones (like you can take on planes) in a preemie baby cap project.  Just a handful of knitting, to help me bide the time.

Well, folks,,, you'd have thought I had carried in contraband... actually, that is exactly what the lady called it...

She called my knitting 'contraband'.  In a LOUD voice.  She questioned my motives and pointed out that I might try to stab someone with the 4 inch bryspuns. 

Please take them back to your car.  For this I am grateful!  Would hate to lose my favorite little baby needles.

So, I go back to the car, drop the knitting off and return to the line.
I stand in line again.  I was certainly going to be late, but it doesn't really matter, because we never started on time.  In fact, we ran about 45 minutes late for each and every docket.  But it did make me anxious... I could imagine that the one time I am caught with contraband, that would be the time they started promptly.

I got back to the head of the line.  Went through the routine... to discover that
the little one ounce containers (that you can take on airplanes) of body spray (which I had in my zipped bag) was... are you ready.... it was "contraband"..

If you need more drama, reread the above two paragraphs, but insert different words.

Round 3 contraband, a sting stick... you know, the little kind you keep in your purse for stings, with lidocaine...

Round 4 contraband, There in the bottom of the bag, my little multi tool.  even I know this is contraband.

Sigh... by this time, I figured it out. 

Go to vehicle, open door, pour contents of bag on driver's seat.  Retrieve a book out of the floor
and return to stand in line again. 

I was not late...

In fact, I had time to share the story with my fellow jurors, some of whom had watched round 1 through 4 with much amusement.  By the time you've spent several days in close confines, you're all buddies... you want to all go out and celebrate together.  My seat mate said "yeah... those earrings you're wearing look kinda pointy"

Shhhhhhh.... I don't think I have it in me to make a 5th trip back through the line.

Things I learned:
I never needed my identification.  All that security,,, and I never had to prove that I was, indeed. juror 104.
Don't take knitting needles to the court house,,, or multi-tools, or anything liquid.
You can however, take matches (so you can smoke) and ink pins (which are more dangerous than my knitting needles). 
Don't plead 'not guilty' when you darn well did do it, especially not when you're gonna admit that you did it, but that it 'wasn't' your fault'.
Jurors are nice folks.  They're all in the same boat you're in...might as well entertain each other.
If you beg and plead, you get parking privileges. 
Do everything in your power to stay out of the court system. 
Be grateful for a judicial system that works and that we live in a country where you do have rights and freedoms that are protected by the constitution.

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