Friday, January 9, 2015

My Day in Court

A few hours in court gave me some good writing material.

Since I’m anal and need to know details, I drove into Portland yesterday to make sure I knew where the courthouse was and where a parking garage was so that I wouldn’t have to deal with that uncertainty in the morning.

Once I parked, did my best not to slip and fall on the snow-covered brick sidewalks, and found the entrance to the courthouse, I had to go through security. And, of course, I set off the alarm. Those damn Alex and Ani bracelets.

Next I headed to the elevator. As luck would have it, I managed to get in with the craziest dude out of all 130 prospective jurors. Thankfully there were two other women in there because it would’ve been scary being trapped in there with him alone. He had long hair, was dressed in a long, black, billowy jacket, and well-worn boots. His gestures and comments were all bizarre. The other women and I didn’t know how to respond, so we all had that weird grin and an occasional forced, nervous laugh. His unusual behavior continued in the juror room (after he found the sixth seat in the sixth row--where he claimed he always had to sit) and in the courtrooms.

The juror assembly room was pretty uneventful other than having twice the amount of people than chairs. Thankfully I am a prompt person, so was there in time to get a seat.

Once we received some directions, we were ushered into a courtroom. While waiting for the judge to enter, we watched an informational video. This was an interesting set-up. We were a large group in a fairly large room. They had two small box television sets propped on tables that played VHS tapes. Maybe the courts could invest in a screen that people could actually see? Or update the VHS, which based on the styles worn, was a bit dated. It’s 2015 people.

Next I was seated near a woman who did a lot of fidgeting with her purse. At one point her Marlboros fell onto the floor. Then she kept reaching in for a snack. May I suggest that next time you choose a quieter snack than Sun Chips? I was having a hard time hearing the 80s fashioned man on that miniscule TV with the low volume over your freakishly loud bag.

Later they dismissed the even numbered jurors for the day. I was an odd numbered juror, so I got to stay and was moving to another courtroom where the actual selection would take place. Once we took our places as sardines on wooden benches, we waited for the judge to arrive. When a clerk entered and said, “Please rise!”, the guy next to me did not rise. When we were sworn in, he did not rise or put his right hand up. He was just not conforming to these unreasonable requests.

Then the woman in front of me was knitting most of the time. The paper with guidelines that we received specified no knitting needles in the courtroom. When we were in courtroom number one we were told no knitting needles in the courtroom. Yet this woman was knitting away. This was also the same woman who delayed the juror selection process from getting started. After all of our numbers were called for attendance, it was asked if there was anyone in the room who had not been called. She raised her hand. Turns out she didn’t write her juror number on her card that we had to turn in. It was a very simple card with very simple directions requesting very simple information. After much deliberation, she ended up having to complete a new card.

The part where we were asked questions that would potentially rule out people based on their connection with the people who are part of the trial or any topic related to it was interesting. I didn’t stand up for anything. Yet there were some people who stood up for so many topics. And some were really a bit of a stretch. For example, the judge says, “Is there anyone here who is a medical professional who is familiar with orthopedics or know anyone who is?” A man stands up. When questioned further, it turns out it was his uncle’s cousin’s roommate’s mother’s ex-boyfriend that he met once twenty years ago. This happened time and time again. Most agreed that this would not impact their ability to be an impartial juror. Some people stood up so much that we memorized their juror numbers and you’d hear an, “Are you serious?” groan from the crowd.

Along with the funny parts of the day, I did meet some nice people. At first I was seated next to a kind lady who was much like me in regard to her thought process. And we were both lefties. I was also near the woman whom we bought our house from back in 2000. Then I was seated with a man wearing a Steelers hat. That gave us something to talk about which led to further conversation. As I was leaving a woman said I looked familiar. It turns out she works at my kid’s school. When I went through security, the man who lives at the end of my street was one of the men doing it. I’ve lived on this street almost 15 years and we’ve never met, but I know him by face. Now I know where he works.

After the lengthy process, I was not selected to be on this particular trial, but I do have to return Monday to see if I get selected for another one. With a bit of relief, I put on my coat and headed to the parking garage. I knew I parked on level 3. Yet I just could not find my car. I walked around and soon I was on level 4, so I went back down and just could not see my vehicle. I don’t know how they create parking garages, but they’re screwy. Eventually I found it. That was the hardest part of my whole day. Walking aimlessly in a parking garage even though I knew what level I was on. Some days I scare myself. Do they really want me serving on a jury and making important decisions? They may want to reconsider.

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