Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Jury drama

Actually, the title is rather dramatic, because the last people to know what the hell's going on in the jury system are the least before they're impanelled.

Impanelled: hmm, sounds like some Harry Potter spell imprisoned you in the wall. This is not so far off. I must explain that the Salem, MA, Superior Court sits in a splendid Victorian Eclectic building, which lacks almost all the amenities of 21st century life. It barely has the amenities of 19th century life. As a result, prospective jurors are herded into the basement of the UCC edifice across the street to await their fate. (One thing that unites all denominations is that imagination fails their architects and interior designers when it comes to auxiliary spaces.)

For reasons which we would find out later, Monday's jury pool actually included two days' pools, which gave the featureless room an atmosphere just short of the Black Hole of Calcutta. A room which would be crowded with 40 people now held 80. People, did I say? We more met the old saw's definition of mushrooms: we were kept in the dark and fed bullshit.

For over two hours, our lives were varied by the usual: the requisite visit from the judge, reminding us of the noble cause on which we were embarked. We had a break, followed by a video about the noble cause on which we were embarked. On my librarian spouse's advice, I was equipped with a couple of Agatha Christie mysteries. This was not so much to put me in the mood, as to provide me with entertainment that one could interrupt at any moment.

Meanwhile, in the real world, things were happening. Our trial, which turned out to be one for murder, was bogging down in the pre-trial hearing. Across the street in the District court, a prisoner was escaping. Now, at certain times of the year (like October), someone wearing a prison jumpsuit and handcuffs could just melt into the Salem crowds. This does not happen in December, and the escapee was caught soon after.

We knew none of this. At half past ten, we were excused by the judge, who simply told us that the murder trial would not proceed and that we should consult the news for the reasons. As it happened, the prisoner's escape trumped the murder news, chiefly because the escapee was a Level III sex offender, which is of course much more important than homicide. Fortunately the Lynn Item has its priorities straight (if not its online captions), otherwise I would have no idea what had happened.

My spouse believes that one is excused after age 70, so that means I should have to put up with only two more of these circuses.


Blogger massmarrier said...

Ah, how honorable you must be, you noble, noble sheep. Oops, that's my own recollection.

My last couple of jury calls were at the West Roxbury Court House, which is neither in Roxbury nor West Roxbury, although it was a century ago, rather in the made-up neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. The judge there was justifiably famous for bullying the prosecutor and defense attorney to settle, plea, do whatever was necessary to avoid inconveniencing him (and tangentially all of us). He almost always got his way. I got excused similarly to you due to his good offices. These wheels of justice are quick and coarse. Your case of pissant eyewitness is not quite so amusing.

11:36 p.m.  
Blogger Uncle said...

My last jury trial was in Newburyport,a DUI case. The arresting officer was young and cocky, the defendant a middle-aged professional who kept his cool. It was a small courtroom. The jury could hear the sidebars. As the cop collapsed under cross, the judge kept asking the prosecution if they really wanted to go on with this. They did, and we acquitted after about 30 minutes.

I suppose I should thank Monday's weeny witness, but I can't, quite.

12:07 a.m.  
Blogger malevolent andrea said...

I was gonna make some snarky remark about Judy Flanagan Kennedy apparently having perimenopausal hair loss, but y'know, that'd be wrong. Glad you dodged the murder case bullet. So to speak. Ahem.

I'm due in Salem Superior January 5th. Will they let me bring my Kindle in?

1:54 a.m.  
Blogger Uncle said...

How noble of you to move on from high school hostilities (cough).

As long as you don't wave a device in the inspector's face (i.e., have a large purse and keep the Kindle there for check-in) and it doesn't set off any alarms, I think you could get the Kindle in. Lord knows that waiting room needs *some* diversion.

Note: If it's Judge Brennan (medium height, dark hair, high-pitched voice), the bailiff warned us that he doesn't want jurors reading *anything* once they're herded into court. So Kindle away in the basement, but be piously observant if you have the bad luck to be herded across the street. By Jan 5 you might even get the badass who escaped ;-)

12:26 a.m.  

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