Twelve Angry Men, One Much, MUCH Angrier Woman
My Dear Friend Lisa has been summoned to jury duty, out there in LA, and she's very funny about the things she'd like to tell the hapless court officers whose lot it is to voir dire her.
Here's some of her relevant blog entry:
A) Does necromancy, if I do it myself, count as discussing the case outside of court?
(If they say yes, then we learn that the court actually believes that spirits in the afterlife are real. And if they say no, then I wonder if there's a chance for an appeal. Either way, I think I'd be dismissed)
B) I'm psychic, so I know you think I'm crazy AND that I'm using this as an excuse to get off jury duty... And no, I won't show you my other tattoos. Use your imagination.
C) If the accused were innocent s/he wouldn't be sitting here.
D) My ex-father-in-law works in law enforcement, one of my best friends is an attorney, I'm dating a scientist, my roommate has a show on Court TV next season, and I am taking psychology classes. Basically, I'm a pain in the ass. Plus I would cry if things got into a heated discussion in the jury room.
E) Uh, do you really think your client wants to count me as a peer?
F) I hold the police to a higher standard than I would a "normal" person because they are trained to be better witnesses, and they have a career stake in convictions. Go team!
G) Do you reimburse for a dog sitter? And can I discuss the case with my dogs during commercial breaks while we watch America's Next Top Model?
H) Ignorance of the law is no excuse, unless you don't speak the language, but then again, many crimes don't need a shared language for there to be knowledge of wrongdoing.
I) All illegal drugs except cocaine, meth and PCP should be legalized, regulated and taxed.
J) Child molestation should be a mandatory minimum 10 yr no parole offense for first time offenders. After that it's life, no parole.
K) DNA is a brilliant forensic tool.
L) Willing sex-for-money exchanges by adults should not be a crime. But if someone's gonna get busted, bust the johns.
M) For the most part celebrities do get lighter sentences--or at least we hear about their light sentences, so there is that perception.
N) Friends were killed by drunk drivers. If you drive after even one drink, screw what the "legal limit" is--you should do time.
O) How often do we get pee breaks?
My first time for jury duty fell the week of Halloween, so I got to offer the following as a rescheduling excuse: "The holiest day of my religion falls during this jury duty; I need to reschedule." Oh, the jury lady didn't like that one little bit. Her bouffant quivered as she filled out the forms. But, federal law prohibited her from saying diddly.
My ex had an awesome excuse when he was working: "I am under contract to Walt Disney Studios and Buena Vista Films on a multimillion-dollar film. If you would care to discuss my doing jury duty with Jerry Bruckheimer..." Actually, that was my idea. He got off.
Me again. (But isn't she funny!!) When called for jury duty I go, kicking and screaming, after as many postponements as I can get, but if/when I get to voir dire I call up the writer card, which is generally trumps: "What do you do, Ms. Morrison?" "I'm a writer." "I see. What are you working on now?" "A POLICE PROCEDURAL." "Ah, thanks, you're free to go."
Failing that, I play the Jim card. Sometimes in public, sometimes in a sidebar with the judge and lawyers: "Yes, I'm afraid I have an abiding contempt for the American criminal justice system, ever since my late husband was railroaded by the corrupt preposterous Miami legal structure during a totally unjustified politically motivated trial for alleged indecent exposure and lewdness, which in my opinion materially contributed to his death and forced us to terminate a pregnancy. A trial presided over by a judge who was later had up on bribery and child molestation charges and run by a DA who couldn't produce a single witness not in his own employ and possessed not a single photograph of my husband performing the alleged offense. I fear I couldn't possibly be impartial."
After THAT rap, they can't get me out of there fast enough. Hey, I'm under oath, right? The truth is the boss of me, Your Honor.
Also: I can tell if someone's guilty or innocent just by looking at them. Yes! I can! Because I'm A WITCH!!
Also: I believe in capital punishment for litterers and people whose car alarms won't turn off.
But mostly they don't want me: I'm college-educated, well spoken, long-haired…I dress like a rich hippie when I show up in court, and if you don't think the judge and lawyers don't notice how you look and carry yourself, guess again--they're checking you out like a cat at a mousehole. So generally they'd rather not have someone who sweeps into the courtroom in thigh-high black leather boots, a floor-length mink coat, a big fringed bag and a leather and feather Cavalier hat…an outfit that doesn't exactly reek of convention. The mink could connote Republican, but the rest just screams liberal-Democrat troublemaker.
It's sexist, racist and surprising, really, the people who DO get approved: on one case I was in the pool for, they cut loose all the college grad, professional and medical or law background potential jurors, and were left with elderly black women. Who, when I eavesdropped on some of these ladies talking in the corridor outside the courtroom, already had the (black, young) defendant not only convicted but hanged, drawn and quartered. And they had as little respect for the defense as they did for the prosecution. Yowch. You'd think the lawyers would see this, but they're apparently blinded by smugness and classist attitudes.
So I've never been juried on an actual case: the closest I ever got was being questioned in a voir dire for a case where some stupid rich kid rode a neighbor's horse into barbed wire, fell off, lost some teeth and was suing the neighbor. My first question: "What happened to the horse?" You. Out. And I got the heave.
Actually, I did serve on a Manhattan grand jury in 2000, which means I'll be eligible for service again soon—you get eight years' grace from serving on any kind of jury. Grand juries aren't like civil or criminal ones. When you're called for the grand jury, they don't care how you feel about things: you're there only to rule on is there enough evidence for this case to go to trial, and you MUST serve, no ifs ands buts or postponements. So I served for a month on the afternoon homicide grand jury, and it was absolutely fascinating. Also horrible, as we had to look at gory crime scene pics and listen to weeping witnesses whose friends had been shot right in front of them.
I refused to vote on any drug cases, in protest of the draconian Rockefeller drug laws still on the books in NY State, and had to recuse myself on a case that had taken place in my home precinct and I recognized the detective (from when he came to our building to deal with a drug-dealing bordello in the basement apartment).
But we still had a 100% indictment rate, including a bias murder case that received media attention whilst we deliberated. "Hey, look, we made the papers!" We were very proud. Only we didn't get JFK Jr. as our ADA… so disappointing.
The big perk is that when you're on jury duty in Manhattan, you're right next to Chinatown. Nonstop Chinese food! I ate like a pig: dim sum, chow fun, congee, roast duck. AND took stuff home. And also it's only a few blocks from Little Italy: pasta, meatball sandwiches, fantastic pastries and gelati from Ferrara's on Mulberry Street. Made up for a lot.
I had this rant on file for a while, and since the newest Orenthal Simpson gobsmacker put me in a judicial frame of mind, I thought I'd post it, just so y'all have something to amuse you until I get out from under the book and geared up to blogging again…