Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jury Duty @ the Compton Courthouse: Justice For Y'all

For the second time since turning eighteen I received a jury summons. Clearly I either need to stop voting or join in with the rest of you who just throw away the letter and move on.

The good news is that I received a full eight hours worth of pay from work and I didn't have to deal with anybody asking me the difference between LCD, LED, and Plasma. Add to this the fact that I again made it all the way to the jury panel only to be kicked off for answering questions as truthfully as possible. It seems as though everyone who answered the judge's question of "Have you, your family, or any close friends ever had any negative experiences with a police officer?" were rightfully removed from the jury even after answering "No." to the judge's follow up question of "Will that negative experience impact a judgment you'll have to make in this case?".

By the second day I was already in "Ah, fuck it. Why not?" mode and was beginning to look forward to getting paid to serve on a jury. I'd already invested so much time already and plus they were giving us 90 minute lunch breaks which allowed me ample time to walk to the Popeye's right across the street on Compton Blvd (I recommend the spicy chicken strips, biscuit, Cajun fries, and most importantly the freshly brewed sweet tea). Not to mention the Compton Superior Court House is also incredibly easy to maneuver around and the bathrooms and cafeteria were five-star. Signs of where to go are posted everywhere and the parking situation is a breeze. The place is dummy proof.

The most frustrating part of all this is that I prepared myself for the excitement of getting all judicial with it only to be excused for no legitimate reason that I can think of.

Really? You're going to keep me there for two days, select me to the jury panel, ensure that I can be unbiased and then release me? It's no wonder that it took two days for them to form what they call an acceptable jury panel. The questioning and re-questioning of your answers simply takes too much time and everybody has something to say. Truthfully, the odds of someone living in Los Angeles and not having a bad experience with a cop are relatively low. Almost as low as the chance that anyone reading this blog has ever seen 1995's Jury Duty. Even if you didn't make a big deal about the negative experience (traffic ticket, incidental macing, profiling, accidental beating, etc;) it seemed that you weren't fit to judge police officers who were going to testify against a defendant.

Despite that nonsense there were some great moments to be had.

The Compton Superior Court House pulls people from all over Los Angeles including the more densely pale areas of Downey, Norwalk, Torrance, Cerritos, Pico Rivera, and Gardena. While waiting in a crowded elevator with several other potential jurors an overweight black woman tries to enter from the second floor and as she squeezes her portly forearm in my back she yells "ARE THERE ANY BLACK PEOPLE IN THIS ELEVATOR?". Much to my amusement the shorter, fatter black lady that has her buttery elbow stuffed into my right side replies with "Oh Child- I'm here with you. You'll be alright!".

Then of course you have the guys parked outside of the courthouse on North Acacia Ave. that try to sell you bootlegs. No, Dominiq, I would not like to purchase True Grit from your unmarked black van.

Potential jurors provide a lot of entertainment especially when they share stories of no relevance to questions asked or do the opposite of what the judge instructs. For example, you're specifically ordered not to Google or search the internet for the defendant's name or case but on day two a lady explained that she could no longer be impartial because she read about the story in the Press Telegram. When asked "Have you ever been the victim of a crime?" some foreign kid spoke of the time where he wasn't sure if he just lost his wallet or if it was stolen from him. When asked "Do you have close friends or family in law enforcement?" a young woman explained that one of her friend's uncle's cousin's brother's aunt's grandfather was part of the parking lot attendant team at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. It never ends. In addition there will always be jurors who got confused and waited hours in the non-juror line and showed up late to the courtroom only to be stared at and mocked by the judge. That was the icing on the cake.

So, Judge John T. Doyle of Department F on the 10th floor, if you're reading this I have one thing to say: You owe me three days worth of Louisiana chicken strips and a gallon of sweet tea.

- Mike O.

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