Monday, June 17, 2013

Waiting for Godot has so much talking

8:00 am: Arrive at courthouse along with other potential jurors. Building is locked. Moral: Do not arrive early.

8:15 am: Courthouse opens. Anyone claiming to be called for jury duty is sent into the building, skipping security entirely. Social worker is yelled at for trying to enter the building, having stupidly assumed that seeing people entering a building means that the building can be entered by people. Moral: Wait for instructions.

8:30 am: Court officer shows up in the jury room to check people in.

8:40 am: More potential jurors arrive, having been waiting at the front of the building since 8:20 with no instructions from anyone there. Court officer scolds them extensively for not having arrived by 8:30. Moral: Do not wait for instructions.

8:45 am: A potential juror tries to ask a question. Court officer scolds her. Moral: Do not ask questions.

8:50 am: Court officer tells us that the judge will show up at 9:00 to say hi, then we’ll watch a video, then she will send us on break from 9:30 until 10:15.

9:10 am: Judge says hi and leaves, court officer starts the video and leaves. The video trumpets the diversity of the jury pool, carefully showing racial and ethnic diversity. 19 white people in the jury pool covertly glance at the only non-white person in the jury pool.

9:30 am: The court officer does not return. Half the jurors leave, deciding we must be on break now. Moral: Do whatever the hell you want, because nobody cares any longer.

The only reading material in the room is four small signs, four romance novels, a variety of magazines from 2011 and 2012, someone’s confidential juror questionnaire, and court paperwork intended for a defendant.

10:30 am: An attorney and client enter the clearly identified jury room, stare at us for a while, and leave. Nobody speaks.

10:45 am: There is a loud despairing wail from the hallway outside the jury room. Nobody blinks.

11:00 am: Court officer pops her head in to tell us that she is not there to tell us anything.

11:15 am: I greet the person who has been sitting next to me for the past three hours. As far as I can tell, this is the first and only conversation between any of the 20 people in the jury pool. He was on the jury for a federal trial a few years ago that went on for four months.

11:30 am: Someone in the hallway outside the jury room starts sobbing.

11:45 am: Court officer reappears and tells us all to go home.

1 comment:

Antony said...

My experience living in Germany is somewhat different. About every two years ago I have to repeat the following procedure:

1. Get an e-mail from my sister in Austin, Texas, informing me that a letter for me has come to her house saying I have to report for jury duty.

2. I go to the Travis County Courthouse website and find the online form for potential jurors. (Up until a few years ago I had to do this by phone, which was very expensive and meant calling at weird hours because of the 7-hour time difference.)

3. Fill in pages and pages and pages of forms, providing all sorts of personal information about myself such as my Texas Driver's License Number (my driver's license expired in 2008), my address (which, being in Germany, doesn't fit into their forms), my phone number (ditto), and finally a statement that I do not live either in the City of Austin or in Travis County.

3. Read the regretful note from the website commiserating with me for being ineligible to serve on the jury.

4. Think to myself "I know that; I haven't lived in the City of Austin or in Travis County since 1990".

5. Wait two years and repeat from step 1.