Jury Duty

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Inglewood Courthouse, Inglewood, CA. March 2016

Jury Duty. That pale green summons that strikes fear and anguish into the heart of every citizen. In years past, you had to report on the Monday of your weekly commitment of service and wait for your name to be called. Or as many of us wish, to not be called. But you have to wait. And wait. In what is usually an institutionally bleak room along with scores of other prospective jurors.

In all the years I have been reporting, I have never been empaneled. I came close a few years ago. A group of us was called and I actually sat in the jury box during the “voir dure” where attorneys ask questions of the prospects to weed out anyone they deem might produce an unfavorable result for their client. I was to be juror #8. The D.A. read a summary of the charges as the defendant sat there stone-faced. The charges were horrific. Crimes against a 14-year-old girl I won’t detail here, but they were as bad as you might imagine, short of murder. We all looked at each other aghast. The unspoken agreement passed between all the jurors. Guilty or not, we were going to fry this guy. The questioning of the jurors proceeded until time for the daily recess. We all had to report back the next day. When we arrived in the morning, we were told there had been a delay. We sat around until late in the afternoon when a marshall came in and told us we were all excused, they had struck a plea bargain. What a relief.

Now, they have a system whereby you can register and take the orientation online and call in every evening for a week to see if your presence is required. Last year, I missed the final day’s call-in, and later received an imperious summons to report without fail the following week or face criminal charges. So I sat in the room pictured above with about a hundred or so people all staring at their phones. No one spoke with anyone else, no human interaction, just the soft tapping of fingers on screens.

Once you report and if you aren’t called, having sat there for a day, you are then excused; you have rendered your service, and are exempt from recall for another year. As I was this day.

I am expecting my next summons any day now.

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