I had the privilege of being summoned for jury duty recently.
It was a most frightening experience.
It all began with receiving a notice in the mail, instructing me to call (360)-786-5566 after 6:00p.m. on a friday night. It continued by threatening me with pursuit of misdemeanor charges against me if I were to not show up, (if ordered by the prerecorded message), and assigning me to "Group No. / ". A questionnaire was included, asking me questions which I had no desire to answer to anyone. It included the requirement to use black ink. I filled it out, answering what I could, knowing that 'penalty of perjury' was at stake (Gee, when I phoned them years ago, I could not convince them to tell me if my divorce had come through, and I still don't know, but they do, and now the same court asks ME if I am divorced. I wished they had checked their records and told me, that I might reiterate it for them. Funny. Sad. Frightening to think that this system has me at it's mercy. Ah, but a little mercy can go a long ways, and I rely upon my fellow citizens to do their best in running their geographical regions, including mine. I trust not government, but the people who represent themselves as such, but just enough not to go looking for a righteous rebel group to join, in the struggle to reclaim the Universe in the abstract names of freedom and anarchy.)
This was not the first time I had received such a notice, but after calling this time, I found my group was indeed needed. (Last time, I was instructed to call repeatedly, and was never told to report in.)
Well, I didn't. I failed to realize that the day I was called to serve on was the following Monday, thinking instead that I was to serve a week later on the following Monday. Midmorning on Monday, I realized my error when I noticed the date on the newspaper I was reading. Opps! I contacted the courts immediately, and was moved up a week.
Mind you, I still had to call and double check.
I did not sleep that night. A bit anxious I guess.
My alarm went off early, I prepared myself for the day, with the usual morning routine we all go through, and headed off in my car. Court was on the other side of the next city, and I gave myself time to experience the traffic delays of both cities.
I arrived early and found a parking space a few feet from the building entrance. Mind you, I did not know this until I went to the kiosk in the center of the paths between buildings and checked which building was which. Seems like putting large numbers on the buildings would have made things easier for everyone, but this had slipped the minds of those in charge of such things, or was over-ruled somehow by those in higher authority.
I felt lucky to have parked in such a good spot, closer to the building than to the kiosk telling me where the building was. Yes, lucky, as instructions indicated a need to park a distance away, then take the bus to the courthouse complex.
Directions inside the building were easy to spot, and in little time, effortlessly found my room. I merged with a line heading towards the table with group one being displayed.
I presented my number.
No. I was not on the list. I had disappeared from group one's roster somehow.
No problem, I could wait around they said, just in case I might be needed as an alternate. I let them know that I was sleep deprived and would prefer to come back on a day I would be awake on. Thus, I was told to come back next monday.
I did, and found a similarly close place to park, merged once again with my line of fellow citizens. Ah ha, I was on the list!
Another form letter was handed to me, and I was told to fill it out. My god! This time they wanted to know the complete sexual history of my family and wanted a listing of all people I had know with a mental problem. I mean "LIST THEIR NAMES"!
There were no questions pertaining to my ability to use deductive reasoning, nor questions to ascertain if I knew the difference between deductive and inductive logic. (My understanding is these questions were created by the lawyers.) Perhaps this explains why they were interested in only things which might have an emotional effect upon me, and not my ability to think. I wonder (still) if the typical lawyer knows De Morgan's Theorem? Or what a tautology, or even a syllogism is?
Again, was the threat of perjury made as a note near the signature. The room was filled with fellow perspective jurors, all sitting in chairs, all trying their best to write with ball point pens on flimsy papers held in their laps. I looked around and sat myself apart form the others at the table which was in front of this group. If you have seen the initial interview of Will in "Men In Black", then you have an idea of silly this seemed to me.
The people who were there to manage us, soon had us watching an indoctrinal film starring Raymond Burr (who was famous for his role on t.v. as the fictional lawyer Perry Mason.) This seems to have been to fill in time with some mildly entertaining general information while the court prepared itself. I enjoyed the Vivaldi chosen for background music, but was amazed to see no credit given to either the composer, nor the performers, but more so, to not see, a copyright notice (actually there is another term other than copyright when referring to music.) Giving credit is a moral duty, and should have been done, and shown. As an artist, composer, performer, inventor, I expect it and call those who ignore it thieves and liars. In this case, I am being made a party to it (abstractly), as I am an active citizen.
A delightful question and answer session followed next. I was told there would be time made for smoking should I need. Truth is, I choose to use nicotine, and as such, am most feeling the so called withdrawal symptoms, only seconds after exhaling smoke, and the effect is less noticeable as time goes on, not the other way around (check if you wish.) Nicotine improves synaptic response, and has an effect on the ability to think. I reach for a cigarette as soon as I need... to ponder, or pay strict attention. I can not see any reason to remove this right from me, even based upon notions of local pollution as we all were contributing to the increase in unwanted gases by driving to court, (in a much more significant and destructive manner.) We were also told we would not be permitted to eat. Drinking was permitted however. Oh, and I almost forgot, but we were then told that we would be passing through a metal detector, as we entered the next building. (For those who do not know, a typical metal detector uses 2 tank circuits ...umm LC, with the L being a magnetic coil... which each have a specific resonant frequency. One is isolated then used for a comparison with the other and any difference is noted. As a person walks through the magnetic field, it is changed by the presence of some materials, and thus it changes the oscillation frequency of it respective tank. Nowadays, most of this can be done with a single chip, and just a little wire, for almost no cost. What we went through, was a monstrosity of design, and no doubt quite expensive. Note: This is truly a search being performed, but not a seizure, as in the case of radar, where the device causes an emission of protons to happen.)
Assignments made as to our next destination, we proceeded as a group out of this building and into another.
I felt violated, and said so in no uncertain terms. I had little time to discuss the matter with the person who doing this, as I was scheduled now to be in a particular room. No seizure was made, as the bell did not go off, and I learned that this is the law in WA State, and told I could read the statue if I wished. I did wish, but had no time, nor a knowledgeable attorneys to assist in interpretation, no time to research the court decisions and cases which might apply. I was stuck, so I proceeded to the room.
There were 50 or so of us in there, all being used as a pool from which to create a jury.
The Judge entered, and proceeded to lecture us. He seemed a kindly and reasonable man, one you would trust on sight. His demeanor was professional and yet he was speaking to us like a parent interacting with children.
The case, he explained, was one which had been mentioned in the paper.
A man, after serving his term, was being held by the state.
The law letting the State continue holding him did exist.
The state wished to continue holding him, as this law would allow if certain alleged "facts" were determined to be true by the jury. That is, the state would prove that he would re-offend, or commit crimes in the future.
I was horrified! No crime, still do time?
And the person would not be present..
And the judge would decide what evidence would be presented to us, implying our inability to decide for ourselves what is admissible in our considerations.
One by one, we were asked questions, and asked questions, in a friendly open atmosphere.
One juror stated his objection to evidence filtering through the judge, citing a previous experience in which he was party to a decession which he regretted.
"If I tell you that all the evidence which should be presented has been presented, would that be good enough for you?" Asked the judge.
The juror relinquished, and sat down.
My turn. I expressed my feelings. I was excused, perhaps forever, but with the knowledge that my convictions will never let me serve on a jury, unless the judges change their minds.
Here's is the beef.
I expect to be called only to serve.
My history is mine. It is not to be used to pick me form a potential group.
I do not expect to be searched.
Threats are not needed.
All evidence of defense must be seen.
An act must have been committed, not the potential of one.
A judge has no power over a jury other than to maintain order, and that is debatable.
The jury is the highest law in the land. Peer is not open to interpretation, but admission that we all are each others peers when serving on a jury in deliberation of someone's case.
The supreme court of the united states has given itself the ability to create law by writing opinion and enforcing it.
Human nature will go along with this. Don't believe it? Ask my dad, he liberated a Nazi death camp, if you can get him to talk about it.
And now, I am feeling guilty of not acting in this case, or at least protecting my rights. I write this to make up for my lack of courage, with the hope that others will be stronger than I.
And a man sits imprisoned by my honest expression which reclused me from my duty to peer upon him in jury. Life in prison without committing a crime. (Oh, why did they not charge him with the crimes as reported in the paper? --Yes, it was alleged this old man groped a couple of his fellow inmates, and the state choose to ignore this, violating the rights of the prisoners as well. Too much paperwork when they have him already?)
Update (sometime later.)
Hmm... 'got a check for the above services! Thanks Judge.
I guess that changes things a bit.
But, not a lot. What happened in the courtroom was wrong on a fundamental level. No crime, no time should be the plea, and juries should force the issue.
As now having been paid as a 'professional' Jurist, is there a union or other organization I might join?
Call it the "International Jourists Union".
Write me if you wish to donate to the existence of such a thing. -Frank