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Friday, April 20, 2012

A Summons From the Courthouse...

Last month I received my very first jury summons ever. Yes, that loud groan you heard at the beginning of March, coming from the direction of North Carolina was me. It’s not that I don’t want to do my civic duty. In fact, when I was younger I always thought I would make the best juror. I’m honest. I’m fair. I’m open-minded. I'd be Henry Fonda from 12 Angry Men if the situation called for it, back during my idealistic youth. (Who am I kidding...? I'd still be Henry Fonda if the situation called for it. I'm just too moral to behave differently.)

But April was a bad month for me. I had the RT Convention in Chicago 10-15 April, and I had the Spring Fling Conference in Chicago 26-28 April. And my jury duty date was scheduled for April 19th. Right between the two conferences dates. What if I got selected for some big criminal trial and had to miss Spring Fling? I would be pretty far from happy, I can tell you that! But I would do my duty, just like Henry Fonda in that classic film.

After I groaned, I re-read the letter from my county, which stated that I needed to keep up with my summons and bring it to jury duty on the 19th. Great! Now I have to keep up with one measly piece of paper for more than 6 weeks? Really?!?! Me? That is a definite problem for someone who forgets their iPhone in post offices.

But what other choice did I have? I had to keep up with the summons, right? So I thought and thought about the best place to put it so I wouldn’t lose it and…. Yeah, that’s right, I completely forgot where I put the summons. I tore my house apart. Looked in every drawer. Lifted every couch and chair cushion in the house. And crawled under every bed, 'til I was covered in dust bunnies.

The blasted thing was nowhere!

So I called the county courthouse, fell on my sword, and apologized profusely for my ineptitude. Long story short - they sent me a new summons. When it arrived in the mail, I sat my teenage son down and said, “All right, I need you to help me. Where is the best place we can put this, and then when I can’t find it again, you’ll remember where it is?” He said, “Mom, I’d put it on the refrigerator, if I were you.”

The refrigerator!!

My mouth dropped open in surprise…

Yep, I’m pretty sure that’s where I put the first summons. I went straight to the kitchen, and sure enough… right there hanging on the door to the freezer was my original jury summons. I definitely had a Homer Simpson "D'oh!" moment. But at least I ended up with two summonses, which is always better than one - at least if you're me.

Anyway, I still had a couple of weeks to prepare for my date with the jury box. I made arrangements with my office to be gone for the day. I made arrangements with my ex-husband to drop my son off late. I put the courthouse address in my GPS so I wouldn't get lost. And then the night before I was to report for my civic duty, I called the phone number on the summons (yes, both of them) to double check that they actually needed me. And you know what...? After all that - they didn’t. I was free to go about my day on the 19th as though I'd never received that little piece of paper in the mail.

Despite all the preparing and organizing, despite all my thoughts of big criminal cases, and despite all of the insanity surrounding my lost summons, my job, my son - I didn’t get to play Henry Fonda after all. It was kind of a let down, honestly (after all the hoopla.) But at least my trip to Spring Fling will be unaffected. Thank heavens!

So tell me all your jury duty stories. Have you ever served on a jury? If so, were there any Henry Fonda moments in the jury room? Have you ever gotten out of jury duty? If so, do you have any advice for being dismissed? Just for fun... what is the craziest thing you could do, or thing you could say, to get dismissed without a backwards glance? (My co-worker suggested I tell them my opinion about local law enforcement... I - um - have issues with authority figures. But that's a blog post for another day.)

48 comments:

  1. Ava,

    I love this post! I've never served on jury duty and I get a summons about every 3 years. Either the first or second time I made it into the jury box for questioning to see if anyone wanted me. They didn't. I suspect nobody will ever want me since my husband is a now retired police officer and I am a paralegal. Really, I would impartial, but I can't help but think it is these professions that kept me from serving, but I could be wrong. On a side note, I was thrilled to see the reference to 12 Angry Men. This is one of my favorite shows and I get the chance to co-direct it this fall at one of our local theatres. If we were doing the 12 Angry Jurors version, I would have you audition so you could have your Henry Fonda moment :).

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    1. Amy ~ I can totally see why your profession and your husband's would keep you from being o a jury. A lot of people would think you lucked out! LOL

      I *could* audition for the Henry Fonda role, but I am the worst actor EVER! I wouldn't do that to an audience or the production. ;)

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  2. Reminded me of one of my (many) favorite episodes of The West Wing

    DONNA: I need you to give me some voir dire coaching.
    SAM: You want to be chosen for a jury?
    DONNA: I want to not be chosen for a jury.
    SAM: All right. Well, the lawyers are gonna ask you some general questions, and...
    DONNA: For instance?
    SAM: Do you know any reason why you can't render an impartial verdict?
    DONNA: I hate criminals.
    SAM: Do you have any prejudices or feelings that might influence the jury in rendering a verdict?
    DONNA: I hate criminals, and I'm assuming if you're in this courtroom, you did something wrong, so...
    SAM: Yeah. The judge is gonna throw you in jail.

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    1. Lorenda ~ Hilarious! I must have missed that episode. Very funny!! I'll have to look for it now. :)

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  3. I served on a jury once. It was . . . interesting. And short, thankfully. I had a great time indulging in rabid people watching and seeing how the other jurors responded to both lawyers' cases. Let's just say most of them weren't actually listening to the LAW of the case.

    I saw an episode of 30 Rock recently, on which Tina Fey reports in a Princess Leia outfit. She says something outrageous and the judge says "You look fine to me!"

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    1. OMG, Deb! Too funny!! One of the girls in the office told me she went in blue jean overalls, unbrushed hair, and no makeup.

      I guess I could have gone in my countess costume from our WHO WANTS TO BE A DUCHESS event. The judge/lawyers would think I was crazy as a loon. "It's Formal Thursday, right?"

      But I'm curious about your experience - what were the jurors listening to if not the LAW?

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    2. The case involved DUI and hit and run. The defendant was young. At least half the jurors felt sorry for the defendant, and were inclined to let him off, based on if they had a son that age, or they had once had a DUI, or everybody drinks too much sometime, or whatever. It was all emotion, like they were blind to the actual evidence.

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  4. Oh my gosh Ava I remember how you were talking about it in about February.

    Well, I have a jury summons experience, actually two. The first one came after I just came back to California. I mean come on. That year everyone I new seem to get summons. Even my husband, but the lucky bastard got out of it cause he's military. I was so mad at him. I digress, anyways, so I called the number on the paper. It told me to call back the next day. So, I had to do this for a couple of days. Really, come on can't I just get the simple yes or no answer instead of call back till we need you or don't. I finally get the summons to be at the courthouse at 8:00am. So, I had to get a hold of my mother so she could watch my daughter. I get to the courthouse late of course. Then I spent half the day sitting there to see if I get picked. To tell you the truth wasn't so bad, cause I knew someone and sat bad her the whole time. Actually it was a lot of fun. We act like some teenagers in a boring class trying not to get caught while talking. So, ever time a judge picked a new name, she go pick melody. I'm like no. Finally the jury was selected to go with possible being summons again in a year. I figure I had nothing to worry. I live in Cali whats the chances are to getting summons for a while.

    Ok, three years later (which would be this year) I get a summons. I figure I have plenty of time to defer, so I put te summons down near the computer. Well, our computer desk decided to have a little snack of my summons. I started freak out cause I knew the date was getting close and I didn't know my line number or anything. I was worry cause I needed that information to defer for 90 days. Which I should have done the very first moment and I knew I was moving so it really really matter. So, a week before my summons I finally find, so I tried to defer. But I was to late do that. Oh no! I was leaving for Montana the following week. Well, the court system has been update here, so that you can check your status online. So, everyday I check to see if I get picked. My held my breath. The words come up contact us tomorrow. I do this for week. The night before I leave I check one more time. I'm freaking out, what If it says I need to show up. I go online and my answer pops up "your service is not require at this time." I had to double check it to make sure I'm not reading it wrong. I do my little happy dance.

    So, those are two summons experience. Ava I'm so happy that you don't have to worry about getting summons and missing your spring fling.

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    1. Oh, Melody! You totally lucked out with that last summons! They'll let you defer here too, but I hadn't yet purchased my plane ticket for the Spring Fling conference before I received the summons (which is their requirement). So I was stuck.

      So glad they won't track you down for missing jury duty - that you are free!

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  5. Ava, You've just announced to the world you've a problem with police officers. Expect to be arrested soon. Bahaha! Ahem. That's so not fun. ;}
    I've never been summoned. When I was younger I thought it'd be pretty cool to serve on the jury. Now, being married to an officer, I'd most likely get the boot at first glance. :)

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    1. Andris ~ LOL! It wouldn't be the first time I've announced to the world my problem with police officers. As you know, I even dated one. What in the world was I thinking? ( Though I'm sure your husband is perfectly nice. ) ;)

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  6. I soooooooo want to serve on a jury someday. I've been summoned four times. Two of those times, I was a full-time college student and had to take the exemption. I was willing to miss one day's worth of classes, but if I got chosen to serve and had a case that went on longer than that...well, it wouldn't have been a good thing. So as much as it pained me to take that exemption, I did it.

    The other two times, I've reported and sat around waiting while they called off name after name after name. I spent easily half the day waiting for them to call my name. But then in the end, they called their last grouping of names and told the rest of us that we were free to go. Very frustrating, for someone who actually WANTS to serve on a jury.

    As for the best excuse to immediately get out of jury service, though, my friend takes the cake. Any time she's questioned, she reveals that she's a forensic scientist who was part of the team who sorted out the Branch Dividian mess in Waco back in the day. (And yes, she has some gruesome stories to tell from that, but that's beside the point.) As soon as she reveals that, they dismiss her. Granted, the only times that has come into play were in cases that would have quite a bit of scientific/medical/forensic evidence involved. Guess they didn't want anyone too knowledgeable on the jury.

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    1. Catherine ~ It does seem true that they don't want knowledgeable people, doesn't it? I'll never forget the West Memphis case with those three teenage boys. There was NO physical evidence and at that time the jury didn't understand DNA (that's how long ago it was, before CSI when everyone now thinks they're an expert.) The HBO documentary on the case was so very eye opening. It made me think if I was ever on trial for something, I'd want a judge deciding my fate (since I think they must have more than two brain cells to rub together) vs 12 people who didn't seem all that bright.

      Still - I'm sure just hearing "Branch Davidian" would send the lawyers running for the hills. ;)

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  7. I recieved a summons last year. We live in a small county in IL so they tell you on the paper that it is for 2 weeks. You have to call in the night before and see if your needed the next day, so the first week I had to go every day and the following week they didn't need us at all. They shuffle a stack of cards with your juror number on it and this is the order you go into the court room, I always ended up near the back of the line...so never got picked for a jury.
    The best thing was that on all of the cases I knew he DA, he is my son's basketball coach and then on 2 of the cases I knew the Defense attorney he was also my son's basketball coach when he was younger. So I probably wouldn't have got picked anyway. But I really wanted to be picked, I think it would be interesting...plus these were all small cases that only took one day.
    I saw on an earlier post where someone posted about what people wore, well I went out and bought two new outfits (I am a stay at home mom, so really don't have many dress clothes) so I had something nice looking...all the other people just wore regular everyday clothes, jeans, t-shirt, sweater, etc.

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    1. Rhi ~ What are the odds that both of your son's coaches were the DA and then the Defense Attorney? That's insane!

      In the very least, you had an excuse to go shopping and get new clothes!

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  8. I've been called a couple of times, though never served. My favorite was the one for February 25, 1983. I called in and told them I was pregnant, but of course over the phone they didn't believe me, so I drove over that morning and waddled in. She took one look at me and said in a stern voice - Don't you even sit down - go now! I took her at her word and waddled back out. Had my son on March 5. They could have at least let me use the bathroom....

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    1. Donna ~ That's a great story. But they sooo should have let you go to the bathroom! LOL!

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  9. Next time tell them you have a masters degree and they definitely won't call you in again. It's unfortunate but they like to pick uneducated females to serve on a jury

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    1. Do they take your word for it? (Not that I could bring myself to lie. Again - the moral thing I have.)

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  10. I hoped to get out of jury duty by virtue of being a minister. I was questioned by the prosecutor as to whether I would be able to "judge" someone since I was in a profession where we believed biblical admonishments not to judge others. I responded that Jesus said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, that religion and civic duty could both be a part of a life of faith.

    At that point, the judge called the prosecutor into his chambers. When he came out, he apologized to me for being so cavalier about my beliefs. Obviously the judge gave him a talking to. That was the moment I knew I was going to be serving on that jury. Sigh.

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    1. And how did it go, Julie? What kind of trial was it? How long did it last? Any Henry Fonda moments?

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    2. The guy was fleeing police after a robbery. One day. It was open and shut. We filed into the jury room, elected a foreman who said, "okay, how many think he is guilty?" Everyone raised their hands. Five minutes. It took five minutes. Then he said, "okay, now let's stay in here another half hour to make it look good."

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    3. Wow. So there were no 12AngryMen moments then. ;) 5 minutes is no time at all. It was just that obvious, huh? Did they defense have anything to say?

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  11. I never get jury summons. I move around too much. They can't find me...lol

    That and I'm sure my brother is a spy. I'm probably on some list somewhere. No jury duty. Candidate for witness protection program should he ever be discovered. (If I disappear one day, don't believe the news reports.) Generally unreliable.

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    1. You know, Mari, that's the interesting thing to me. I've been registered to vote since I was 18, and re-register whenever I move. I've been in my current house for 12 years and this is the first time I've ever been summoned. But what a bad month for it!

      If you disappear one day, I won't believe the news reports. LOL!

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  12. LOL on finding it on the fridge! That is totally me, Ava! I am sooo disorganized with my life that if I put something in a specific place just so that I don't lose it...I forget that I put it there. Ugh, I wish I could be as organized with my life as I am with my writing but I'm not. I have to work at it and work hard at it. Otherwise I forget everything. Speaking of which I just remembered I have to change my son's ortho appt. today! Thanks for reminding me.

    I've never served on a jury before. I'm not sure I want to either. I am registered to vote and I have been since I turned 18 and yet I've still never received a summons. I'll probably jinx myself by saying that but it's true. I only hope they dismiss me because while I think I would judge fairly, I simply don't want that responsibility. Call me selfish but who am I to judge anyone when I've made so many mistakes in my own life. It's just not something I think I could stomach and I would worry "what if I'm wrong?"

    I have to say though that was a LOL post. I needed a good chuckle today! Loved it!

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    1. Suzie you just so jinxed yourself. Watch you get one next month and you post it you get it.

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    2. NOOOO! *Runs away screaming* LOL Maybe if I hide they can't find me. Yeah, that's what I'll do lol.

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    3. Lol. They'll find you. Even under your secret rock.

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    4. Suzie ~ LOL! Funny - I never think "What if I'm wrong?"

      Good luck in avoiding that jinx! ;)

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    5. You can run and hide Suzie, but even your secret rock can't hide from jury duty. ; P

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  13. Ava, you are too funny! I've been to 2 courthouses for jury duty and never been selected. They usually don't pick nurses. We are too opinionated.

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    1. I had no idea nurses were known for their opinionated nature. I thought that was doctors. LOL!

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  14. I never get randomly picked for anything: jury duty, TSA patdowns, or to lead the chicken dance. ;)

    When Hot Builder and I were in college, he got selected for jury duty that lasted for EIGHTEEN MONTHS!!! It was a federal case.

    Great blog, Ava!!!

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    1. 18months!! OMG! What was the case? Can you tell us?

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    2. It had to do with drug trafficking. 0.o

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  15. I was picked for a jury in a civil case once. It took forever for the many lawyers to question and pick juriors. I couldn't understand why they picked who they did. Some time after this, I happened to be at party talking to a prosecuting attorney who was a bit in his cups. I asked him how he picked jurors and he replied, "I myself look for the dumpest people I can find."
    So don't feel slighted if you get turned down for jury duty.
    Sarah Winn

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    1. Sarah! My mouth just fell open. I cannot believe he said that!! Why would they *want* dumb people?

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    2. They want people who are easy to manipulate. Lawyers are supposed to get you to believe their "facts" and disbelieve that of the opposite side. They don't want people who can think for themselves.

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    3. Well, darn! I don't think I'll ever be selected then. ;)

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  16. Oh, I just remembered that while I was student teaching, the teacher that was in charge of me told me a story about how she got out of jury duty.

    She was in there and the plaintiff came in. She immediately stood up and said He's guilty, take me off of the jury. The judge was really upset with her and wanted to know how she knew this.

    Her reply: I taught him in 1st grade. hee!

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    1. LMAO! He must have been a really bad 1st grader!! :)

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  17. I have been summoned twice. The first time I got out of it because I said I was a college student with no means of transportation...both true. The second time I said I just didn't want to go, and unfortunately, they didn't like that excuse as much.

    So I sat in a sealed, no windows-office in the court house for 6 hours, only to be walked in, and then promptly out, of a court room. They instantly knew they didn't want me...I must project some type of "trust me, you don't want me on your jury" vibe. They didn't even ask me one question. I was simply excused!

    Of course, good for me since I got the rest of the afternoon to myself and my company paid me my regular earnings...jury duty pay, who knew! Of course, I had to send them my reimbursement from the court for my time spent there...a whopping $9!

    My favorite jury related book...Run Away Jury...but unfortunately it ruined the movie for me, or rather the other way around. The movie changed the entire premise of the book, then why name it after the book at all???!!! I must have surpressed that horror when I was enticed to read the Twilight series and ruined that saga for me too...

    The jury is still out on who to blame for that crime!

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    1. I can't believe they didn't like the "I just don't want to go" excuse! LOL!! I read the book Run Away Jury, but never saw the movie. I'm guessing you don't recommend that I do that...

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  18. Funny story about your jury duty or should I say, lack thereof! I thought I was going to have to be on a jury one time, too. I made it all the way to the point where they interview you. It was very scary for me being up there in front of the judge and answering the lawyers's questions. I was using my deep breaths and controlled breathing to calm myself. As it continued, I started feeling good and thought I could do it and even might enjoy the process but then something that I said must have been "wrong" because after the interview they said that I was dismissed. Like you, I was kinda relieved but also let down. I had worked myself all up for nothing! Next time, I'm going to be cool as a cucumber!! : )

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    1. LOL. I wish I knew what you said that was "wrong". But I can see how it could be nerve wracking, answering the questions. I got flustered on a conference call today - and I know all those people. ;)

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  19. Your post couldn't be more timely Ava, as I did my jury duty service today! It ended up only being a half day as things were slow and court got done by lunchtime. No one got summoned and no juries were paneled. So basically, I sat in a room all morning reading and got paid for it. ;)

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    1. Lisa ~ now getting paid to read... THAT I could do. Did you have a good book with you?

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