Jury Duty

     I received a summon letter for jury duty. The night before, I phoned to check for instructions. When I got through, an automated voice ranted so many questions and instructions, which of course, quite odd to think that you are talking to a machine.The final words were: “You are on telephone stand-by. Please call again tomorrow at 11:45 A.M. for further instructions.” “What? Great!!!” I said to myself.

     I went to work the following day, and at about 20 minutes past eleven, I again contacted the telephone number listed in my summon letter. The automated instructions prompted me to report to the Hall of Justice building, in San Mateo County, a 30 minutes drive from my work. I have to be inside the building by 1:00 P.M. As soon as I got to the address, I could not even find a vacant free parking space. Darn! Now, I have to purchase a parking ticket; otherwise, I will have a parking violation.

     There was a long line by the entrance of the building. Perhaps, these people were also reporting for jury duty. Everybody had to go through security check: “Put all your belongings in the plastic container, including belts, cellphones, no sharp objects, etc.” the guards instructed us. I remembered going through the airport security, but here, the personnel were all law enforcement agents. Of course! this is the County Superior Court.

     After passing through the security check, I followed the hallway to the jury waiting room. Inside, about 200 people were already there. I wondered: “How many cases are there to be tried today? Wil all of us be called to actively sit on the juror’s chair? There must be lots of courtrooms upstairs.”

     The April heat outside was so intense, that the room felt so muggy, despite the air conditioning units in full blast. Our names were called and were given a tentative courtroom to report to, when the time comes. While waiting, everyone did his or her own thing: browsing the internet (there are computers in the room), a group talking about their dogs, another group shared work experiences, or talking about economic issues. Me? I was so bored…and feeling hungry. I was assigned as a stand-by juror for a felony case. I can’t help but wonder…how will we, as jurors come up with a verdict? What’s running in the minds of my fellow jurors? Is there a process that we have to follow to convict or acquit this person on trial? How long will this trial take? I have no idea…

     It was already 3:00 P.M. and most of us were already restless. Still waiting to be called. We were not allowed to leave the room, except when going to the restroom or to the restaurant adjacent to the waiting room, as anytime, our names may be called. It’s good I brought a book to keep me occupied. As the hours ticked away, all of us who were left in the waiting room were getting bored. Finally, at around 4:45 P.M., the presiding judge of our group came to see us. She was still young, or at least she looked young. She seem nice, contrary to my preconceived impression of a judge: a stern-looking person who wears a black robe and holding a gavel, sitting in the middle of a courtroom in an elevated podium. She was apologetic for the hours of waiting, and thanked us. She said that our group doesn’t need to go through with the trial, as the case was resolved.

     That’s it? After those long hours of waiting? Well, I told myself: at least I got the experience of the preliminaries of  jury selection. Until next year, again? Who knows, the next time, I might go through the whole nine yards.

-April 20, 2009-

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