An inside look at my day in court.
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.