Sunday, March 25, 2007

Jury duty

Wrote this for the Spandex Pub and Beefylist.

Jury Duty

And not just any kind of jury duty, GRAND jury duty.

Sweet, I'ma be pointin my finger at folks!

So just as I'm gettin into bed this morning a Sherrif's deputy comes a
knockin at my door.

"Robert Muñiz?"

Muñiz?

"Er, Robert James..Muñoz."

(Mexicans...anglos can't pronounce my name right AT ALL and fucking
mexicans ALWAYS confuse it with Muñiz. How the hell do you get an I
and an O confused? Muñoz...Muñiz...They're totally different!)

Yeah, that's me.

"I gotta a summons here for you."

A summons?

"Yeah, you've got a summons to appear for a Federal Grand Jury on
Wednesday morning."

Federal?

"Yes sir."

Wow.

*Hands me the papers, I peruse*

Wednesday?

"9 AM."

Is this like the Publisher's Clearing House where if I didn't answer
the door you'd go on to the next lucky guy?

"Nah, we'd try another ten times before we'd pick you up."

Oh.

"Yeah."

Uh, well, take care, Officer.






Okay, looking over it it said nothing about Federal anything on there
so I guess the guy was just confused but I do gotta go in Wednesday
morning. I told my boss and needless to say she wasn't happy. I was
served with jury duty once before back in...2001? I got out of it
then but I don't think I can this time. However they generally mail
these things out and the summons was issued on the 21st of February.
I think my notice was lost in the mail or something or they fucked up
and never sent it out. But I got it now! *Grumble*

This is gonna totally screw me up Wednesday night. I might have to
take it off. Chances are I'll be waiting at the courthouse until five
or six in the evening and I have no real axcuses to get out of it (but
I'm gonna take me some Ayn Rand so they know how I roll..."He's a
radical libertarian your Honor, we can't use him to
perse...prosecute!" :p). I'll not get any sleep. *Curses* It's not
even the jury itself that has me annoyed cause it's a grand jury and
if I am picked I'd only serve one day a month for six months. Six
days of service isn't so bad. Hell, it would be pretty interesting
really. But having one day, a day for which I had plans no less,
totally screwed up without even a guarentee of service is just so
stupid. Ah well. *Whine*

So...who's gonna make me an Inquisition outfit with the frilly red
cape? I wanna be dressed to accuse, dammit!


Aaaaaaannnnddddd the follow-up!

So I get there at a quarter past eight. I tell you, the construction in Brownsville is horrific! One more reason to hate that godforsaken hole.

Anywho, got there, waited, they let us in, told us to fill the two back rows. I'm pretty amazed at this point cause they're gonna pick 14 people, 12 jurors and two alternates and there's like...fucking...20. 22. Hardly any! I thought that if they were gonna demand qualified applicants then they would get somewhere in the range of 30 to 40. Guess not. It was more like they just got a bunch of people to show up just so they would have enough. Get the 14 they need, send the extras home. I guess the process is simpler for grand juries.

So they have us fill the back two rows of the court and then start calling names and having us fill the first two rows in the order we're called. SO they go down the list, some people aren't there initially but they show up eventually. So we're all seated in the order they want now and we're just waiting for the judge. Oh, I should mention the Deputy was very wrong. This wasn't a Federal jury, it was very much a regular state deal. We were being selected for the 103rd district court (the "one oh third" as they called it).

Anyway, Judge Leal comes on, tells us all she's happy that we could come in, blah blah blah. I was kinda bemused by the whole thing cause she treated as as if we were average volunteers and I'm thinking, "It's not like we have a choice!" Sherrif's deputy shows up at my door that sends a strong message of choicelessness and we're-gonna-haul-your-ass-in-if-you-don't-show-ness. But, well, that's just how it's done. I don't imagine they give it too much thought in the end.

So she swears us in, then swears the court's bailiffs in, and explains how this jury will only meet for four months instead of the usual six cause the last go at creating a jury somehow went bust. No one showed! So this jury would only meet on the third Wednesday of every month from now until June. Oh, okay, well that's not bad. Also the meetings only last for about five hours, from 9 AM until about 2 PM, or depending on how fast the jury works. And it seems to be very fast!

So then after the State's Attorney addresses some minor quibbles and questions from the applicants, myself included, and then basically saying the only way you can get out of this is if you're dead or in a coma, selection begins. Quite simple apparently, they grab the first fourteen on their little list they made. So they just start calling the first twelve people in the row, one by one. Initially I'm pretty overjoyed cause I'm not in that first twelve. But, then the girl next to me is number thirteen and I'm...damn. Lucky number fourteen, the second alternate.

So they got their grand jury and everyone else is dismissed. After that the judge swears us in as the grand jury for the 103rd Disctrict Court, appoints a foreman, and goes through her little thing on how the State's Attorneys will give us an orientation on what the jury will be doing, deciding which cases go to court or not, etc etc. The jury isn't to take this job lightly as the people it send to court will be majorly affected in some way. The jury handles felony cases and a few misdemeanor cases as required by law and reminds us of the penalties involved in each. A 1st degree felony is something like 99 years and...$10,000 dollar fine? Or was that 2nd degree? It really got my attention when she mentioned capital felonies and the potential sentence being either life or the death penalty. Yeah, definitaly a job to take seriously.

But then she mentions that alternates don't actually attend the proceedings unless needed when one of the jurors (or in my case, when two of the jurors) become unable to perform their duties. So being picked as the second alternate is like a half dodge. I gotta keep an eye out on the third Wednesday of April, May and June but otherwise I don't do anything. Sweet.

So the State's Attorney's take us into an office on the second floor, sit us down, fill out a form (the regulars got to choose what they wanted for lunch cause the first round was that day) and then ran us through what to expect (after a very brief history lesson...apparently the grand jury system was invented by William the Conqueror). They wanted to move through something like 70 to 100 cases a session. Damn! They talked about how they aren't gonna waste the jury's time with petty shit, how the stuff before the jury was worked on before it gets to that point, etc etc etc. It was interesting when they talked about how defendents deserved their day in court but so did the State as well. Huh? Now it's true that the State generally represents the victims who do deserve justice but it's weird saying how the State deserves its day in court cause the first thing that came to my mind was a giant, monolithic...thing! And that just trips me out. They did tell us they would ask us to vote down certain cases like officer involved shootings where the State feels it was justified. At that point it felt as if the grand jury was just a giant rubber stamp and then I started looking at the attorneys and the bailiffs. The attorneys both looked kinda smarmy (no point in fighting the lawyer stereotype guys?) and the bailiffs looked like they coulda been in the mafia! The State as La Cosa Nostra...heh. Well, that's all just shallow observation, but it was an interesting one. Any entity based exclusively on the use of force is gonna use forceful people, right?

So then it was a lot of procedural stuff, going over some of the same things the judge said, told us that we were required to keep all proceedings secret and...that was it! Told everyone to get a drink, hit the bathroom and released me and the other alternate. I was outta there by 10:30.

All in all, it was a very interesting experience. After being selected as the second alternate I was glad my time spent wasn't a waste. Glad I wasn't there all afternoon, too. That woulda sucked! I did learn some things though, so that really made it worth the time. I have been called for jury duty once before, but I got out cause I was a student. I didn't quite dodge this bullet, though I almost did! If it wasn't for one guy...ONE GUY...that didn't show up, I woulda been the fifteenth person in line. Sucks for him, cause now he's gonna get fined out the ass.

Got out, got in my truck, got the hell out of Brownsville. Thank God! I hate that city. Like leaving civilization and being stuck in the middle of a third world country it is. And the roads getting out were worse then the roads getting in! Stupid construction. Stupid city. ARGH!

But just so ya'll know that if ya'll end up in Cameron County in the next three months and get in trouble with the law, and I somehow end up working in the jury, ya'll know who to bribe.

3 Comments:

Blogger Juan said...

Robert, the best way to get out of jury duty is to kick a cop in the nuts. It sends a clear message to the State, without ambiguity, on just where exactly you stand. Ever since I beat up that cop, the State has steered clear of me. So I got probation. Big deal. A small price to pay to get out of jury duty for life.

3:53 AM  
Blogger Robert Muñoz said...

But...but...I wanna be able to decide a man's fate fron on high!

4:04 AM  
Blogger Juan said...

Damn it! I knew there was something the Republic of Texas wasn't telling me. Now I feel jipped.

4:06 AM  

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