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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Juror or criminal? A little of each but in the end neither

Twenty years ago I would have taken great pride to do my civic duty. But back then it never happened. Now? Sadly, I've succumbed to the dread most people express when you say the words "Jury Duty" aloud. But, my lack of enthusiasm to serve didn't stop me from going downtown on my assigned day to see if I'd be selected. Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm was because I had to be there at 8:30 AM.

Shockingly, by the end of the morning I almost became a criminal instead of helping to solve crime. Weird.

After receiving my summons a month earlier I'd been worried that with my luck I'd be chosen to serve on a criminal case, probably high profile, and would end up being sequestered for 3-4 months. I bet a lot of people worry about that.

They give you a free parking permit to put in your windshield when you go report to see if you'll be selected. So that was something to be happy about.

If you get called in for jury duty in San Jose the first thing you have to do is find the parking lot across the street from the Santa Clara Superior Court building. The address reads 191 N. 1st Street but the parking lot is to the north side of the building on W. St. James Street. Look for the driveway with the blue sign that says. . .

Court Employee/Juror Permit Parking Only. This is where your free parking permit is good for.

I noticed that everyone was jaywalking across the street to get to and from the court building. Seriously, if they gave out jaywalking tickets here I suspect they could make a fortune every day. Because it's a one way street and everyone else was doing it, I jaywalked too. That may have been the beginning of the slippery slope of law breaking I slid down that morning.

This is the Superior Court building located at 191 N. 1st Street, San Jose, CA.

After passing through the metal detectors and having my purse searched I went to the Jury Commissioner's Office.

Illustrated Recreation

I figured since I hadn't noticed any signs that said no photography since entering the building, and there were no people in the picture, it would be ok so I took a picture. A friend later pointed out that taking pictures in the building may have been illegal. What? My second offense in one day? I wasn't hiding that I was using my phone to snap a shot and nobody said not to. But then I came home, looked on Google, and found this:

"It is a criminal offence (contempt) to take a photograph in any court of any person, being a judge of the court or a juror or a witness in or a party to any proceedings before the court, whether civil or criminal, or to publish such a photograph. This includes photographs taken in a court building, or the precincts of the court. Taking a photograph in a court can be seen as a serious offence, leading to a prison sentence."

I wasn't sure if this means any photo or just photos of people. Or if it meant a court room or the court building. Not that I took any of people but to be on the safe side I created illustrations to show you what some of the things inside the building looked like.

I received a panel certificate in case I needed to be reimbursed day pay and mileage if I was selected to serve on a jury.

I tweeted a bit in a purgatory-like room where you wait for your panel to be called in to be interviewed. Friends offered helpful suggestions like "say I use meth" or "I'm a blogger" as apparently meth using bloggers are less than ideal jury candidates.

My plan was to proudly exclaim that having watched every episode of Law & Order and SVU  at least 3-4 times each I was more than qualified and knew exactly how to be a great juror!

As I waited I read several more chapters of The Bloggess' book Let's Pretend This Never Happened. I'm enjoying it thoroughly. An occasional giggle would escape my lips every now and then because I can't read Jenny Lawson and not LOL.

Finally an announcement came over the loud speaker calling Panel #21 to go into a different room. We were told to stay put.

I was hungry so I broke out the pop-tart-like breakfast I'd thrown in my purse. After I ate it I wished I'd brought some water because I was parched but didn't want to go wandering around looking for something to drink.

Finally we were called back to the Jury Commissioner's Office. They took a roll call and announced that our services were not going to be needed. We were excused to go and didn't need to call in or come back the rest of the week. There was an audible sigh of relief save for the one person who said "Darn" out loud.

Illustrated Recreation

As we exited the office we passed a sign of gratitude in the hallway. It looked like this.

Illustrated Recreation

As I left I felt like I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And my morning of jaywalking and possibly being an inadvertent, illegal photographer was over.

I called Armando from the lobby to see if he wanted to meet me for lunch. "You mean breakfast?" he asked. That's when I realized it was only 10:20 AM! It felt like I'd been there for hours. I almost had but it was still morning because I'd arrived so early.

As I walked back to my car I wondered if there was a secondary market on Craigslist for my week-long parking pass since it was still good for three more days. I figured there was but then wondered why was I concocting what I was sure was an illegal scheme as I walked through the court parking lot? What was up with that? By the time I got to my car I decided it was a terribly inappropriate time to begin a career as a criminal, and that was before I noticed that my name and home address were printed on the back of the pass. LOL

Maybe I'll be chosen the next time I'm called. I really need to put all of those episodes of Law & Order to use use in some kind of meaningful way.

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