Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Objection Rejection

I have always prided myself for having never been in court. I've had my share of traffic violations and a few parking tickets, a few close call run-ins with the boys in blue, but managed to keep my nose clean for 54 years. When I did get ticketed, I always just paid my fine and never chose to fight it in traffic court. I've heard that they will reduce your fine and in some cases, even change the charge from speeding to something like failing to signal a turn if it means a slightly lower fine.

I always thought that was a bit of a mixed message. A court lying about a charge.

Recently I was asked to serve Jury duty for Federal Court in Milwaukee. This is only the second time I've been asked to serve. The first was years ago and I was an "alternate" who simply had to call in the day of the jury selection. I was not needed, so that was that.

This one required that I show up downtown at the Federal Courthouse at 8:15 on Monday morning. When I got there I was signed in and told to take a seat with the rest of the 26 potential jurors. We sat there watching CNN reading over the Juror's Handbook until a woman explained what we were to expect over the course of the selection process. One thing she made very clear was that we were not to turn our cell phones on when we were in the courtroom

The first thing they did was assign us all numbers, albeit randomly. Of course I was number one! I was doomed to serve, I thought to myself.

Next we were escorted into the courtroom and seated in the jury box. (There was some spillover into the gallery, as the jury box only held 12.)

Then the Judge introduced himself and explained what we'd experience if we were selected. He mentioned it was a police excessive force trial. He swore us all in and then started asking us all questions that might tip the attorneys off that we weren't a good match for the case. These questions were fascinating.


  1. Do you own more than one gun?
  2. Do you have any relatives that are law enforcement officers?
  3. Do you know any of these people? (name1, name2, name3 etc)

And so on...

I was fairly nervous during this questioning, for some reason - almost like I was on trial.

Anyways, he asked the question, have any of you been victim of a crime? Well, I have on a few occasions. All of them involve burglary, but the one I mentioned took place in 1991 when I lived in Milwaukee. I said the guy broke in while we were home, then fled and was never caught.

The rest of the potential jurors answered the questions as applicable. It's funny, but a couple of the people were wildly under dressed for a courtroom. In fact one had shorts, sneakers and a snot green shirt on that had a mummy movie logo on it as near as I could tell.

Like someone once said, if this is what people wear to a court appearance, I wonder what they wear casually. Frightening, actually.

After questioning, we were all to answer 8 questions on a board about our age, work, city, etc. Then the judge and attorneys went to the chambers to decide who the jury would be.

That is when Clueless Cathy, as I like to call her - the woman who definitely didn't want to be there - took out her cell phone and started taking pictures of the courtroom. When the mummy guy saw her doing it, he took out his flip phone - because what else would he carry? - and started snapping pictures too. The Court Officer told them to stop after he saw them, but not before they both had a shot or two. People are so stupid sometimes.

US Federal Courthouse (Milwaukee)
When they returned from the selection process, the Judge called out eight names (6 jurors and 2 alternates.) I was not one of them. I felt a little offended. I wondered what would exclude me from being chosen. I'm an honest, hardworking person.

I reasoned it had to be that I mentioned being a victim once. I think they must throw every juror out that is even remotely tainted by anything they didn't want to hear.

But frankly I wanted to see the process run its course. I was looking forward to the trial. I was intrigued.

The whole process gave me a new appreciation for our Justice system. I was schooled up on the makeup of the Federal District court system, the jury selection criteria and civil vs. criminal trial process. Heck it even made me wish I'd studied a little law in college. I have a few friends that are lawyers and it gave me a new appreciation for the work they put into their careers as well.

I am "on retainer" for the next 90 days and can be called up at any time for duty. So there's that.

The experience also made me realize I don't ever want to be on the other side of the jury box any time soon. No sir.

Blogging off...

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