I performed my civic duty yesterday, jury duty. The age old American ritual of time-wasting and watching those old and broken gears of justice spin around like a rust-covered meat grinder. Well, I assume it wasn’t always like that, but for me it sure was. The room, full of auditorium style seats, was full with about 350 folks, all eager to not have their number called so they could collect their $15 check and be on with their lives. After sitting from 8:30am until 11:45am, reading, watching Howl’s Moving Castle on my iPod, instant messaging and surfing the net (they have about 8 PCs in the back room, which is nice), I was dismissed for a 1.5 hr lunch break.
At 1:30pm I was called to a courtroom, along with about 45 other folks. We filed into the courtroom eagerly awaiting our chance to fulfill the honorable duty to our great nation by serving on a jury of peers… or something like that. Instead, we sat for a few hours, in the “voir dire” phase of jury selection, which is a long series of questions intended to give the court a chance to know if you are someone they want on their jury. Questions like “do you have a problem with the police department” or “do you believe that narcotics should be legalized”, and so on. This silliness took 2 hours and was mind numbing.
When we did eventually get around to seating jurors, several folks stood up and gave excuses on why they shouldn’t serve. One lady didn’t understand English. Another had some medical problem. Another lady had a business to run. Another guy can’t understand english. A lady needs to be at her office for a meeting. And the best, one lady actually said she had guests coming over for dinner and needed to be home. When the dust cleared and the judge conferred with the counsel and assistants, he said “well folks looks like this is your lucky day” and proceeded to inform us that he’d granted too many strikes to the defense/prosecutor and that they wouldn’t technically be able to seat the jury. So we all left… after 3 hours of nothing.
I’m proud to be American, but when you see nonsense like this it makes you wonder if all the hullabaloo about problems within the justice system are true. I have little faith in our justice system. In principle, it’s brilliant and a great example to the rest of the world. In actuality, it’s a messed-up, broken piece of our democracy that needs serious overhaul. Used and abused, the system is overrun with technicalities and red tape that only serves the money-grubbing lawyers, eager to defend or prosecute so they can get a piece of the pie. It’s sad and depressing, and I’m glad I won’t have to do it again for at least 5-10 years. Blech.