Friday, February 12, 2010
I've always wanted to serve on a jury. There's just something about being a part of our justice system and seeing how it works that has always fascinated me. Unfortunately the first time I received a summons for jury duty was about three and a half years ago, right after I moved back into my house after the accident. I was in no condition to serve at that time, so I marked the little box on the summons to indicate that I had a physical disability that would prevent me from serving on a jury and sent it back to the jury pool coordinator. I received my second summons this past December.
I wavered back and forth over whether I should use my disability to get out of serving again, but ultimately decided that I could handle it. Now, I want to take a moment to describe what the Summons for Jury Service (in Marion County, Indiana)looks like, just for those of you who have never received one. What you get is something that's post card sized and it has several questions on the front. Next to each question is a box for "yes" and a box for "no" to answer the question. One of the two answer boxes is in black ink and the other is in red ink. If your answer is a red box then you are not eligible for jury service, in which case you send the card back to the jury pool coordinator showing your lack of eligibility. If you don't mark any red boxes then (in Marion County, Indiana) you are ordered to appear as a prospective juror during a particular week. (My week was the week starting January 11th.)
The first question on the summons is "Are you a citizen of the United States?" The "yes" box is black and the "no" box is red. The next question is the same as the first, only in spanish. The next two questions are "Are you 18 years of age or older?" and "Are you a resident of Marion County?" Again, the "yes" box is in black ink and the "no" box is in red. (Neither of these questions are repeated in spanish, which made me question why the citizenship question was in both english and spanish.) The next question is "Do you read, write, speak, and understand the english language?" Again, the "yes" box is in black ink and the "no" box is in red. This question was then listed again in spanish. Now, if you have to be able to read, write, speak, and understand the english language in order to serve on a jury I completely understand why that question would be translated into spanish, but why not other languages as well, and why wouldn't that be the first question on the form? I only mention this because it made me scratch my head and I found it kind of funny.
For the last three questions on the summons the "yes" answer box is red and the "no" box is black. The first is "Do you have a physical or mental disability that would interfere with or prevent jury service?" The second question is "Are you under a guardianship due to mental incapacity?" The third question, which made me laugh out loud, is "Are you presently incarcerated due to a felony conviction?" Are we really sending jury summons to people who are in prison?! If the summons goes to an inmates home (non-prison) address does that mean that the inmate no has to pay a fine, or serve another sentence, for failure to answer a summons for jury duty?!
Because I didn't mark any of the red boxes I had to call the Jury Pool Coordinator's office at the City County building every night for a week to find out if I would have to report for jury selection. Each night I called and each night I was told that I didn't need to come in, until the last possible night, when my Juror group was finally called. I was excited, but I was also a little annoyed because the day they decided to call me in also happened to be the one night that I actually had plans that week. A good friend from my college days was in town for a conference and staying at my place that night. But I figured that my chances of actually getting picked were slim to none. Not sure why I thought that, because I was absolutely wrong!
I spent the morning waiting in the public assembly room at the City County building waiting for the jury selection process to start. At about 11:30 they finally called my group and, sure enough, I was among the first prospective jurors chosen to serve. They released us for lunch at about noon and, as I was walking out of the building to go find food, my left leg decided to come off! I hobbled back into the City County building and got a deputy's attention. I wish I could have taken a picture of his face when I told him that my leg was coming off and that I couldn't get it to reattach! I have to admit that they reacted very well. A deputy found a wheelchair for me and a bailiff ran out to get me some lunch before the trial began.
I don't think that I can discuss the details of the trial, other than to say that it was a criminal trial and very interesting. I was lucky that it was a one day trial, but unfortunately it lasted until about 9:00pm, so I had to cancel my plans with my friend and only got to spend about an hour with him before he had to go to bed. (He had an early conference the next morning.) I do want to point out that everyone involved with either Jury Coordination or the trial kept acknowledging how much of an inconvenience it was to us to serve on the jury, but from my perspective the real inconvenience was not being able to make any plans that week!
I went to my prosthetists office the next day and he was able to fix the problem with my left leg pretty quick. There was an issue with the valve on the socket, so it wouldn't maintain any suction on my residual limb. Everything is working fine now. My friend wound up staying in town one more night. His family came up to join him so they went to a hotel, but I still got to spend some time catching up with him after all! Everything worked out fine in the end, and I finally got to take part in our justice system.