Saturday, January 03, 2009

Jury Duty

As a farewell to 2008, I received a summons for Jury Duty for the second time in 2008, and third time in six years.

That seems a bit excessive, to be perfectly honest, but I am pleased to perform my civic duties.

My first summons resulted in my being placed on a case at the Forest Hills courthouse in Jamaica Plain. It lasted two days. What I thought was a cut-and-dry drug-dealer-caught-red-handed resulted in an acquittal. To my surprise, while in chambers, the rest of the jury determined that the DA had not proven without reasonable doubt that the drugs were in the possession of the individual charged.

While the evidence was pretty obvious that this guy was guilty, they were right. Being the lone holdout to that point, I begrudgingly changed my vote to "not guilty," now matching the rest of the jury and acquitting this thug of his accusal.

The judge met us in chambers afterward, courteously thanking us for our participation and finally being able to comment about the case. She told us that our decision, while quite difficult, was most likely the right one, and that we might be comforted to know that the heretofore defendant was to be tried for similar charges twice more. In other words, perhaps he'd be put away after one of those trials.

My second jury duty summons resulted in a follow-up note relieving me of my duty a few weeks before the scheduled date. I guess there weren't many criminals awaiting trial in Boston earlier in the year.

Now, here we are again. Jury Duty once more. They picked an inopportune date - one where I'll be in Iceland. But, they allow jurors to postpone the service date once with no questions asked, so I replied with an alternate date.

I suppose it's odd that I'm looking forward to serving on a jury once again. But I'm a pretty atypical guy. I can't wait!


Alison said...

I just got my jury duty notice in the mail the other day. I served 3 years ago, they waited to send my summons almost on my 3 year anniversary. There are 4 people who live in my house and we've all gotten notices within the last month.

I am not looking forward to it at all. I know, I know, it's my civic duty, so I'll do it and not try to come up with some excuse not to, but I won't be happy about it.

Anonymous said...

You like jury duty no doubt because you're salaried. It absolutely sucks when you're self-employed because of the potential lost income. I got stuck on a lengthy civil suit a year ago (about three weeks) and it really cost me an arm and a leg. Suffolk county residents get screwed when it comes to jury duty. a high percentage of the county's residents (higher than surrounding counties) are either non-citizens or otherwise ineligible/unwilling to serve, and that means the county's jury pool is smaller, and that in turn means Boston (and Chelsea, Winthrop and Revere) residents have to serve on juries more often than citizens in other Massachusetts counties.

Anonymous said...

True Anonymous, but small inconveniences of civic service and being active in politics is a very small price to pay for our way of life and governance.

We could always do it the way Russia does, but I doubt that be good for business in the long run.

Anonymous said...

True Anonymous, but small inconveniences of civic service and being active in politics is a very small price to pay for our way of life and governance.

I didn't say otherwise, but that's no excuse for a system that's unfair to residents of certain counties. County government is largely an anachronism in Massachusetts anyway; why not tweak county jury pools so that, say, Brookline (Norfolk County) residents might occasionally have to serve on Boston (Suffolk County) juries, or Boston residents in Cambridge (Middlesex County) juries, etc? I don't mind doing my civic duty, but I don't think I should have to serve more frequently than someone living four blocks away across an imaginary county line simply because of an accident of geography. There's also no excuse for the miserable per diem (I think it's about $50) they give you. Our current system pinches pennies on the backs of self-employed people. If you're salaried or retired you suffer little or no income drop. If you're self-employed like me it's a genuine financial hardship to get stuck on a long trial. Which is extremely counterproductive, as it heavily incentivizes some jurors to do everything in their power to avoid being called up. I wouldn't trade our jury system with any other -- but it REALLY could use some reforms...

Anonymous said...

52 jurors were at a trial and at least 30 were excused for reasons that we do not know(on the day of the trial and in the court room) and I do not think it is fair that anyone is excused unless it is one of the statutory reasons that are pre- disqualifiers...if you say nothing your odds of serving are much greater than those who try to get out of it. system in massachusetts is unfair and must be fixed