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!