Jury Duty

Daphne broke her finger, but still had to report.

An inside look at my day in court.

Luigi and Jessica played video games.
In an unexpected twist, the Curmudgeon got his jury duty letter yesterday. He’s due in court June 21st.


I thought I was the angriest person to show up for jury duty.

And then I ran into my neighbor Daphne, whose finger is in a plaster cast and looks like she’s perpetually flipping off the world.

She might have been perfectly fine fulfilling her civic duty with me and about 100 other citizens. But with that cast, she seemed to be summing up the feelings of some of us, who were just hoping we got released before 5 p.m.

Daphne admits her cast is off putting, noting the judge who came in to talk to us was staring at her throughout his speech.

Daphne smashed her finger with a hammer while trying to install an outdoor shower at her house. Though still in pain from the fracture and stitches, she said she had no choice but to report because she’s already postponed twice before.

So things could be worse. I could be in monumental physical pain like Daphne in addition to be bored out of my mind.

I’m not sure why jury duty is such an onerous task for some of us, but I think a lot of it has to do with feeling trapped. You’re out of your comfort zone and routine, thrown with strangers into into a large room resembling an airport waiting area.

It doesn’t help to learn that some people, including my friend John B, have never been called for jury duty. How does that happen?

No one is talking to each other, and you get the feeling court officials would tell you to stop if you tried. No one is particularly chatty anyway. The only sounds are creaking plastic seats and the whir of the heating system.

We just watched a video outlining jury duty and now everyone’s retuned to their phones and tablets. The highlight of the video was recognizing my Pickleball buddy Mark, who served on a jury and discussed his experience in the video.

I’ll have to remember to ask him about that the next time I see him. I wonder how many other people have asked him about it because he’s a bit of a celebrity. Imagine how many state residents watch this video every year.

The good news is that Mark is one of the most kind and gentle people I’ve ever met, so whomever got him as a juror lucked out. I’m not surprised he sat on a jury because he’s level headed (he’s a helicopter engineer), calm and fair.

That’s what you want in a juror and there are actually a lot of people in this room who look like they fit the bill. Most are middle aged and well dressed – men in pressed shirts with sweaters or vests with an occasional sports jacket thrown in. Most women are in skirts or nice pants and blouses.

For the record, I believe in our jury system and realize this is a small price to pay for living in a nation where you’re presumed innocent until proven guilty. I just wish there was a more efficient way to do it.

We had to get here at 8, and most trials don’t start until 10. There’s a lot of dead time. We’re wearing juror stickers and have our own elevator on the 9th floor, but we’re basically the property of the state for the day.

This is my second time at bat for jury duty. I avoided it for years by saying I was a stay-at-home mom, but finally reported about 3 years ago and was released after a few hours.

I was supposed to report on March 7th, but didn’t feel like it so I got an extension. April 30th seemed like such reprieve when I got the extension, though it’s been hanging over my head ever since.

I had trouble sleeping knowing I was due in court so early. I got out of bed at 4 a.m. and watched an episode of the Gilmore Girls on Netflix. When a pipe began making odd sounds in our bathroom, I thought about skipping court so I could call a plumber. We turned off the water instead.

A administrative judge came in and told us that we’re all being very patriotic, which made us all sit up a little straighter. He told us that we’re fulfilling an important role even if the case we might be called for gets settled at the 11th hour.

That’s an important point because most cases are settled out of court. I can’t tell you how many times I wrote stories about impending jury selection only to have settlements reached or plea bargains brokered at the last minute. It was always a little disappointing, because I loved covering trials.

I know I stand little to no chance of being picked for a jury. My husband is an attorney and active in the New Haven County Bar Association, meaning he probably knows or is familiar with attorneys handling civil cases (we’ve been told there are no criminal cases pending.)

I know my fair share of lawyers and court officials from my days covering court too. I doubt anyone would want me on a jury anyway.

Everyone loosened up a bit after our half hour coffee break that’s now extended to 90 minutes. There’s free coffee and people are making nice in the break room.

People’s anxiety about getting here in time and sitting here all day has turned to resignation. It’s as if we’re all on a 9-hour trip to Italy and are settling in for a long flight. The woman in back of me is closing her eyes, and may be asleep. The guy a few rows in front of me has his Beats headphones on.

Four people, including a guy in a T-shirt with a huge beard, have commandeered a side table and are now yucking it up. I’m tempted to take the empty seat and see what all the laughing is about, but I think better of it and stay put. I like my end seat and the creaking noise it makes when I move.

The award for the most creative and forward thinking potential jurors goes to Luigi and his friend Jessica, two New Haven neighbors who realized they both had jury duty together last night.

Jessica, a medical receptionist, packed her mini Nintendo so she and Luigi could play Mario Cart in the break room. Luigi, who is manager of a downtown New Haven tequila bar, said if it wasn’t for the game, he’d probably be asleep in a chair.

But maybe Luigi was having too much fun. His name was called along with Daphne’s during the second wave of jurors to be called for voir dire, bringing an end to the hi jinx.

Luigi is hoping that having an uncle who’s a police officer will get him excused from service, but I’m not so sure.

He’s young, affable and knows how to make to best of a situation – something you want in a juror. In fact, I told him he’s probably going to get picked. Here’s a secret: I’ve always thought I’d make a great jury consultant.

As for me, I got sprung at 11:25 a.m. with about 25 other lucky souls, and rejoiced that I’ve done my duty and can’t be called for 3 years. Maybe the Curmudgeon will have better luck. He just found out he’s on for jury duty on June 21st.

My sticker. We had to turn them in before leaving.

21 thoughts on “Jury Duty

  1. That’s what happens when I skim something that deserves to be read fully, and do it on my phone while I’m at work. Sorry! Missed the references to Mark (which were quite nice). Great piece, Carolyn.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The system really needs to be improved. A diverse and engaged jury pool is so important, yet nothing is done to make service something many people want to do. Jurors must show up at 8 a.m., though court doesn’t start until 10. Prospective jurors are treated like kindergartners confined to a room, with no diversions, and no sense of whether service will be 4 hours, 8 hours or multiple days. There must be a better way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. About 15 years I hurt my tailbone while sledding. The three times I’ve been called for jury duty I move around in my seat about every five or ten minutes. Then I tell them I cant sit still because of my injury and that i think i would be a distraction because of having to move to get comfortable. Works every time! It is somewhat true. Those chairs sent comfy ar all

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Don’t know why I’ve never been called – I’ve been a registered voter everywhere I’ve lived. Just keeping one step ahead of the posse, I guess. I would have served if called, of course. I believe in our criminal justice system, despite what’s happening in Washington these days. Our Attorney General is a disgrace.
    Thoughtful post, at any rate. Maybe you could be the next Dr. Phil.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can relate! I appreciate our jury system too, but hate being called for jury duty. I never get dismissed early, I always sit there most of the day and then get called in to a courtroom for questioning. Usually, I don’t get picked for the panel, but have to come back the next day or two and wait again. Once I got picked as an alternate, but then the defendant decided to take a plea. But what really shook me up was when the judge told us we couldn’t take notes during the trial. Really? They want me to decide if someone is innocent or guilty and I can’t take notes during a trial that might last days? With my memory? No wonder I hate jury duty!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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