Thursday, August 07, 2008

law and order: part 1

A few weeks ago, I received my first jury summons. At first, I groaned and thought "this is going to be a colossal waste of my time". However, my dear husband reminded me that it is my civic duty and I shouldn't be complaining about serving our justice system. "And besides," he said, "I think you'll find the process really interesting."

Well after yesterday, I have to say that I agree with David. For six hours, I got a glimpse into the jury selection process and had my own little taste of being in the ensemble of a courtroom drama.

(cut to the Law and Order intro):

"In the Criminal Justice System, all defendants are innocent until proven guilty, either by confession, plea bargain, or trial by jury. This is one of those trials."

So I was assigned to report to the Woodland Courthouse at 9 am yesterday. Walking up to the courthouse, I had a subtle case of deja vu of being in Washington DC and walking up the steps of the Supreme Court. I arrived a few minutes late (as normal) and was shuffled into the jury assembly room with about 60 other people. What really struck me was the variety in the room--everyone from grandmothers to businessmen in suits to one random guy who came in pajama pants and a fleece robe----seriously. The assembly room gave me the feeling of an airport waiting area....everyone was either reading magazines/books or listening to their iPODS and was anxious to go somewhere. I brought the new book I'm reading "Girls Meets God", and settled into my chair for a little while. After waiting for an hour, we were taken down to the courtroom. The judge was completely the opposite of how I pictured: instead of an intimidating authority figure, he was a jovial fellow and seemed keen on trying to make all of us laugh with his corny jokes ("does anyone feel like they've won the lottery yet?"). He then explained that we were going to be his guinea pigs for the day and try a new process. The D.A. and defense would give a short synopsis of the case and then we would be given a long questionnaire relating to the case's subject matter. After both the prosecution and defense looked over our questionnaires, we would be further questioned to decide who the jury would be.

Then we are told this is a criminal case. My heart beat a little faster after hearing this...a criminal case? What if we have to be sequestered like in the OJ trial? Well, this case wasn't quite the scope of the OJ case. In a nutshell: the defendant had text-messaged a 17 year old girl saying "Want to make an easy $200? Be with me for a night." The girl showed her parents the text, the parents contacted the police, and the police then decided to text him back pretending to be the girl and asked him to meet at a Motel 6. No surprise, the police find him at the Motel 6, all ready to go (we were told he had anal lube in his toiletry disgusting), and they arrest him for solicitation of a minor for sex.

The awkward part was that the defendant was in the room when this was being described and it was hard not to look at him and think he wasn't guilty. He had these beady black eyes that were definitely creepy. We then were taken back to the jury room and given these mammoth questionnaires that had questions like this:

Which of the following do you find morally offensive? Explain.

1) Pornography 2) Nudism
3) Premarital sex 4) Masturbation
5) Exhibitionism 6) Homosexuality

Do you believe that two 17-year olds can have consensual sex? Explain.

What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear "district attorney"?

Let's just say it was a load of fun explaining why I found things like pornography morally offensive or how I feel about statutory rape. We were then adjourned until the afternoon and I took this time to explore the Woodland Library (their DVD selection is amazing!) and walk around downtown (not very exciting).

Since this post is getting a little too long, and my stomach is growling, I'll write more later. We'll be back after these commercials!