Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Monday, July 16, 2007
Jury Duty
Well, THAT was fun!! It was more like Sauna Duty. I bet I lost 5 pounds today just sitting around.

Will someone please tell me why in the year 2007, it is not possible to have central air conditioning in a 100+ year old courthouse? The courtrooms and offices are air conditioned with window units. The jurors staging area and hallways? NOT. Just some ceiling fans and a couple large portable stand fans.

I am going to request that my summons be for the months of October - April from now on.

So...from 8:15 - 4:05 I sat in the increasing swelter with 600+ other people, and had a one hour break for lunch, where I made a dash for the nearest air conditioned cafe and had as much ice tea as my bladder could handle. It was SO uncomfortable in that building! By 2:00 PM, I was praying for them to call my number, just so I could sit in an air conditioned courtroom, but my number was on the high end, and we weren't called till the end of the day. I can't imagine how bad it was last week in the heat wave - although it got up to 92 today.

I was beginning to really worry about the older gentleman sitting near me. His face was beet red, his shirt was soaked through, and he was sucking on his asthma inhaler every 5 minutes. I wonder how the other older folks managed, cause I was feeling it.

When I FINALLY got called to sit in a courtroom at 4:05, we were there for less than 5 minutes, before the punk defendant looked nervously around the room, whispered to his lawyers, and we were given a five minute recess - to traipse back out into the sweltering hallway, while the judge and lawyers conferred.

I was really afraid we would be seated as jurors by 5:00, only to be called back to hear the case the following day.

When we came back, they announced that the case was resolved. Seemed that the 19 year old punk, up on drug possession charges, was facing 4 years in prison if found guilty, and when he saw the room full of jurors, and realized that he'd have to prove himself not guilty beyond reasonable doubt, with a history of previous drug related charges, he decided it was in his best interest to plea bargain, and so he pleaded guilty, upon which, the sentence was reduced to time already served (they didn't say how long that had been).

The Judge let us go at 4:30.

I did manage to make a big dent in a wonderful book I picked up over the weekend, and if you like travel writing and narrative non fiction - this is a winner. "Oracle Bones" by Peter Hessler. A wonderful documentation of his time in Beijing from 1999-2004, with tons of great anecdotes and historical perspective. It's a perfect primer for my trip to China in Sept.

Jury Duty is a lot like making a film. Sit around and wait, and the action is over in a few minutes, before the process starts all over again. I think working as a clerk in that hot room, handing out $15 a day to people, day after day, has to be one of the worst jobs there is.
posted by Broadsheet @ 5:23 PM  
7 Editorial Opinions:
  • At July 16, 2007, Anonymous DUDACKATTACK!!! said…

    Were you at Mitchell Courthouse on Calvert? If so, a big reason for the lack of AC is the place is always packed, 5 days a week and cannot withstand the interruption of having a central AC installed. It sucks but so goes the reality of the extremely overburdened Baltimore court system.
    Then again thats what happens when the justice system wastes its time (and juror time)prosecutitng possession offenses. A whole jury needed for one drug possession offender? Thats a priority?

  • At July 16, 2007, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    This was my fifth jury duty in as many years. I've had to sit on a murder trial, a car theft, and an assault case. With over 300 murders a year in our fair city, it's a wonder they have time to chase punks for drug posession. And a note to defendants: If you want to prove your innocence, how about starting with some respect for the court and public opinion? Lose the dreadlocks (or at least clean them up - I like well done dreads), gang tats, big baggy white T-shirts and jeans that hang around your knees.

  • At July 16, 2007, Anonymous anger hangover said…

    My one question is how are you going to spend that $15? Don't go crazy now.

  • At July 16, 2007, Blogger Broadsheet said…


    Jury duty + $15
    Parking - $10
    Lunch - $8
    Balance at the end of the day? -$3

    Doing your civic duty? Priceless.

    (I should have had your post on how not to be a drug dealer and handed it out to the defendant - he met every one of your criteria).

  • At July 16, 2007, Anonymous anger hangover said…

    I'm telling today just don't get it.

    -$3 = A beer you could've had somewhere.

  • At July 17, 2007, Blogger Summer said…

    Glad I served in April! Hope that trend continues. The best part of jury duty for me was the 50% discount at the Afghan Kabob House. I think I'd go back just for that... well, and that it's the law.

  • At July 19, 2007, Blogger Catherinette Singleton said…

    I bet if you had passed out they would have excused you.

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