This week, I was called in to do my civic duty. It was quite possibly the most entertaining day of my entire summer; I don’t think I’ve been so highly amused by people’s antics in a while. Some musings from the last two days:
I was sitting in the cafeteria during the lunch break of jury duty, and a bunch of old folks behind me were measuring their worth in the number of Facebook birthday posts they had received. At first, you’d be like “how sad, look at us now in the 21st Century,” but really, haven’t we always measured worth by how much we are reflected back by other people?
I was selected to be in a random pool 0f 100 potential jurors — the case that we had been assigned to was one where the defendant had been accused of attempted murder by firearm. Those who were called up to “The Box” to be questioned and interviewed by the judge and the lawyers were asked to introduce themselves. One of the questions they had to answer was, “Have you or any of your friends or family ever been a victim, witness, or accused of the same crime?” Within the first group of 21, six of the potential jurors answered yes to this question. Within the next ten, another two answered yes. Each person who answered yes was asked to elaborate on the incident — there were brothers accused and put on trial, friends murdered, family members held hostage. It’s mind blowing that within a random sample of Americans, even within the manicured suburbs of Southern California, there exists such a history of pain and violence for so many. Treat others well, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because each stranger is a collective sum of experiences you’ll never know or fully understand. And when others are rude or unpleasant towards you, don’t take it personally. You have no idea what history of pain and violence rests behind an individual.
Juror #1: “I no understand English. English no good.”
Juror #2: “Me too. I no following. Everything is confusing.”
Judge: “What do you do for a living?”
Juror #1: “I’m a contractor.”
Judge: “Okay, well do you write your contracts in English?”
Juror #1: “Yes.”
Judge: “Do you speak to your customers in English?”
Juror #1: “Yes.”
Judge: “Then you can stay. And what do you do, ma’am?”
Juror #2: “I am a secretary. I speak Vietnamese.”
Judge: “I understand. What language does your boss speak to you in?”
Juror #2: “He’s Chinese.”
Judge: “Okay, but what language does he speak to you in? What language do you do business in?”
Juror #2: “English.”
Judge: “In that case, you can stay too.”
Do not try to pull bullshit on judges. They have been practicing for far too long to take your crap and will call you out every single time. It’s the best.
As much as our justice system is flawed, the jury system renews my faith in American justice. Average folks like you and me fundamentally want to do good. For the most part, folks just want to go home early. People aren’t bad, they’re just basic.
Advice to those looking to get out of jury duty: Don’t (unless you really, really have financial concerns or a prepaid vacation or a scheduled surgery). Be a fucking citizen. It’s not that hard.