Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Jury Duty

The Jury by John Morgan - 1861 painting of a British jury (Source)
So, back in May I received a rather official looking missive from the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations inviting me to the pool.

The jury pool.

The letter said that I "might get picked," no guarantees, don't call us, we'll call you.

Now I've been there, done that, a long time ago. Shortly after moving to Little Rhody. Sat in the jury room for three days, bored stiff, started a small revolution regarding "smoker's rights" (for in those days I was one of those heinous sinners, a tobacco user. Damn that Sir Walter Raleigh!).

So I guess I was about due. Rhode Island only has a million or so people, mostly around Providence I think, and as my county has no court house, no hospital, and no shopping malls we must needs be go elsewhere for the little things in life.

Like justice.

In early July I received another official looking missive. This one requested my presence at the court house in Providence on the 18th of July.

Oh dear.

So Monday, bright and early, I saddle up and head on up to Providence. I find the free parking area with little trouble (bless Google Maps for the overheads and the street views) and find that the shuttle bus to the court house has departed. But don't fret, another will be along shortly.

Well, actually it was the same bus, making multiple trips back and forth. The lady driver knows her stuff and is also rather a humorist in her own right. When the second load was all in, there was a single chap left standing forlornly on the sidewalk, gazing wistfully at the full up conveyance before him. The driver said, "I'll be right back. Or you can start walking and I'll meet you half way. Hahahaha!"

The fellow looked somewhat put out so she cried out, "Just kidding honey, I won't be long."

(Women of a certain age in Rhode Island call all men "honey." Not sure why that is, it's meant to be nice so I take it that way. Only poopie heads and shoe clerks take offense at such a thing. As I am neither, I'm okay with it.)

We get to the court house where we go upstairs and turn over our jury summonses and are then issued badges.

Yes, it was tempting to do that scene. But as I do value my freedom, I refrained.

Then, equipped with (ahem) badges, we enter the "jury lounge" which has been much improved since my last sojourn there some fifteen years ago. It's actually three rooms, one is called "the library," which is meant to be quiet. The other two have televisions. The room I sat in, on the far right, don't read anything into that, has a flat screen TV. This is known as the "talk really loud because I can't hear you on account of the TV" room. Not really, but there is always "that guy" who assumes that everything he says is important and must be shared with the world.


Anyhoo. Shortly after we get comfortable the Jury Commissioner arrives and ("please Sarge, stop calling me The Commish") gives us the low down on what we were there for. I guessed "jury duty" and DING DING DING DING DING...

I was right.

Then we all get herded upstairs to an actual courtroom. Where another guy explains what The Commish already explained. Only in more words. Then we watch a video of why it's important to take this business seriously and pretty much everything the first two guys had already said. But it had interviews with actual jurors. All of whom said they really enjoyed the experience. (I'll bet the ones who answered "it sucked," wound up on the cutting room floor. Just a guess, I mean come on, not everybody is that civic minded. Am I right?)

Somewhere in there we swore (or affirmed) an oath to pay attention and do the job honestly. Then a real judge came in and (again) told us how important all this was. And we swore another oath, essentially to pay attention to the evidence, don't talk about the trial (should we get picked) etc., etc. It was all kind of cool and I was starting to get into it.

Then it was back to the "lounge." Where the second guy came in and said to pay attention and if our badge number was called (badges?) then we were to go out in the hallway. As my number was really, really large, I figured I wouldn't get called.

Wrong. Out to the hallway with you Sarge. You and 75 of your new colleagues.

We were actually now, officially, in the pool for an actual trial. Woo-hoo.

"We need you to fill out this eleven page questionnaire..." 


"Then you can go home and come back tomorrow."


The questionnaire was standard stuff that the judge and the lawyers will go over and then ask us about during voir dire. I am actually pretty excited about this. I haven't been in a courtroom since my bailiff days, about twenty years ago. (And yes, I did tell them that on the questionnaire.)

So today we get the whole voir dire experience and by the end of the day I'll be an authentic real live juror, or I get sent home to try again next time. At least three years from now.

Long story short. This is why Juvat's Monday post didn't make it to the Book of Face until noon. No signal in the court house and doing the social media thing is, quite rightly, frowned upon in those august spaces.

Now some folks got a sneak peek on Sunday night of that "Juvat Monday" post. For you see, Juvat did "a Sarge," which is what I call putting the wrong date in when one schedules a post. Don't ask. Okay, yes, I have done that before. More than once. It was Juvat's first time. No doubt his last, he's a fighter pilot, they know not to make the same mistake twice.

Me, I'm a maintainer, we're supposed to know better.

Anyhoo, it's off to the legal world I go. It's exciting as I may get more posts out of this experience.

Yup, anything for a post!


  1. Usually it is either sweetie, sugar or honey here in NC. I love it, especially when said in the velvety dulcet tones of a southern lass. Yep, the "Badges" scene is one of the most memorable ones in any of Bogey's movies. I have only been chosen once for jury duty -I was glad to do so and the experience was rewarding. Plus we were able to put the punk away.

    1. I love the badges scene.

      Being called sweetie, sugar, or honey by a Southern lady is quite special indeed.

  2. Boy, if the defense lawyer finds out you entered the far right room you'll be home before your breakfast settles.

    Last time I had jury duty the members of the pool really impressed me. One could even read without moving his lips. I'm sure they were equally impressed by me, and most probably shared my thoughts about the relative desirability of being judged by ones peers. Another reason to keep the criminal behavior to a minimum.

    Oh yeah, do they pay anything? I knocked down an incredible $11 per day.

    1. You'll have to stay tuned to tomorrow's post for what happened on Tuesday.

      In Little Rhody, petit jurors receive the grand sum of $15 per day. With the usual admonitions not to spend it all in one place!

  3. I don't know if it was my upbringing or not, but when any woman calls me "honey", I melt. I have to keep the reigns on my emotions pretty tight. If she has a southern belle quality voice, then I'm just a puddle of jello with 2 leather straps. My wife usually hits me on the arm about that point....

    There was this Tetley tea commercial......

    1. Oh man do I get that. If a lady smiles at me I get all giddy.

      All The Missus Herself usually needs to do is clear her throat. Snaps me back to reality it does.

  4. You were a Deputy Sheriff, too? Here in WI, Bailiffs are deputies in the Sheriff's Office of the county that the courthouse is in.

    1. No, not a deputy. In the military the unit to which the accused belongs normally supplies the bailiffs. Usually there are two.

      No special training, it's just somebody from the ranks.

  5. Once they find out you were career military, the defense will challenge you out. No sweat.

    1. You can read the whole story tomorrow but I will say this, I charmed the prosecutors, the defense attorneys and the judge. I tell ya, they loved me! (I think...)

  6. A couple of things...
    I get those juror summons almost like clockwork, every year, with my name just a little different three ways.
    "No, Uncle Skip, you aren't in the databasemore than once."

    The movie scene was a favorite at least 30 years before I ever saw the entire movie.

    You aren't supposed to give away blogger secrets.
    Folks are supposed to believe we get up at the darkest hours to write ad post.

    Actually serving on a jury is rewarding.
    It's the rest of it that sucks, particularly when it happens almost annually.

    1. In Rhode Island one can only be summoned every three years. Show up when called and serve on a jury or not, you're in the clear for three more years.

      I have been summoned twice in 17 years. Not bad I'd say.

    2. Yeah... there are rules about sommonses here, too.
      But we're talkin' bureaucracy here.
      'Nuff said.

    3. Ah yes, bureaucracies are established to make sure no one understands the rules, therefore everyone keeps their jobs.

      Sound about right?

  7. Anyone who understands law and order, or owns an insurance policy or car, never gets picked for a jury. You are presumed to be too intelligent, er, biased, to sit and understand the pure bull the lawyers are spewing.

    1. I guess the court I'm serving in actually understands the Constitution and the role of the people in upholding the law.

      You can read more of my experiences tomorrow.

      And no, I didn't play stupid. Tempting though it was.

  8. As many of you know - I am a lawyer. I do trials. I sit there and try to come up with the least intellectually insulting argument to my jury, when I have one. I try to explain to the jury in common sense words, what happened and why my client should or should not pay. I never get stuck in jargon or fancy $10 words - because - mainly - it makes me feel like an ass to use those words. I was not raised and do not speak that way. I'm a simple country lawyer from Astoria NY.

    I find one person every time - who seems to be interested - and I talk to them. Sure, I move it around a little - I want that instant feedback - I NEED that instant feed back.

    But this spins me around to a trial I was on - before they made lawyers get an automatic pass. I was voir dired in a criminal case - guy was allegedly caught with drugs in his car - the search was patently illegal. But just fuzzy enough to let the case go to trial. I had someone of a following in the local legal community then - people knew who I was anyway - the lawyers and judges - not everyone else, thank God.

    Anyway - the police officer testified. And he lied about his probably cause to search. Claimed he 'smelled' marijuana coming out of the car, so he needed to search the passengers, and the car, for the contraband or paraphernalia. He did not find anything and he claimed he saw the defendant looking 'furtively' at the trunk - so he searched it - and voila = found 14 grams of marijuana in a baggie inside a gym bag. Mind you - no joints, no pipes., no bongs, nothing lit - nothing to justify his 'smell of marijuana.'

    So we go back to deliberate - and we elect some pushy ass woman as foreperson - cause it was just easier. We did the 'lt's vote' and see what happens thing. It was 4-2 to convict. the 4 people said 'well, the found marijuana, so he must be guilty. ' The other 1 for acquittal was a black kid of about 28, how he survived voir dire is beyond me. So I asked him - why do you think not guilty. "Cop lied. simple as that - they don't get a pass."

    We went around the table - the 4 people who voted guilty all thought the cop was lying but he still found marijuana. This is why you don't want a lawyer on the jury - because I laid out the scenario. Kid got stopped for allegedly not stopping completely at a stop sign. Then the cop comes up - allegedly smells marijuana, but does not find any, so he pops the trunk - without asking - and searches it - then searches a bag - and finds a baggie of marijuana. So what did he smell? The bag of dope was not on fire, there were no lit or burned out joints, no pipes, no bong - no evidence anywhere of lit marijuana.

    Clearly what happened is John Law decided to search this car and came up with an excuse after. He thought he'd find contraband inside the car and did not. So he expanded his search - arguing that he'd already placed the two under arrest in his mind - even though he had not found anything yet - and the prosecutor argued the 'incident to arrest' exception to the 4th amendment.

    So talked about that for a while - I pointed out if the cop was willing to lie about a misdemeanor possession case, what would he do in a more matter involving a man's life or freedom for life - we can't tolerate this stuff.

    We came back 6=0 not guilty - I got a very dirty look from the State's Attorney [thinking that hey butthead, why did you leave me on the jury?] and when asked about the case a couple of the jurors said they thought the cop lied and it would be a miscarriage of justice to convict the kid.

    The moral of the story for Jurors - is ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU CAN DO THE RIGHT THING - no matter what the judge tells you the law is. . .

    1. Well said! That last line should be what's chiseled into the faux marble of every courthouse across the land, imo.

    2. Inadmissable evidence, fruit of the poisonous tree, as the search was bad.

    3. Well said indeed counselor.

  9. I spent the last 15 years of my working career as a uniformed Federal LEO. During most of that time a summons to Philly jury duty was routine, a day off from work, a great lunch at the Reading Terminal Market, turn my check in at work and get paid for the day.

    Except for the last two times.

    As before I was asked what kind of work I did, and both times I answered truthfully.

    Both times I was picked as a juror for a murder one trial. I took it seriously and did my job.

    Captain Steve is mostly correct, but sometimes you still get picked.

    My lessons from the second murder trial are threefold.

    If you are going to deliberately kill a person and want to get away with the crime in court.

    1. Do not go into the bar where you plan the shooting, and great the door guy who knows you.

    2. Do not make a written confession.

    3. Do not be seven feet tall. (really)

    After the conviction, the judge said the defendant had been offered a plea deal but insisted on a jury trial.

    Both murder one trials were stressful.

    1. Change "great" to "greet".

    2. Haven't served on a civilian jury. Did serve on a court-martial of a young airman accused of armed robbery. If you are going to commit armed robbery and want to get away with it in a courts martial.
      1) Ditch the ski mask somewhere else than your dorm room on base.
      2) Don't wear your uniform with your name, rank and unit visible for all to see.

      15 minutes from release for deliberation to conviction. The LtCol in charge allowed 30 seconds for YGBSMs and laughter, then got serious. Learned a bit of military judicial history from him.

    3. The two courts martial for which I did the bailiff thing were pretty open and shut. Stupid people (oddly enough both lieutenant-colonels, one male, one female) doing stupid things rather openly.

      Too easy.

  10. Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away (tm), I was called in, and during voir dire, I experienced some distressing epiphanies. It was a DWI case, and in MO, one can refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test. One must merely immediately submit one's driver's license.

    So, with that backdrop, we listened to the Prosecuting attorney (with whom I was slightly acquainted, as she used to work security at the nukular power plant where I too worked) asked each potential juror a few questions: "If I can present evidence that clearly establishes the defendant was definitely intoxicated, and remained intoxicated during his arraignment and stay in the prison--but I don't have a blood test or breathalyzer test, would you still be able, based on sufficient evidence, convict him?" "Walll..... If'n you ain't got no scientific proof, then you ain't got no nothin'."

    Counsel for the defense: "My client would prefer to allow the facts speak for themselves, and not personally testify: Does that affect your personal feelings about him?" "Wallll..... If'n a man don't speak fer himself, he's got sumpin ta hide."

    Out of some 30 people in the pool, it was still too dry to seat enough people to try the schlub. The Judge was not pleased, and lectured the pool on their poor citizenship, and their failure to understand basic Constitutional law (someone pass me a Fifth, please).

    [Sigh]... And we wonder how we got to where we are...

    1. No trouble figuring that out.

      Trick question, right Jim?

  11. What happens if you ask for information on "jury nullification"?

    1. Not gonna go there. But yeah, I think you'd get relieved right quick!

  12. I was on juries a couple of times. And, yes, one time we did not follow the judge's instructions and did what was right.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Hopefully it won't come to that. Though Little Rhody is as blue as blue can be, most folks take the law pretty seriously.

  13. When dementia overtook my mother, I had all her mail come to my address. Jury duty summons came that I only read enough to get the date. Went in and did all the usual. My mother's name was called. My sister still chortles and enjoys pointing out my impatience is often my downfall. "Gosh, brother of mine, how long would it have taken you to read the summons?" Hate it when she is right, and calls me an idiot, and is right again.

    1. I get that a lot. For similar reasons.

  14. Hell, I'm a Tennessean. If we got all uptight anytime someone called us honey, sugar, darlin', etc., the safe-space area in restaurants would dwarf the dining area. Most waitresses (of an age, admittedly, but I'm of that age, so it's been true all my life) use those quite often. After all, one doesn't usually introduce oneself, eh? My mother has been called to jury duty twice. I never yet have (knock wood). I actually wouldn't mind that civic duty except that I've heard that it's excruciatingly boring. Even if I wanted to, it's unlikely I'd be chosen: hair to mid-back, grey-white Fu Manchu, tattoos.. The defense, no matter the crime, would probably want me just based on my appearance, but they might be surprised. I'm a law-&-order type, mostly.
    --Tennessee Budd

    1. Oh mind you, I don't mind having a lady call me honey. Just not used to it.

      Seems friendly enough.

  15. Out of curiosity, I looked at your profile, mostly to see if you have a blog. I see that you are a retired metrology technician. I'm a not-yet-retired metrology technician. I'll change status provided I live another 15 years, & the country hasn't collapsed.
    Ever get tired of explaining what "precision" and "accuracy" actually mean? People keep using those words. I do not think they mean what most folks think they mean.
    For those in other lines of work, a metrology technician has nothing to do with weather.
    --Tennessee Budd

    1. A metrology technician? Not sure I follow...


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