Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jury Summons!

Got a jury summons today for jury service at the US District Court (Southern District of Alabama). Things of note:

  1. "Parking fees will be paid at a flat rate of $10.00 per day" - and two of the three parking options they suggest are a $12/day parking rate
  2. "You can request to be permanently excused if": (among others)
    • a person providing in-home care and custody of a child or children under 10 years of age
    • a person who served as a grand or petit juror in a federal court within the past two years
    • a person essential to the care of aged or infirm persons
    • ... I think all of these scenarios should have "statute of limitations" on them, as a) kids age; b) time continues (i.e., before long it will not be "within the past two years" since service); c) aged persons will eventually no longer need care (sorry for the bluntness, but eventually they'll pass away), but, per this summons, you can request to be "permanently excused" from service. Maybe I should have another kid... :)
  3. Amusing questions on the juror questionnaire:
    • "List each child's a) age, b) occupation, or c) school" - doesn't ask for names, just, I guess, one of those three items? That was the whole question, no other directions for completing it, such as "age if under x years old, or occupation or school if over x" or whatever.
    • "Have you ever lived outside the Southeastern United States? If so, when & where?"
    • "Are there any bumper stickers on the car you or your spouse drive? If so, what do they say?"
    • "Have you ever served on a trial jury? Was it civil or criminal, and what was the outcome?"
Many of the other questions delved well into my personal life - I feel like I've been profiled racially, socially, politically, economically, educationally, and many other "ly"s through this process. Should I sue the US District Court for invading my personal bubble? 

Per Nolo.com
Next, the lawyers for each side question the potential jurors about their biases and backgrounds, as well as any pre-existing knowledge they might have about the case. The attorneys can also ask questions designed to uncover characteristics or experiences that might cause potential jurors to favor either the prosecution or the defense. But the lawyers aren’t allowed to ask overly personal questions, and they aren't allowed ask the jurors how they would decide the case in advance.
It seems to me that some of the questions provided on the questionnaire were pretty personal. It also seems, to me, that perhaps jury selection should be less "case weighted" - that is, instead of having the prosecuting and defending attorneys involved in juror selection, the judge (or perhaps a "jury selection panel") should simply qualify the available jurors and have the jurors randomly selected from the qualified panel. (I know, there's a long and storied history behind the juror selection process, and it's essentially designed to gridlock the jury in an even split, but jury trials are supposed to provide a fair and impartial look at the evidence, and only the evidence, whereas too often these days court cases are about appearances and biases as much as they are about the truth - at least, that's my perception.)

So, anyway, I might be on a US District Court jury sometime later this year. Doing my duty for the due process!

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