Saturday, September 10, 2005

Jury Duty

Jury duty in Brooklyn, NY is a biannual three day marathon of bench-sitting. We sit in an auditorium the size of a high school gymnasium, about four hundred people sitting on rows and rows of benches. These are no ordinary benches. They are pews with hard wooden seats, eight inches wide. Just wide enough to cut the circulation to your knees by the time you’ve sat in them for an hour.

Despite the discomfort of sitting on the benches of doom for 8 hours a day, three days in a row, I always enjoyed serving jury duty. I would bring a few books and my knitting and would luxuriate in getting re-acquainted with my old friends Josephine Tey, Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Reginald Hill. Nothing like reading a good, old-fashioned mystery when waiting to be empanelled for a jury in Brooklyn.

I hear that post-9/11, jurors are not allowed to bring their knitting anymore. I suppose the knitting needles must be considered lethal weapons. I’m saddened especially because disasters like 9/11 and Katrina are often the catalyst many people need to start knitting. Making order out of chaos. Creation out of destruction. Plus, making warm things for people to wear is so satisfying.

The last time I served jury duty was 1997. Between jobs, going to school at night, I had time free and hoped I’d be picked for a jury. I was empanelled for a case against a drug dealer. When it came to be my turn for voir dire, the conversation went like this:

Q: “Have you ever been the victim of a crime?”A: “Yes, I was home during a push-in robbery when I was 10, and held-up twice at gunpoint while working
Q: “Wow. Anyone else in your family ever been the victim of a crime?”
A: “Aside from car thefts and burglaries when no one was home, no. I’m the crime magnet in the family.” (Laughter) I could see the lawyer for the defense decide not to take me.
Q: “Are you an attorney, related to an attorney or work for an attorney?”
A: “I’m working part-time as an office manager for [insert name of Big Time Defense Lawyer].” (There went the prosecution’s vote).
After I answered a few more questions and the rest of the pool were questioned, we were sent out into the hall to wait. No benches here, just a few radiators and one chair they brought out for the ubiquitous grandmotherly lady with the high blood-pressure. We waited. And waited. And took bets on who they’d pick. Everyone but me thought they’d choose me. I knew they wouldn’t. I was right.

Here in Ashburn, my jury duty consisted of one phone call the night before I was due to serve. It was Memorial Day weekend and I was in "Group 1" on the notice they sent me. I called the number, they said "Group One is not needed. If you are in Group One, you have completed your service." Hmpfff. I was disappointed. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with Reginald.


purple_kangaroo said...

I've always kind of wanted to serve jury duty, but have so far been unable to do it when called (i.e. had a newborn who was nursing every hour or two) and have been excused.

I wonder if they'd allow plastic crochet hooks, since they're not as sharp and "dangerous" as knitting needles? I'd definitely want to take my crocheting. I think you're right about those types of handcrafts being comforting. You can't beat making something warm, soft and beautiful with your hands.

ccw said...

I've never been called for jury duty. I'm still waiting. I've always thought it would be interesting.

SuzanH said...

I have yet to be called for jury duty, but I desperately want to be. So I'm sure that when I'm called, they'll strike me.

And hey, I knit, too. I'm trying to finish a really boring hooded sweater for G (that I started 2 years ago) so I can start something more fun. Like hats and mittens. Easy, but engaging. Or another intricate lace sweater.

Yankee T said...

I've been called three times, but only on a jury once. It was a horrible rape case where the guy went free due to shitty lawyering and destitution on the part of the victim. I went home and cried for three days. It broke my heart.

liz said...

Oh, Yankee, how horrible. So, so very sorry.

Running2Ks said...

My husband's jury duty went like yours. I opted out of one while I was nursing.


YT, I am so terrible sorry. That sounds awful!

Julie said...

I've always wanted to sit on a jury! And what a perfect place to read old mysteries.

KLee said...

I've been called for jury duty about every year since I was 18 or so. I have never served. I am a jurist's worst nightmare. Jury empannelers hate to see me coming.

1) I am a victim of violent crime, twice over. (1 rape, 1 armed robbery)

2) My mother works for the court system.

3) My father has been embroiled in a case against the company for whom he was working when he was burned in an industrial accident.

4) We have a very close family friend who was county sheriff for 25+ years.

5) I work with children, so any cases involving kids are out. I have even reported abuse to authorities, so any case where abuse is expected, I'm tossed double-quick.

I have never been chosen, but I still get called like clockwork. My last "service" was in July, and I got dismissed then as well.

I once got called for Federal Grand Jury, and I was greatly relieved not to have to serve on a Grand Jury. way too much pressure.