Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jury Duty

September 16, 2010
10:19 a.m.
I'm at jury duty right now. I talked to a lot of people trying to find out what to expect and a lot of people know someone who did jury duty or were called and had a reason to get out of it, but very few people actually went. My goal here is to document what's happening to me without giving away any case details or anything so I avoid being thrown in the hoosegow.
About 7 or 8 weeks ago I got a letter in the mail saying I may be selected for jury duty, this was like a pre-letter and asked for just a few things like my name and occupation which I filled out and sent back to the Sheriff. Who knew Toronto had a Sheriff?
About a month after that I got a summons in the mail saying I had been selected for jury duty and I had to go to the courthouse today at 8:30 am.
I talked to my boss about it and she commented I would probably make google-y eyes at the accused which is entirely true, I very likely will. And at the lawyers, the judge, and any other man in a 100 foot radius.
I had this fear that I would wake up late this morning. My plan was to be here at 8:15 and I kept picturing what would happen if I was late. Would I get thrown out and have to go in to work? Would the judge yell at me? Would I have broken some law?
I worried all night about that, got little sleep, and woke up at 8:35, five minutes after I was supposed to be here, and proceeded to have a heart attack. I ran around getting dressed and realized I should have picked out an outfit the night before. What does one wear to jury duty. Not something too fancy or the Defense won't pick you. Not something too casual or the Crown won't pick you and the judge might yell at you. Ultimately I still don't want to do this but if you're up for something human nature dictates that you want to have a shot at getting picked. Who wants to be left off the team? It's like high school gym class all over again, and I was always picked last.
I raced out the door and saw it was pouring rain. Luckily I had just acquired a nifty Vancouver olympics umbrella so I grabbed that and was off.
I considered taking a taxi but I couldn't find one going the right direction and traffic was terrible so I knew it would still take a long time and I'm not getting paid to do this. You don't get paid until your 11th day of service, and then you get $40 per day, yahoo. I hope that's tax free.
I took the streetcar/subway combo and it took forever so I got here about 9:20, over 30 minutes to travel 1.9 km. Thank you TTC.
I saw people walking in and thought maybe there were other late people too and that I could blend right in but they had already checked in and had gone for coffee, d'oh. The woman did look at her watch but she still checked me in and told me to take a seat.
Oh yeah, I forgot, there's only one entrance to this building and every time you enter your bag must be scanned and you have to go through a metal detector.
So I sit down in a room with about 500 people and there's a man at the front of the room talking about procedure. I look around and see a shelf with games and magazines and a woman doing a puzzle. The man at the front mentions something about stepping out for five minutes and I may have missed something but it seems like we can go for smoke breaks at our own discretion. This is something I asked my friend from London, Ontario who had jury duty on Monday and he said it was like a job and they told you when you could take breaks. I can see people in Toronto being less respectful of the courtroom setting and just walking out whenever anyway, plus how do you keep track of 500 people so I'm glad this worked out this way. I have common sense and will go during a low point anyway.
The man at the front finished talking and everyone who couldn't serve was instructed to hold up their summons and a clerk would collect them and call the people by name. It turns out many people in here have been here since yesterday or even Monday so I guess I can consider myself lucky.
The people who had a reason they couldn't serve all lined up at the front of the room to wait to explain their reason to the judge so I took this opportunity to grab a coffee and a cigarette. There's a cafeteria in here and you're allowed to bring in food, someone else had told me you were not.
Out into the pouring rain, smoke, and then through the metal detectors and back.
Once the people at the front of the room finished, they let the people who had started yesterday or Monday check in which was another line, another wait. And thats where we are now, it just turned 11 am. My iPod is still on B.C. time for some reason. Will update later in the day.

11:28 a.m.
Still sitting here. Now the people who were excused have moved out into the hall and are being talked to. I still have not been asked to do anything, nor had the possibility of doing anything. I'm waiting to see what the next step is so I can go for another smoke.
A lot of people are reading books, I've seen about three women playing on Gameboys, a lot, in fact most, are just sitting and looking forward. Some people brought laptops, there is wifi but it costs money. There are stations for laptops if you brought one. I didn't, although I could have brought my iPod charger with me. Will do that tomorrow.
They just shut the doors, that can't be a good sign.....

3:31 p.m.
I'm back in the juror lounge.
I haven't been asked to keep anything confidential, no one has mentioned anything like that, so I assume I can go into general details.
My group of jurors was called around noon and we had to go up to the courtroom. At this point the judge and accused were there so to show respect for the court, no reading, no texting, no nothing. Sit there and look straight ahead. It felt like I was the accused.
They began with reading what the people were accused of and they got a chance to plead guilty or not. The accused were two people, an older white man and a late 40's brown woman. They were accused of conspiracy to commit murder and coercion to commit murder, both pled not guilty. From there the judge told the court the trial would take eight weeks and be over in the middle of November.
The judge then asked if there was anyone who couldn't be a juror for a few reasons, and after each reason a bunch of people went up and plead their case to the judge.
The reasons I remember were:
- can't speak English or not a Canadian citizen
- health or hearing
- financial difficulties (a LOT of people went up for this)
- anything else
All this took about 2 hours and when the people were giving their reasons to the judge they were trying to whisper and be discreet for the most part so I couldn't hear a thing. Still we couldn't read or do anything.
I had a smoke and came back in through security, then I called work, where I was told that I had too much work to be allowed on a murder trial, then my mom and when I finally found the cafeteria the line was so long I didn't have time to wait in it. I grabbed a muffin by the checkout and ran back to the courtroom.
Its a good thing I didn't get to eat as the next part was the nerve wracking part.
They put all the jurors into a container and pulled out names. It was like some lottery from Hell and every time they called a name everyone held their breath.
The first 20 were called, not me, and they went through each person with the lawyers getting a chance to oppose everyone. Out of the first 10 people maybe 2 got through and by the end of the 20 they had 6 jurors.
What surprised me most during this was how quickly it all seemed to happen. One second these people were sitting with us and the next second they were on a jury for two months.
Another 20 called and they had their jury and the rest of us were dismissed. Back down to the jury room for 30 pointless minutes and they let us go home at about 4 pm.
I'm due back tomorrow at 9:30 for another go.
Btw it took me an hour to get home from Dundas and University on the TTC. If it wasn't raining, that's less than a 30 minute walk. And when you do get on the driver spends the entire ride yelling at everyone to move back, even though it's full and you can't. I hate the TTC.

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