Jury Duty

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I had jury duty last week. I had jury duty two weeks ago (It’s taking me forever to get this post out. Ack.) It was weird and kind of fun. I learned a lot about our justice system. It’s very laborious and monotonous and painstakingly thorough with just enough criminal craziness to make it interesting. However, I’m glad it’s over and I can get back to my regularly scheduled life. Phew!

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It was weird going to court every day like it was my job. I got dressed up (sort of, I put tights and shoes on instead of my usual leggings and slides). I had a regular 8 am commute in traffic (a ride from Payam because my car was in the shop).

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I packed a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches everyday for my hour lunch break. I sat by a fountain and listened to birds sing in the dilapidated civic plaza that was probably amazing back in the 70’s. It was very strange for this freelancer who hasn’t gone to “work” since 2003.  I think the hardest part was being stuck in a squeaky chair for hours with nothing to fidget with. I never realized how many “breaks” I take during my work day, and by breaks I mean, going to the bathroom a million times, stopping to wash the dishes and the whole kitchen between tasks, playing with my dogs, stepping out for a bit of gardening etc etc… I have a pretty flexible schedule usually and I guess I get up and down a lot more than jurors!

Thankfully the case was interesting. I learned a lot about credit card fraud. Did you know criminals steal cards and then re-write the strips on the back with different information? It’s a whole racket. Our guy was career burglar with bolt cutters and a change of clothes in his backpack and everything.

It was really sad. I felt terrible for the defendant’s pregnant girlfriend in the audience. It wasn’t an easy case. I was going to share the whole story here but it was a lot of typing and in the end I still don’t know that we ruled 100% correctly and I’m not sure I could handle anyone weighing in on what went down.

It was one of those decisions that could go either way, depending on how you define a certain word. We were not allowed a dictionary or any expert advice on the law outside of what the lawyers and judge provided us. This meant we were left to discern using only our common sense as a group. Common sense among twelve people can mean a lot of different things!  We haggled over it for hours. I thought it might even end up in a hung jury but in the end we were able to persuade the last straggler to one side and we all went home and got on with our lives.

I wonder how the defendant will go on with his life. We were not part of the punishment decisions. Will he rot in jail? Will he change his course? Will his girlfriend be okay? I have no idea. But I do know that we really tried to do the best we could for him.

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On one of the days we had a three-hour lunch break. The judge had a prior engagement that was really important so they scheduled court around him. This was great for me because I love exploring. I was left in downtown Santa Ana with no car so I walked all over. I visited the old courthouse. I had coffee at a quaint little coffee shop.

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I walked up and down the streets, ogling the piñata and fancy quinceanera dress stores while women in carts tried to sell me cut up pieces of melon and mango. It was pleasant.

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On the last day Payam and the girls came and picked me up and we decided to have dinner at a diner that I had seen on the commute. I mean, how could I not want to go to a restaurant that has a cute kawaii heart in it’s name? It actually turned out to be really good. The menu was extensive and since we were the only customers anywhere in sight at 5pm, we had great service. It was the cherry on top of my fun little excursion into a town I never go to. I should go back and finish exploring all the places I saw but I probably won’t. I tend to keep to my own neighborhood, sadly. So until next time Santa Ana!

7 Comments Jury Duty

  1. Sarah

    As a freelancer who wanders about the house as needed and who has a computer game running the whole time ready for a few minutes’ distraction here and there, I couldn’t imagine “ordinary” work life.

    Reply
  2. Nina

    Jury duty is an eye opener into how things work, isn’t it? I was called years ago to a first degree murder trial- and like you, I wondered about all the people affected by the crime, even the parents of the murderer. Even the ER people who cared for the victim had to be called into testify, taking time away from saving lives to be in the courtroom so still more people were impacted. It was so sad- justice is done, you hope you made the best decision as a jury.

    I haven’t talked to anyone who has served on a trial so I’m glad you posted this as it was interesting to read about the similarities.

    Reply
  3. Gingermog

    Hi, how did I miss this update I must not be checking FB much.

    I think you are wise not to go into details regarding the case. I am sure you were the most empathetic of jury members. I can understand your view point, when a thief who broke into my apartment was caught red handed with my stuff (and other peoples) the police were so jubiulous he was going down, as he’d been a prolific criminal, I could only think
    “what a waste to go to prison for a beat up laptop, old phone and camera”). The police told me to shed no pity for a career criminal, who chose to burgle rather than get a job. But, lilly livered, liberal me thought about what his life may have been like, to make such choices :(

    A few weeks later I got a nighttime visitor trying to break into my apartment with keys that had been stolen during the burglary. Presumably sold on to another criminal and told to visit approx time after insurance would have replaced previous stolen stuff. Whoever it was dropped them and ran off when I put the light on. He wasn’t to know they belonged to my brother in laws house.

    How are you these days, my love, after your Milan experience and the credit card/ online thief you experienced earlier this year? Sending love xxx

    Reply
    1. SAJ

      Hey, Lynne… Yeah, I haven’t been posting everything to facebook. I want to post more here but not shout about it on FB unless it’s something I really want to share. Of course I love sharing but it’s always felt a little weird shouting it on FB. Writing here is more for me. I keep hoping I’ll get my groove back if I don’t think about who’s reading so much.

      You are right about the Milan experience and the identity theft.. Yes, it has tainted everything for me but I also feel like it was such a pivotal growth point for me too. The world got a little bit scarier but I also realized I’m a little stronger than I thought. Thank you for the love. And sending it right back to you!! :)

      Reply
  4. melissa

    About 14 years ago, I was selected for a jury for the brutal beating and sexual assault of a woman who was 7 months pregnant.

    To me, the person was so very clearly guilty. (His DNA was on her. Her DNA was on him. A POLICE OFFICER CAME UPON THE SCENE RIGHT AS THE CRIME WAS FINISHED, CHASED HIM, NEVER LOST SIGHT OF HIM AND HANDCUFFED HIM AND HIS PANTS WERE STILL UNZIPPED.)

    I was stunned how they tried to blame this woman. (Why was she out so late? Oh? She was using the pay phone to call her older kids’ dad to watch them because they were sick and couldn’t go to school the next day while she worked? (clear implication that she was a bad person because there were multiple dads and a bad mother because she left her apartment to cross the street and make a call and irresponsible because she couldn’t pay for a phone and it had been shut off.)

    11 of us were so very clear on this person’s guilt. (It did not matter at all why the victim was out in my opinion. ) One woman “wasn’t sure” and “couldn’t stand in judgement.” It took her three days to be convinced.

    Afterward, the judge came in, told us the perpetrator had a super long record, prior history of committing this same crime, and that he was sure we had made the right call. I don’t think he needed to do that, but I’m glad he did for that lady’s peace.

    What I did not like was the jury was dismissed and the perpetrator’s family left at the same time and we all walked to the parking garage at the same time. That made me uncomfortable.

    Reply
    1. SAJ

      That is really uncomfortable! I didn’t see anyone when I left but I worried about what would happen if I ever crossed paths with the defendant. He made eye-contact with me often and it was uncomfortable, but maybe it’s supposed to be that way so we don’t lock up people lightly… I don’t know. It’s all difficult.

      Reply

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