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domingo, diciembre 06, 2009

My Luck: The Jury Isn't Called

Earlier this year I received a notice that I would going to be called for jury duty. Columbia County wanted me to serve on a jury. Again. I wanted to serve, too. How else, I thought, will I ever find out what goes on behind the locked, guarded doors when a jury deliberates? Maybe, I thought, if I could be selected for a jury, I'd gain some insight that might help me when I talk to juries in behalf of my clients. I could be fair and impartial, I thought. As fair and impartial as anybody else. And yes, I'd leave my legal expertise at the courtroom door. I wanted to be on a jury.

Last time I was summoned, about 6 years ago, I wasn't selected to serve. I waited around for two days before being questioned. It was unbelievably boring. Incredibly mind numbing. I ran out of reading material after about 4 hours of sitting in the big courtroom. What a disaster. My ultimately being struck for cause by the prosecution resulted in the reversal of a murder conviction by the Appellate Division (pdf). It turns out I was improperly struck. This time I again wanted to serve. But let's face it: after the last time it was clear that almost anything could happen to mess up my chances for serving.

I got my dated juror summons about a month ago. I was to be juror 196 on December 7, 2009. It struck me that there was something odd about the date. I wasn't sure what it was at first. Then I figured it out.

Because of my part time Public Defender position, there was a felony DWI case I was supposed to try beginning on, wait for it, December 7, 2009. I realized last week that I had been summoned to serve on my own jury. How, I wanted to know, was I going to be able to voir dire myself, argue to myself. What rotten luck. I was going to be discharged. I had to be. It was obvious. I was disappointed. But there was still hope. Maybe somebody else would have a case to try on Monday, December 7, 2009, and if the stars aligned correctly I could be on that jury.

On Friday the stars did their part. My client received a favorable plea bargain. He pleaded guilty. There would be no trial in his case on Monday. So, amazingly, I was free to serve on somebody else's jury on December 7. I knew there weren't any other criminal cases set to be tried on that day, but maybe there was something else. A fender bender, or a breach of contract, or a medical malpractice case. Some kind of case, any kind of case, so I could be a juror and listen to testimony and deliberate. That's what I wanted.

The jury summons instructed me to call during the weekend and find out whether I was supposed to appear tomorrow. I crossed my fingers. I called. Bad news. I'm not supposed to show up. There are no trials. None at all. Nothing. And this is the worst part of it: I won't get another summons for another 6 years.

This is great news because I'll be free of sitting at the courthouse for a few days this week. But it's also terrible news because I cannot be re-called for jury duty for another six years and I'm not going to get a chance to be on a jury until that time expires. And, of course, there's no assurance that I'll be called again in 6 years.

I don't think I'm ever going to be on a jury.

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