serinde: (what has this flag become?)
[personal profile] serinde
Because everything happens at the same time, I also was called for jury duty this week. (In sober reflection I should have taken my postponement, but I was thinking that a) whatever other time they called me for would undoubtedly be even less convenient and then I wouldn't be able to postpone again, and b) I believed everyone around me who had had to show up maybe one day and then that was it.)

Now, it must be understood that I do not have a problem with this; indeed, if this week/month weren't so full of the ualeauleauleaue, I would be really excited to serve on a jury. I truly do believe it is part of what makes society go 'round, and I truly do hope that if it's ever my turn in the legal barrel that intelligent, well-rounded, competent people will not try to do whatever they can to avoid it, and I truly do feel it to be an honorable and worthy thing to be doing. (The last and only other time I got called, when living in Jersey City, I got as far as juror selection and they bounced me--to my dying day I will believe it was because, when they asked "What's your favorite TV show?", I said "Buffy".) But also, this is trial jury not grand jury, so I expected the most that would be asked of us was one week--which I could spare, with difficulty it's true, but if I worked like a dog at night it could be okay. Whether or no, it's still important to show up, and now they tell us that there is wifi in the juror waiting room and all, so I figured worst-case I'd be sitting around for a day or two but I'd still be able to get a lot of work done.

So this morning I present myself at the courthouse, go through the insanely long metal detector line, and get up to Room 452. There were forms and pencils and videos with Diane Sawyer about the history of the legal system and a lady telling us a bunch of stuff that was said on the forms and in the videos, but we had fun filling out the forms and playing with the pencils on the bench there and eventually after an hour of this we brought our little cards up and they went into the giant file for someone to come down and need jurors.

So I got out my work laptop--and yes, a 15" MBP is good to work on but it is a stone bitch to lug, let me tell you--and I start getting some work email sorted and had just CoRD'd into my office workstation when they said that they needed to call SIXTY jurors for a big case. Whooo doggy, that sounded like it was going to be trouble--and of course I was one of the one called. Off we shamble to the floor below, where there is an actual courtroom, and thus you cannot play internets while you're there, even if it's just jury selection. Once everyone's settled--and it wasn't a large room, either, we were packed in like sardines--the judge came in and said a few words about this being a civil case seeking redress for medical injuries, and that it was projected to take 4-6 weeks.


But, thought I, there's sixty of us here, and they only need six jurors and four alternates, so the odds aren't too awful. And of course I know I could throw the game, even if my name does come out of the hopper, but then they send a guy with a badge in and we all have to raise our right hands and take oath to answer truthfully and fully any questions that are asked of us relating to our fitness to serve. Damn them and their cunning.

Because there were a lot of people who did not seem to take that seriously. The plaintiff's attorney was asking each person, as his or her name came out of the hopper, "Can you judge this case fairly?" And it became really damn obvious who truly did have some kind of previous bad experience either with medical care or with someone suing for large moneys, versus who just wanted to GTFO. I am sure that some of them were mapping it in their minds as "well, I can't judge this case fairly because I'll be pissed off / worrying about X Y Z / whatever", but I'm sorry, giving your word isn't like using a Ring of Three Wishes. You aren't gaming the DM. The spirit of the thing applies, not the letter of it.

It took them awhile to drum up twelve people who didn't bounce at "can you judge the case fairly" (plus the one who clearly couldn't understand a word of English so got sent back down to be excused from duty entirely), and then as questioning went on a few more of those had to get replaced because either now they couldn't judge it fairly or, in one or two cases, they aired some impediment (I don't know what as they went into huddle with the attorneys). Finally, about noon, they started actually asking questions of the prospective jurors. I found it very interesting that the plaintiff attorney was doing all the asking, and the moreso when I saw how even this early in the process he was putting subtle spin on everything. He was really good; I Saw What He Did There, and that clearly, and yet his charm and buddy-ness was nibbling at my armored mind. I thought of nothing so much as Richard Gere in "Chicago", and I'd've been fascinated to see him once he got into full swing. But I wondered at the defending attorney not making a peep.

All became clear later, after lunch and return and the plaintiff attorney had gotten to talk to each juror. Then the defending attorney swung in, and though he didn't have nearly the same smooth, he had a contrasting style with its own hooks into the recipient psyche--a bit more Colombo (I know, not a lawyer, but work with me here). I should take a step back and say that the basics of the case where a woman who was suing Sloan-Kettering because she went in for back surgery to deal with her cancer and came out of the operation blind (ugh). Her side says that the doctors (and, I suspect, specifically the anaesthesiologist, because the lawyer was asking a few questions specifically about that line) were negligent; and the hospital and the half-dozen doctors named in the suit say, basically, "nuh uh". So when I say that they were getting in little digs, it was like the plaintiff attorney asking jurors "Do you feel that everyone should have equal health care? ...And do you think they really receive equal health care?" or "Do you feel like people with a title in front of their names have more credibility?" Whereat the defense attorney, on his time at bat: "We've heard some comments about titles having you feel like someone who's gone through years of medical school would have greater credibility on medical matters than others?" Stuff like that.

Finally they picked the jurors (now it's about 3:30pm), and they want a pool of seven to choose their four alternates from. And the pool is half filled when my card comes up. And they say unto me, "can you be fair in judging this matter?" And I say that I can, because, well, I can. But then I say, "are alternates required to be there from day one of the trial and in attendance the whole time, or do they only get called in if a regular juror has to drop out?" And they say, from day one. And I explain that I just can't be out of work for 4 to 6 weeks, that I'm helming a major project and that there's no one else who can do it. And I see that they're unhappy, because they only have about ten more people and they know that most of 'em are going to bail, but they excuse me.

And I told the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but I feel crappy about it. I had two powerful duties, and they conflicted, and I had to choose one; and I think I chose the right one, but that still means I failed on the other.
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