Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Jury Duty – Reporting In

For those of you who waited to hear what happened…

I arrived at the courthouse early — about 7:45 a.m. — which was fifteen minutes before the time on the summons. The bailiff led me and the others into the Jury Assembly Room with about two hundred chairs like you’d see in an airport waiting lounge. There were TV monitors showing a video of the history of the courthouse itself. It was built in 1925 and is famous for, among other things, being the place where Al Capone was put on trial in the 1930’s. There’s also a flock of turkey vultures that roost on the pyramid-shaped cupola.

At 8:30 a staff member went through the instructions: we would be called by summons number when a judge requested a panel of jurors. Meanwhile, we were to sit and wait. We could not leave the area. We could make phone calls, but basically we were stuck there until called. At 9:30 the first three panels were called. They did several numbers around me, but skipped me. At 9:45 they put a movie on the monitors: Bruce Almighty starring Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman. They called another panel. Missed again. I read my book and occasionally nodded off. They interrupted the movie to call another panel. Missed me. When Bruce Almighty was over, they started another movie, and apparently someone on the jury pool staff has a sense of humor, because they chose The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks: the film about the guy trapped in the International Transit lounge at JFK.

At 11:30 they let us go to lunch, so after a stroll through downtown Miami looking at the shops and jewelry stores, I got something to eat and came back at 1:00 p.m. At 1:45 they called two more panels and BINGO! Finally!

My fellow jurors and I were led across the street to the new courthouse and up to the 20th floor where, after about fifteen minutes, we were led into a courtroom and went through the process of voire dire. It became clear that we were being looked at to sit on a civil case involving a physical therapy practice suing an auto insurance company over payment for services rendered for a client who had suffered back injuries. Through the questioning I learned a lot about my fellow jurors and also discovered that I knew one of my fellow jurors indirectly — she was the widow of a man I’d taught with. After nearly an hour of questioning from both sides, we were escorted out. Several of us took lighthearted bets as to who would be chosen and who would be excused: we were sure that the doctor who had recently been sued for malpractice by an insurance comapny and the woman who had been through PT for a back injury would be excused. After about a half hour we returned to the courtroom where the final six jurors were chosen. I was excused, and they took the doctor and the woman. Go figure.

Anyway, it was a rather interesting experience. The wheels of justice may grind slow and exceedingly dull, but it seems to be the way things should work. Just take along a good book.