Thursday, May 22, 2003
Jury Duty

Yes, that was my day. Waking up far too early (I overslept anyway and arrived a half-hour late) and going down to the DC courthouse. Then there was a lot of standing around, followed by a lot of sitting around. Having expected this, I brought a book of essays by H.L. Mencken, which is now almost finished.

At maybe ten o'clock in the morning my number was called, so I got to go somewhere else and stand around, then go into the courtroom and sit around. Then I was introduced to the lawyers and the defendant, who was charged with felony heroin possession. I filled out a questionnaire in which I mentioned that I didn't know the defendant, any of the witnesses, or the judges, that I didn't live near the place of arrest, that I had no prejudice for or against police officers, and yes that I had been involved in a crime in the past ten years (when I got mugged in Somerville). Then I got to sit around listening to the white noise generator while each potential juror (all 60 of us) was called up to the bench so that the judge and lawyers could talk to us about our answers. I affirmed to the judge that it was my belief that being beat up by three drunk highschoolers wouldn't color my view of a heroin case, and told the prosecutor that I worked as a barista.

Then they read off a few numbers, told those people they were free to go (back to the Juror's waiting lounge, at least). Then there began a long, boring game of musical chairs: "Juror number 546, you may step down... juror number 888 sit in seat number 3..." Finally they settled on 12 jurors and 2 alternates. I was far enough down the list that they'd have had to throw out 2 full juries for me to serve.

So I went back to the check-in room and told them I'd been sent back into the pool. By then it was lunchtime, so I got an hour to go to the deli down the street (it was raining and I hadn't thought to bring an umbrella, but I still had no urge to sample the courthouse cafeteria) and eat a veggie burger.

Then back to sitting, reading, and listening for my number.

Eventually I got thirsty, so I went to the vending room and bought a ginger ale. We weren't allowed to eat or drink in the lounge, so I sat around by the machines sipping and reading and returned to the lounge to see it being turned into a reception room for a bioethics seminar and wandered around dazedly for a while asking random passersby if it was OK for me to go home. Finally I ran into somebody who was able to check my number and explain: "Ohhh, you weren't in the lounge, so you missed the announcement!" That's what I get, it seems, for getting thirsty on the gummint's dime.
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