|Jury duty, 2005|
I never before was summoned for jury duty. Before the 2000 presidential election, I had not voted since "McGovern" (1972). If I had taken seriously the prospect that casting a ballot against George W Bush in 2000 (which is the only reason I voted!) would lead to being summoned for jury duty down in lower Manhattan, I would not have voted in that election, either, because I knew when I voted that my vote wouldn't affect anything, whereas travelling an hour on the train and then having to take a subway, to get from Chappaqua to and from the 500 Pearl Street courthouse is a substantive anxiety-provoking personal impact.
Had the jury summons instead have been for White Plains, which is convenient for me to get to, I would have welcomed it (I had even, after I received a jury questionaire from the Manhattan court in 2004, voluntarily submitted an application to serve in White Plains, in hopes -- now proven false -- that a summons from there would "beat" one from "the city"). I still would not object to serving on a jury in White Plains even in addition to (not just in lieu of) this present summons. It's not jury duty that I have a problem with, but the hassle of getting to lower Manhattan and back [for any reason].
I fill out and return the summons I received in the mail Saturday (19 March). I also fill out a Leave of Absence Request Form for my employer:
Absence is allowed for employees fulfilling jury duty obligations. Prior to serving on Jury Duty, an employee must submit a Leave of Absence Request Form to his or her Human Resources Operations Manager including his or her manager's approval and a copy of the Jury Duty notice from the court.
Compensation for Jury Duty Leave
An employee retains full benefits and compensation during his or her absence. Upon return to work, the employee must forward to his or her Human Resources Operations Manager a Jury Duty voucher indicating the amount of pay the employee received. Such pay will be deducted from future pay checks. Jury Duty time must be noted on the employee's time card within the Time and Attendance System. The employee must return to work when jury duty is less than full time.
|In expectation that jury duty will likely make me miss several days of exercising, and my concern about consequent degradation of my physical fitness, I have started training to be at a high enough level of performance when jury duty starts that I won't "backslide" significantly below where I was when I got the jury summons. So, this day, I did a new personal best on the stepmill (25 minutes at 82 steps per minute, including a 5 minute "extra push" at 90 steps per minute). [Before receiving the jury summons, I had planned to "stay" for a while at my then currently attained level of exercising before trying to do more.]|
|Today, I bought a box (35 count)
of surgical masks
(aka OSHA N95 "respirators"),
in hopes wearing one on Metro North, and, a fortiori, on the New York subway, going to and from jury duty, will help
prevent me catching contagious disease -- possibly tuberculosis (TB), SARS?, H5N1?,
or even "just the flu" or "a cold" [but these last two can lead to "complications",
which, for me, have already several times included bronchitis, and asthma attacks where I felt I was suffocating!].|
My purchase required gumption (like buying condoms...), because, in the United States, unlike Japan, "people" are likely to "look at you" disapprovingly if you are wearing a surgical mask in public. It's more socially acceptable to spread your germs or to expose yourself to being infected by other persons' germs, than to use protection and promote personal and public health. Now I need to keep up my courage to actually wear the masks when I will be in those crowds [non-sexual promiscuity!] travelling to and from "Court". On the other hand, perhaps wearing a surgical mask will encourage "people" [along with their infectious microscopic fellow travellers...] to "keep away from me", which can only further help save me from being penalized for doing jury duty by getting sick.
|Printed out Metro North railroad timetables for going to Grand Central Station (GCT) in the morning and returning to Chappaqua in the evening. Asked a commuter at work about how one buys subway tokens these days. My bad knee is hurting as if in anticipation of the ca. 20 minute walk up and down the hill from my home to the Chappaqua train station, and wherever I'll have to go "in the City".|
|After exercising at 7AM, I called the court phone number to find out if I have to report on Monday (18 April). The recorded message said: all jurors must report 9AM Monday. So I have to go Monday....|
|I completed my 4 weeks fitness training this morning with a new personal best (26 minutes at 91 steps per minute, up from 25 at 82 a month ago), in preparation for the degradation of my physical condition I fear I will suffer if I have to miss exercise days. On my way home from the gym, I stopped at the Chappaqua Metro North train station, looked around, and bought a combination train ticket + subway "card" from a machine that takes credit cards.|
|At 9AM, I, along with a couple hundred
other persons, reported to the jury assembly room (Room 160, 500 Pearl St.). They showed an interesting film to orient us to
jury service, and, when the movie was over, we started waiting (most persons, including
myself, had brought something to read -- I managed to almost finish the Sunday New York Times
crossword puzzle before being dismissed Tuesday afternoon...).
Around 10:30AM, I was the last (or almost last...) person told to line up
in a queue of perhaps 100 (more?). We were led to another court building across the street.|
Some in the queue speculated we were just being led to a different jury assembly room; but it turned out we were all the "pool" for one narcotics/murder case, which we soon were to find out was expected to last 3 weeks. The courtroom was packed standing-room-only with us potential jurors. I found a place to sit, on a window sill, apart from and slightly above the "crowd", with a panoramic view of the courtroom: the judge's bench, lawyers' tables and jury box to my left, everybody else in the "pool" to my right, and what I presume was a Federal marshal's chair a couple feet in front of me. [Two scary-looking young men in black shirt and black tie but with no visible badge, occupied this chair intermittently. I watched one of them pick at an ingrown hair on the back of his neck, and also try unsuccessfully to rip out a tag in the neck of his shirt collar that was annoying him.] I was allowed to stay in my self-selected perch, even after space opened up on benches in the "pool" area.
Looking around, it struck me that surely there must be too many of us potential jurors (they only needed 12 jurors + 2 alternates). But, when 5PM approached, 12 jurors had still not been selected due to many asking for and receiving excuses (or perhaps being excused without requesting it due to information they provided which the judge deemed disqualifying...) and the lawyers exercising many "peremptory challenges" (removing jurors without having to show cause). With less than half of us left, it eventually began to seem the dwindling pool might not be big enough....
Throughout the late morning, and all afternoon, a court clerk would tell 2 or 3 of those seated in the jury box who had just been de-selected by the lawyers, to leave, and call up new persons from the pool to reoccupy the vacated seats. The judge would ask each newly seated potential juror if they had any information to tell in answer to questions on the juror questionnaire, including whether serving would be an "extreme hardship", whether you were able to speak and read English (one or two seemed not to, even though they did not say so), whether a close friend of relative had ever been convicted of a narcotics violation, whether you had ever been the victim of a crime, whether you personally knew any of the witnesses in the case, etc. The judge said each potential juror could come up to the bench to tell their information privately if they wanted to.
Most exercised this option: The potential juror would tell their information to the judge and lawyers huddled around the left corner of the bench, at the corner of the courtroom farthest away from both the jury box and the still crowded "pool". Then he or she would step back 10 or 15 paces and the lawyers and judge would talk for a couple minutes, and then the person would return to the judge and lawyers, occasionally to proceed to be seated in the jury box, but more often, to be excused and told to report back to the jury assembly room. When a person was seated in the jury box, the judge would ask them some "personal" questions, about occupation, where they lived, who else was in their family, and what was their main source of news (TV, 1010 WINS radio, Internet news feeds, the New York Times, the New York Daily News, PBS....). After all the newly seated jurors had given their brief personal information, there would be a longish pause at the end of which the lawyers submitted their next "round" of requests for dismissal to the court clerk. The clerk would then announce who was off the jury, and call replacements from those of us remaining in the "pool". Then the huddles at the bench, and less frequent answerings of the personal questions from the jury box, would begin again.... As time wore on, the judge had some newly selected jurors bypass taking a seat in the jury box, and proceed directly to the bench to tell what they wanted to say in private.
By 4:50PM, the lawyers had just completed the fourth of their 5 peremptory challenge rounds, and "people's attitudes" seemed starting to degrade [some prospective jurors from Putnam and Rockland Counties had much longer commutes home than the 1:45 I had ahead of me]. I remained among the 50 or so not yet selected from the "pool". The judge ordered all of us to return the next day (Tuesday, 19 April), at 10AM. And, yes, I did wear my surgical mask on the train and subway to try to prevent catching an infectious illness.
|By 11AM, the defense and prosecution lawyers had exhausted
their 5th -- their last -- round of peremptory challenges. Therefore, after several more prospective jurors
were excused, 12 jurors were finally seated [because the lawyers could
no longer arbitrarily remove any the judge, who showed great patience and apparent
leniency throughout, deemed fit to serve...]. The selection of alternates went
quickly, in part because 4 were processed while only two were needed, although, once again, several
were excused, and presumably the lawyers exercised their
challenges.... I was among the minority who were never called. The 12 jurors and 2 alternates were
sworn in, and then the rest of us were all sent
back the the jury assembly room in the original building, where we started waiting again.|
After an hour and a half lunch break, we returned at 2PM, and started waiting again. After a few minutes, a court clerk suddenly told us all -- including others that had not been part of "my" jury selection pool -- that we had done our service for our country, and we could all go home and would not have to return [at least not for 4 years...]. I had anticipated possibly hearing that I would have to call in each day during the coming week, and being assigned to the pool for another trial, and possibly being chosen for a different case that would last at least 3 weeks.... But, no, it was over.
At 2:15PM, I boarded an uptown 4 express subway to GCT and thence back to home, work, and the rest of my life. [I exercised Wednesday morning, 20 April, doing 26 minutes at 89 steps per minute on the stepmill.]
|There probably never was nor ever will be anything like this on TV (at least not on "Law and Order", or any other criminal/legal drama show -- I have no idea whether Court TV shows jury selections???|
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