Jury Duty - Excuses Are Like _______, And Everyone Has Them

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, May 23, 2007 01:10pm | Post a Comment
It’s been three years since I had to report to jury duty. The last time I had to go I sat in a jury waiting room reading Walter Mosley books until they dismissed us at the end of the day. I love Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins series because it all takes place in Los Angeles, mainly South L.A., not too far from where I grew up. Much like reading other Los Angeles writers such as Raymond Chandler, John Fante and Charles Bukowski, I try to imagine what Los Angeles looked like years before I was born. Some of the areas that they wrote about that were once suburbs are now ghettos. Other areas, mainly downtown L.A., once inhabited by immigrants, cutthroats and hustlers of all kind, have now been replaced by unimaginative people with money displacing anyone with flavor.

I took the Gold Line from my place in Cypress Park and transferred to the Red Line that dropped me off right at Civic Center, where the courthouse is located. Once in the courthouse, the woman in charge giving the instructions for the day lost it after 10 minutes of repeating herself several times. People just don’t listen. She told people to fill out the green portion of the summons and soon several people were filling out the purple section. She told people not to ask questions until after the end of the instructions and soon several more people were coming up to her to ask her the same questions she just gave the answers to. People who work in this field must cut their life expectancy by ten years with all the yelling they have to do.

Immediately, we were called into a courtroom for jury selection. No Walter Mosley for me today. The judge explained that this particular civil case was expected to last from 30-60 days. A collective groan came out of all us potential jurors. The first thing we had to go through during the section process is going through the hardship cases. Out of a room of ninety people, seventy-five of us had excuses why we could not be on a jury for that long of a duration. The judge was reasonable. He dismissed people that were going to school, caregivers for the elderly or parents with a single earner income. Others tried to stretch the truth by adapting other people’s hardships to their own in hopes that will get them out of jury duty. At this point you've got to wonder about the intelligence of some people. You are going before a judge, a person that has to differentiate truth from fiction EVERY DAY! Do you really think he's never met a liar before? This just made the judge upset. He dismissed the liars and made them come back the next day, thus continuing jury duty for at least one more day. Those idiots left grinning, thinking they pulled one over the judge, not knowing that 90 % of us will complete our jury service in a matter of hours.

I was one of the last ones to be called before the judge. I had to hear excuse after excuse. Some people just give way too much information, “Your Honor, right now I have second mortgage and our credit cards are maxed out and next week I may have to file for bankruptcy so I cannot take a case of this length…” Ouch!

Other people are so self-important it doesn’t even faze them. “Your honor, I’m currently working on a major motion picture and if I was to miss work it would severely set back the release of the movie…” I wished the judge would pick this *#%hole for jury duty so the world can be spared from another bad Hollywood movie.

As for me, well, my job doesn’t pay for jury duty, enough said. The judge dismissed me and I’m back in the room with the other excuse-filled people. Before I’m done with the first chapter of R.L.’s Dream, we were dismissed. I starved off jury duty once again for at least another year. The reality is that most of us wouldn’t mind serving in a jury if we were guaranteed to make the same money we would be missing at our jobs. It makes it harder for a fair and impartial jury to judge any case because it automatically eliminates the people who cannot afford to be on a jury for that length of time. The fifteen dollars a day plus the .30 cents a mile the state pays to be on a jury would not even pay for lunch and the gas to get to Downtown L.A. If justice were to be fair, the pay would have to be as well. Until then, the excuses will continue to gather in the courthouses much like the May Gray gathers over L.A.

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John Fante (2), Walter Mosley (1), Charles Bukowski (2), Raymond Chandler (5), May Gray (1)