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February 25, 2008

The Dirty Window View from Jury Duty


Ah, jury duty. Today I fulfilled my civic duty and made my appearance at the Brooklyn Supreme Court. I had never actually shown up for jury duty before and probably could have gotten out of it. My main motivation was this pesky grand jury summons for April- apparently, the system has both my original and now hyphenated last names in the computer and I figured that if I did the basic jury duty, the grand might be negated.

Waiting to see if you've been selected for a jury is kind of like sitting in a Delta Airlines departure area. You know that you aren't going anywhere soon. The communication is rather poor and you will spend most of your eight hours staring out the window at the world this is moving forward without you. And then they tell you to go home and try again tomorrow.

The good thing about jury duty is that even if they don't select you, you are formally exempt for eight years just for showing up. Today I learned that working in the field of oral history and having a husband who deals in television shows with homicide content do not mesh well with lawyers trying an attempted murder case. I'll confess that I was kind of curious about being an actual juror...and equally excited about taking my lunch break at Nicky's tomorrow (I can't tell you how upset I was today when I hustled over there and discovered that they were closed on Mondays), but at 4:45 p.m., after countless hours of waiting with fifty other disgruntled Brooklynites, I was content with the rejection.

I could go on and on about the entertaining elements of the Brooklyn Supreme Court, however I'm not sure what is legal/kosher and what isn't. I will tell you that my courtroom had a neon justice symbol hanging on the wall above the judge. NEON. I kept expecting it to start blinking and changing colors. Or at the very least illuminating the judge's giant toupee.

Posted by callalillie at February 25, 2008 7:15 PM | City Life


I LOVE jury duty. I bring a paperback and two newspapers... nice quiet room, no screaming kids...probably the ONLY large room you'll be in where that's the case. I'm usually called to the Kew Gardens courthouse, and it's a great neighborhood when I'm let out for lunch. And I'm away from work.

Posted by: Kevin Walsh at February 25, 2008 10:00 PM

I *thought* that would be my experience but I couldn't concentrate...everyone was on their cell phone and one guy spent about a half hour clipping and filing his nails.

Posted by: corie at February 25, 2008 10:19 PM

I served grand jury duty this summer. Apart from the gruesome stuff (it's hearing details and deciding whether there's enough to bring charges, and we got rapes, stalkings, and murders enough to make me want to take all my loved ones and barricade ourselves away from the world), I did come to the conclusion that should I become the criminal mastermind of Gotham City, all my henchmen must serve grand jury duty, and write reports on what not to do. Man, there are some dumb crooks out there....

Posted by: Velma at February 26, 2008 10:30 AM

In the city* of St. Louis, MO, we are exempt [once called] for only a year. I believe it is due to the ridiculously low number of registered voters we have here in the city.

I do enjoy jury duty to a degree, what with the extra time to sit and read; however, I would much rather have the time off of work to do something at my home or out and about with friends.

*We divide St. Louis metro into "city" and "county."

Posted by: Gina at February 26, 2008 11:43 AM

Are we really exempt for eight years? I thought it was more like four. Hmm. I may have overserved. Jury duty is great for people-watching, as you catch garbled ear-fulls of folks' lives from the one-side of the cell phone conversations that you are privvy to as you sit in a close space with them. Sprinkle in a bit of life-detail conjecture from their novel and/or newspaper of choice and any other little artifacts on their person and tiny life-hypotheses develop. I suppose you can accomplish the same in a more hospitable place though. The last time I was called to serve I was noticably on the verge of giving birth to Dimsum, and appeared at the Brooklyn courts armed with medical documentation attesting to the case (You just never can tell what those folks ask for. After all, I could've had a pillow shoved up my shirt). The clerk barely glanced up at me from behind her 4 foot high partition, as I mustered a rather hopeful, " uh, I'm pregnant and..." She merely stamped a paper, saying, " see you in 4 years."

Posted by: Erin at February 26, 2008 7:46 PM

When I served it was in rural WI and I was able to bring my knitting. (Middle-aged women with knitting needles are not much feared in rural WI, unlike in larger cities.) Having watched much Perry Mason in my youth and 12 Angry Men in more recent years, I looked forward to jury duty. It was very interesting, although murder trials in my locale are extremely rare. The two juries I served on heard a, a case of extreme stupidity behind the wheel brought on by drunkeness, 2, a case of shining deer. The second was dismissed after very little testimony b/c the district attorney had charged the defendant with the wrong offense. In rural WI it is safe to knit and we don't have many murders, but our public officials are occasionally lees than stellar.

Posted by: kmkat at February 29, 2008 8:37 AM

That's a lovely looks very 1970s.

I haven't served jury duty yet, but I do wonder what it would be like...

Posted by: Heather at March 1, 2008 1:01 AM

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