Monthly Archives: January 2011

Blaming the victim: Gov’t report finds pedestrians at fault in own death

A recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) seeks to make pedestrians responsible for their own deaths. This kind of autocentric blame the victim spin just pisses me the fuck off. I’m sure the fact that our government owns a major car company had nothing to do with this report.  

 

Yes, I’ve seen people darting between oncoming cars on Howard Street trying to get between the Cultural Center light rail station and the adjacent Metro subway at State Center . However, I’ve also been nearly run-over more times than I can count – in the middle of a crosswalk with the pedestrian signal still lit.

 

The report states that while pedestrian fatalities have gone down over the past few years there has been a slight up tick in death due to rising focus on personal fitness and urban walkability. Apparently, they want us in our cars where we won’t be distracted by ear buds, conversation and text messages – you know, things Americans would never dream of doing while driving. Remember with all those things divert attention away from the pedestrians main job – watching out for safe, courteous drivers who may or may not care about the faded crosswalk or the hapless pedestrian who is simply trying to get from the garage to their office.

 

To be fair, the report does place some responsibility on the drivers, but claims that the majority of pedestrian fatalities occur from people who are crossing mid-street, walking in the middle of the street and most often while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (thank god there are no drunk drivers out there).

 

We are familiar with aggressive drivers,” said Troy E. Costales, GHSA’s Vice Chairman and head of Oregon ’s highway safety program. “We now have aggressive pedestrians.”

 

But not to worry, fair citizens of Autopia, your government has proposed new “counter measures” to help protect you from running over into those roguish street crossers. Chief amongst them is engineering safer roads\crosswalks (retiming signals, widening berms or fixing crosswalks at problem intersections), examining pedestrian fatalities and enforcing of vehicular yield laws as well as maintaining proper pedestrian education programs (which worked sooo well that they wrote a report citing how clueless and “aggressive” we are).

 

My dad has a saying “we’re all just trying to make a living” or in this case simply cross the street from the light rail to the office, so we can make a living and, hopefully, not die in the process. But at least if we do, the driver (and its car making government) can rest assured in that it probably wasn’t their fault anyway.

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The Adventures of Juror #429: Part 2

The rest of us were sent back to the considerably less crowded holding cell across the hall. No really, apparently another trial had been summoned while we were gone so the (lower) room was only half full when we returned. Some movie was playing, but I did my best to ignore it until the flight attendant lady came on again:

 

“We’re sorry for the interruption, but it is now 12:30pm. You are officially on lunch: if you brought your own lunch you are free to eat it upstairs…otherwise you are free to eat at any of the restaurants downtown, but you must be back here by 1:45pm.”

 

I had a wholly mediocre lunch at the Chinese place at the food court up the street from the courthouse, and managed to get back a full 45 minutes early than I needed. Whatever, I took a random seat upstairs and used my change from lunch to buy a soda and a bag of chips (which were 5x better than my real lunch).

 

Speaking of mediocrity, the movie started up again just so it could be interrupted by the first gate arrivals of the afternoon. Numbers 001-273, 795-999 were needed on the third floor, and the reassurance that “would be the final call of the day for these numbers.”

 

That wasn’t me; I had to sit thru the rest of the movie and the beginning of the next one which looked like it was going to be just as bad. I was almost ecstatic when they called rows 274-794 fifteen excruciatingly awful minutes into the non-flight film.

 

There were only two problems with this: 1) there was slightly more than an hour left in mandated service 2) which all but GUARANTEED that if I were seated I’d HAVE to repeat this shit again tomorrow.

 

The courtroom was the same size as the one I was in during the morning session, but with much grander architecture…and half as many seats. But don’t worry, her honor implored this process shouldn’t take the entire hour – especially since the actual trial wasn’t scheduled to begin until tomorrow afternoon anyway.

 

Unfortunately for us, the judge liked the sound of her own voice and kept droning on and on about all the questions she was going to ask us and how she wanted us to answer them. Eventually she got onto letting the court clerk call roll and begin her over explained process of voir dire, but just as she was about to let the lawyers begin their portions of the process the defendant changed his mind about a jury trial and decided to just plead out.

 

“This is actually relatively common,” the judge intoned to us, before directing a series of “are you SURE you understand what you are asking the court to do here” questions towards the defendant.

 

Then as she was finishing with that, the fire alarm went off and she rather off-handed dismissed us. I made my way down six flights of steps out of the hidden juror door and back onto St Paul St . I debated whether it was worth it to try and get a non-answer out of one of the many police or fire fighters already at the scene, but I already knew they couldn’t tell me anything.

 

However, the news ticker on the JHU building across the NB Circulator stop on Fayette St was under no such restraints. The ‘top headlines’ as I approached the stop were “Bomb blast kills one in state center,” and “State buildings evacuated due to ‘suspicious’ packages.”

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The Adventures of Juror #429: Part 1

Like all truly good days, today started out at 3:34am – two hours and forty-one minutes before my alarm was set to go off or just under four hours before sunrise. Either way, it didn’t bode well for the rest of the day.

 

I kept hoping and praying I’d fall back asleep, but all I could do was watch the clock tick idly next to my bed. I eventually got my wish… just in time for my alarm to go off. It was time to get up, shower, and get dressed for the day.

 

But what does one wear to jury duty? Sure, the court’s website listed certain things NOT to wear, but that didn’t answer my central question (especially since the aforementioned list wasn’t that detailed to start with). Sure no “abbreviated clothing” (shorts, cut-off tops, etc), but what tee-shirt, jeans and a slightly dirty hoodie… or do I have to wear a suit and tie? Screw it, I had five minutes until I absolutely had to leave so I went with a polo and khaki cargo pants.

 

So I left the apartment and arrived at the stop for the Charm City Circulator thirty minutes before my summoned time. The Circulator arrives “every 15 minutes” so I should be good, right? Of course not, but my naivety amuses me.

 

I enter the courthouse through the hidden door marked “Jurors,” and made my way to the end of the security line. It was just like being at the airport except for the marble floors and oversized murals, but at least I could keep my shoes on.

 

I go into the assembly room to check in, and the guy behind the counter looks up at me. “Take a form and pencil from the table,” he said brusquely “You can fill it upstairs.”

 

Nice to see I’m not the only person whose day is disrupted by this stupid process.

 

I hadn’t really noticed before, but the downstairs waiting room was full so I made my way up the narrow stairway to a cavernous room on the third floor which was itself almost full. As I begin filling in the “Qualifications Sheet” (sadly, I met all of them), the monitors on the far wall began playing an old (~1980s) video introducing us to the intricacies of the courtroom (with writing and production values equal to that of a typical elementary school play).

 

Once the video was over, a pleasant sounding woman came over the PA system to read the back of the QS for us. For some reason, I couldn’t help but think of seat belts and exit rows the entire time she was talking; she then passed her microphone to her supervisor who sounded even crankier than the guy I encountered earlier.

 

“If you don’t ‘want’ to be here,” she said near the end of her long, tedious monologue. “I DON’T CARE, I have heard EVERY excuse in the book – and some far too creative to be in any book – and so have our judges. So keep your opinions to YOURSELF or TELL THEM TO THE JUDGE!”

With that out of her system, they were able to begin the boarding – I mean check-in process by row – sorry, juror number at intervals of 50. I was number 429 so that was going to take a while so I got a soda from the machine near the back of the room and settled in for the long haul.

 

It took 45 minutes for them to get to my number, and an additional 30 before they finished processing everybody, it was additional half-hour past that they received their first boarding call of the day. Those jurors seated in rows 001-473 were cleared to enter at gate 260.

 

Room 260 was relatively easy to find as it was literally the next door over – a grand total of 10ft from the assembly room. The courtroom itself was surprisingly small (about the size of the set on most syndicated judge shows) and lacked the visual drama of the courtrooms on most legal dramas (or even the security queue at the jurors’ entrance).

 

It also lacked proper seating for the potential jurors (a significantly lower number than the cattle call above would imply) with quite a few people forced to either stand or sit on the floor along the far wall. Fortunately, I was able to get a seat near jury box; it was hard, uncomfortable and in a high traffic area (especially during the voir dire), but it beat blocking the fire exit.

 

The court clerk called role, and I nearly stood up three times before my actual number was called. Not because I didn’t know it, but because I was having trouble concentrating on what number was being called – definitely NOT a quality you want in a juror.

 

On the plus side, it only took 15 minutes, followed by a round of (relatively) simple questions then a lot of waiting around while the lawyers interrogated everyone individually (this was an additional 30-40 minutes) and then it was time for the lawyers to choose a jury… playground style. (!) Finally after calling approx 150 people, they had successfully a selected a jury!

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