Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Escape From Jury Duty
I knew I could do it. Just wish it hadn't taken two days spent mostly idle and uncomfortable, and that I'd left with the "better impression of the system" that the short orientation film had promised.

Instead, what I concluded--and this gibes with what Annie and others had told me to expect before I went in--is that the attorneys mostly want barely responsive drones for jurors. Far as I can recall, only three of us actually spoke beyond "yes" or "no" when the assistant DA and defense counsel asked us about various points of belief or potential bias... and we were all excused. An inclination to question or perhaps even to think things through beyond the very constrained narrative formed by the "facts of the case" probably just gums up the works.

For me in particular, what must have gotten me out was a statement that I believe drug possession should be decriminalized. Given that the charge was crack cocaine possession, it seems logical that the ADA (who said, "Thank you for your candor, Mr. Fischer" with only a hint of sarcasm) threw me aside.

The experience also brought home to me how well I've managed to isolate myself, in terms of the people with whom I interact. This probably was a good thing; I'm almost done "The Power Broker" (again, all that idle time in jury assembly rooms), and in addition to Robert Moses' core dickishness, it seems clear that his total, willful isolation from the public he ostensibly served and the realities under which it lived--fairly consequential things like traffic jams--was a big part of where he went wrong. Albeit in an infinitesimally smaller, vastly less important role and more narrowly focused policy, I can at least try to avoid that mistake.

1 comment:

The Navigator said...

It's not so much that they don't want any thinking at all - what they really don't want is an intelligent, verbal type with strong opinions who will take over the jury room and sway others jurors - the lawyers want to do all the swaying themselves. They know there are well-educated, well-spoken people in the jury pool who 1. think the War on Drugs is stupid and 2. are capable of giving a speech in the jury room that matches anything the ADA says on closing, and can do it when the ADA can't respond.