Are you a Law and Order fan? I am. I have been a fan of the show for over a decade. The first half of the show is where the police investigate crimes, and the second half of the show is where the prosecutors convict the offenders. Do you know the 20 mins in the middle where they select the jury? No? That’s because they don’t have that in the show – and now I know why… It would bore you to tears!
I had to report to jury duty this week for the first time in my life. To be honest, I was looking forward to it. Like voting, I consider it my civic duty to serve on a jury and the fact that I have never been called until now was starting to get on my nerves. I wanted to be a part of the process – to have a role in justice. Whether that role was to release an innocent person or lock up a guilt one, I didn’t care – as long as I was part of the process.
I show up at 9:15 as requested. I walk the four blocks from the parking lot to the court house, sporting a stupid smile on my face from the excitement of serving on a jury. I take everything out of my pockets at security and still have to be ‘wanded’ because something was setting off the metal detectors. I work my way through the hallways and corridors to the jury room and check in. The kind lady working the check in counter was polite and asked me to fill in a form and wait.
And wait… and wait… and wait… Then she came over the supermarket style PA system and announced that she would be calling the first ‘panel’. Again I found myself getting excited at the idea I was going to see our judicial system at work and be a part of it at the same time. Fifty-five names later, I’m still waiting.
Then she puts on an orientation video. I couldn’t help but wonder how the first panel would know what to do without having seen this crucial information. After hearing the Arizona Officials as well as the local county officials tell me how important jury duty is and how much Arizona is working hard to make the experience move from good to great, I went back to reading my book. Later they put on a cheesy movie from the early nineties.
A couple of hours later, the second panel was called. Another fifty names, and still not me. Then we break for lunch. I walked around downtown a bit and grabbed a couple of pictures with my phone. I headed for a burger joint someone in the courthouse had suggested – two blocks away – to find that they are closed for the next few weeks. Then I find Crazy Jims. It looked nice but very busy. When I asked Jim how long the wait was, he noticed I was by myself and suggested I sit at the bar. There was one seat available at the bar with about 30 inches of space – and last time I checked, I wear 48 inch pants. I left hungry and looked for another place to eat.
I finally settled on a quaint sandwich joint and ordered a burger and fries. The food was OK, but at $15 bucks, I found it a bit pricey. I ate quickly and headed back to the court house. There were new faces of people that were instructed to show up at 1pm instead of at 9:15am as I was. At two, the next panel of names was called. I was 27th out of over 50. One of the guys just in front of me was one of the new faces that came at 1pm. Still, I’m excited to serve and don’t mind. There was a small Asian man behind me, he was about 5’3″ and couldn’t have weighted more than 130lbs. He was wearing gloves – not nice leather gloves, they looked more like cloth gardening gloves. He had been wearing them all day. They looked out of place and made him stand out.
We walk down the long corridor, around a few corners, to an elevator. We go up in groups as many as could fit in a load. Once we got up to the court rooms, we waited in the hall and were lined up numerically. You would think this would have been a simple process… It wasn’t. One older heavy set woman decided to sit in one of the few chairs available in the hall and declared that because she was number 35, thats where 35 goes. If you were less than number 35, get to her right. If you were higher, get to her left. The fact that only about 20 people could fit to her right was irrelevant to her.
After standing awkwardly with 34 people in a space for only 20 people for about 30 mins, the bailiff steps into the hall and informs us that there is good news and bad news. The bad news: we have to walk all the way back to the jury waiting room. The good news: we don’t have to serve and are being sent home. WHAT? I just spent all day sitting in a room watching bad movies with strangers in uncomfortable seating for nothing? Then we are told that our being there, ready to serve is part of the process and that we have helped despite not actually serving on a jury. I’m not buying it. Besides, I was really hoping to meet D.A. Jack McCoy!