Friday, September 24, 2010

Exit Stage Left, Pursued By Barrister :: Ideas Are Everywhere - Day Six

Writers get their ideas by paying attention to the things that most people ignore and doing the things that other people avoid.  For the most part, jury duty is almost shockingly boring, but I kept a journal of my time on jury duty back in 2008 and I'm posting it here (unedited) to illustrate how even the most banal days can provide us with all the story fodder we could possibly want.  A more complete explanation can be found here. -Scott


Day Six

I have been weighed in the scales and found wanting. At any rate, I was eliminated from the jury at the eleventh hour. 12 Jurors, 2 alternates. The rest of us were told to bail. They grilled all of us pretty hard. Asked a lot of personal and penetrating questions. It was interesting, I would have liked to see the trial but I'm glad I'm not stuck doing this for another three weeks.

Mixed feelings...

Incidentally, I've never been in the audience of a talk show, nor do I watch them if I can help it, but that's what this felt like. I think there are people in the world who bottle it all up their entire lives, just waiting for a talk show host or lawyer or someone to ask them these questions. The admissions... the sheer amount of over-sharing that went on in that room that went far beyond the scope of the questioning was... unnerving.

And at some points it felt like a Philosophy 101 class. What would you do if...

For instance: at one point the defense attorney called on me and we got into it about the death penalty and whether or not I should be offended that the governor of Illinois "usurped the role of the courts by commuting all of the inmates on death row in his state to life terms." This was after five death row inmates were exonerated with DNA evidence, mind you. "Usurped the role of the courts..." took the power of life and death out of my hands and commuted sentences. This is a defense attorney who seemed like he wanted me to be offended by that. As if he was... which is odd, considering his role in the judicial process.

This wasn't a death penalty case. It was an identity theft case. Prison, sure. But when did we start executing people for this? Going back to the days of hanging horse thieves? I doubt it somehow. What he was trying to get at, I couldn't say.

Anyway, I told him I was not offended by the executive branch executing their constitutionally defined role. This power of their exists for a reason, to react to new information that the courts did not know, were not aware of, or could not know at the time. When we kept going we ended up getting into the actual nature of the death penalty. He ended it when I mentioned that I was categorically against it.

There were other clashes. The prosecutor's questions were basic and straight-forward. The defense attorney's hypotheticals were torturously mangled. I applied logic to them and he stopped calling on me.

I'm not sure if it was him or the prosecutor that used their challenge to kick me out.
I guess it doesn't matter.

I'm done.  Joke lady doubts they'll call my group in next week with Memorial Day making it a short week.

In the course of my term in the juror-dungeons beneath the Pierce County Courthouse, I think I managed to read more actual newspapers in two weeks than I can recall in the past few months added together. Actual newspapers, not their websites. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Seattle PI, Seattle Times... the list seems endless. It was almost like old times. Except for the sitting in a bomb shelter part.

I had to brave ink stains to get a glimpse of the world beyond the bunker. Now I confess that on a daily basis, I read a lot of news. I'm a bit of a news junky. I almost ended up a journalist, after all. But I'd gotten away from print editions, drawn by the blinking lights and video podcasts of Google's Attention Deficit Utopia, so it kinda felt good to get my fingers inky.

No, not all of that ink came from Mary Englebreit, don't start with me. (I never did figure out where that stupid cat went. I think it was an errant piece from a different puzzle).

My curmudgeonly griping aside, can you really think of a better place to wile away the weeks of the national Democratic and Republican Conventions than in a bomb shelter?  I can't. (Well, actually, I can, but I'm trying to be realistic and I tend to burn when exposed to that much tropical sun anyway.)

After spending a week, selflessly gifting me with a multitude of things to blog about, the Pierce County courts sent me home. Sort of.

Please, let us not confuse “sent me home” with “let me go”.  I'm on parole.  Each day I have to check in to see if they’ll need me the following day. Joke lady says they probably won't, but nevertheless, every night I must log into the website (which is frequently down) or call and listen to the automated message to see if I'm going to wake up in the morning headed to work or the court house.

Sheesh! How codependent can you get? I’m sorry, Pierce County Judicial System, but I think I need to start seeing other judges, other attorneys. You understand, don’t you?

Don’t take it too hard. It’s not you… it’s me.

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Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).