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Roy Janik

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In Communist Russia, Defendent finds YOU! (and shoots you. because he's part of the russian mafia.) [Jun. 16th, 2008|01:01 pm]
Roy Janik
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Today, for the first time ever, I had to report for jury duty. I've been called before, but I was a student and able to get out of it. Not that I necessarily wanted to. But for some reason, I did. Anyhow, I was looking forward to it this time. I had to be at the courthouse downtown at 8:30am, which is obscene. Since there's no real parking to be had, I parked near the Dog n' Duck pub. I had a beautiful plan to put in a hard day's juroring, and then go knock back a pint. But alas, it was not to be.

I walked about 6 big blocks to the courthouse. The first shock was that the big doors at the top of the fancy steps are kept permanently locked, and you have to enter through the ground level entrances. Sad, and symbolic of something, I'm sure. The reason quickly became apparent. There's a security station, much like an airport's. You put your belongings through the conveyor-belt scanner, and walk through the metal detector. Fun and exciting.

I went up to the second floor and checked in. Two ladies sat at tables and handed out forms to jurors. The form basically just asked if I wanted to receive my pay for the day ($6, I think), or if I wanted to donate it to a charity. I chose to donate it to the Children's Welfare Fund, I think. I brought the form back and was given an orange, laminated, numbered card. I was to be juror number 18 in court number 2, presided over by Judge Sherman. There was a lack of seating, so I crouched in a corner, and took turns playing a jewel-based game on my iphone, and listening to the audiobook version of George RR Martin's "A Storm of Swords".

After 30 minutes or so, Judge Sherman came out. He was extremely friendly and passionate about the justice system. He explained briefly that we were still waiting on 1 juror who'd overslept, and that it happens all the time. He then encouraged us to not lose heart, and went on to explain how fervantly he believed in the jury system, and that if he could only keep 1 right, it would be the right to a trial by jury. "In the recent words of a personal hero," he said, "What a Country!" Recent? What's Yakov Smirnoff been up to lately?

We waited for about 10 more minutes for our erstwhile juror, and then Judge Sherman came out again. He told us that he had what might be bad news for some, and good news for others. The case had been settled. "As so often happens, once the defendent walks down the hall and sees the smiling faces of you fine people ready to sit in judgement, he chooses to settle." He then once again asked us to not lose heart, and insisted that the jury system was vital, important, and worked wll. He left with "I'll repeat. 'What a Country!'" Words worth repeating.

We then returned our laminated index cards to the table and were informed that if we got a parking ticket for an expired meter, we could have it excused. Good to know for the future!

So I walked back to the car, and it was still earlier than I normally get up for work. I briefly considered taking the day off, since my boss and co-workers knew I'd be gone for jury duty, but decided against it. I did go to Fry's, though, for no particular reason.

All in all, I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't get to go through more of the process. I suppose I'll get my chance one day.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: moregankira
2008-06-16 06:22 pm (UTC)
My very first time with jury duty I got picked to be on the jury for a murder trial. It was exciting at first, but then I realized that I was going to have a major influence over the outcome of someone else's future. I didn't take it lightly and in fact stood my ground while debating the case with other jurors. Me and one other lady managed to changed the minds of the rest of the jurors to sentence the guy as guilty of murder.

He was 3 times the legal limit, and ran off the road killing an innocent guy riding on his bike to a corner store to pick up prescriptions for his elderly mother. Apparently, in the guy's own words, it was common for them, "shoot back a few while on the job." He was a construction worker. One of the "cool guys" on the jury was arguing with me that we should call the guy not guilty, because, "it could have been anyone of us!" I said, "Nope, not me, I always have a designated driver, or I stay where I am. Sorry if that sounds too proper for you, but this man... killed another man."

It was tough.

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[User Picture]From: nekomouser
2008-06-16 07:04 pm (UTC)
My first time picked was for a murder trial, too. It was a fascinating experience. Especially the part when several witnesses disappeared (assumed they fled the country after being threatened) and some gang associate of the defendant was caught taking pictures of the witnesses and making "we're going to kill you in prison" gestures toward them while they were testifying. It was also nice AFTER the trial to find out that we helped convict one of the state's largest gang figures in a round about sort of way (he was in a separate trial for the same crime and by convicting his partner, they were sure they'd get him).

The first vote was 10 guilty, one abstain (me, for the same reason that 'damn, this is some serious business and let's take some time and make sure we get it right'), and one innocent. By the end of the day, I was in the guilty column (where I suspected I'd be) and we spent the next several days locked in a small room trying to convince one person of the defendant's obvious guilt (pretty obviously holding out due to a racial bias, the evidence was pretty clear and damning). We won and he went down for murder in the end.

I slept with a shotgun by my bed for a month afterwards. Ahh, the reward of doing one's civil duty and then wondering if dude's gang-banger friends would want revenge...
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[User Picture]From: moregankira
2008-06-16 07:14 pm (UTC)
Eeeep... your's sounds much much more frightening.

I think with my trial, the hardest part was listening to the poor elderly mother talk about her son. They were a poverty stricken family and he had only her, and she, him. It was a sad place. This guy, apparently, was also no stranger to the DUI. We learned later that he had been charged and released many times previous. He was convicted and I believed sentenced to 5 years.
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[User Picture]From: fiercecupcake
2008-06-16 06:55 pm (UTC)
I was disappointed about those doors at the courthouse when I went to get my name changed. I also felt like the only happy person in the place, which may or may not have been true, with the possible exception of the woman who was filing for divorce in my same room.

God, that courthouse is awful.
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[User Picture]From: zinereem
2008-06-16 06:58 pm (UTC)
Strangely, the judge, the two ladies doing check-ins, the guy who explained the parking exemptions, and the few other anonymous lawyer types I saw were all bubbly and cheerful. I fully expected everyone to be dour and surly, like the folks I see when handling traffic tickets, but they weren't. None of my fellow jurors looked happy to be there, though. I'm not sure I did either, since I was so tired, but I was.
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[User Picture]From: chichi27
2008-06-16 11:26 pm (UTC)
Roy! You were on the floor of the courthouse that I work on and I had no idea. This is unacceptable.
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[User Picture]From: n2sing
2008-06-17 02:05 am (UTC)

Little Different here

I had to go to Jury duty once... we had to sit in a room for 6 hours waiting to see if any of us got picked to be on the Jury Then if you don't get picked you have to come back the next day and do it all again... I had to go there 4 days in a row... I never got picked never got to see the other side of the waiting area. It was not fun. Worse yet My husband and I were in the busy season for the company we run and he was left to deal with everything alone the whole time.. I got back and It look like the Hulk had raided the office... I know my office has it's piles but they are my piles and I know where everything goes. yeah Not fun.
I was looking forward to being on a jury but I am sure I will get called on again at some point. Hopefully the next time it will be during the week before finals and I can spend the time working on homework or something...
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[User Picture]From: zeitgeist
2008-06-18 12:19 am (UTC)
I like the "donate to charity" idea for the jury duty pay. I was just called in a few weeks ago, and while sitting in the waiting room wondered to myself how $5 a day could possibly do anyone [who couldn't get out of jury duty on financial hardship grounds] any good, and therefore what a tremendous waste of taxpayer money it was. An option to donate to charity, which NJ doesn't provide, would be a good compromise.

As it stands, I have a check for $5 sitting on my nightstand 'cause I never actually go to banks, so have little use for a check.
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