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September 29, 2004

Performing My Civic Duty

Today was the day......jury duty. I had to call last night after 6 to see if I even needed to show up, and the message simply stated, "Anybody who has been summoned for jury duty on Wednesday, September 29 needs to be there by 8:30. Thank you." So, I took myself and a book to the Criminal Court Building at 8:30 and waited.....and waited.

At approximately 9 or so this woman, lacking any obvious amount of personality, gave us a list of rules and then made us watch a film about jury duty......starring Charles Kuralt. Charles Kuralt?? Dear God, the man has been dead for 7 years. I know he is a NC legend, but shouldn't they update the film? Anyway, that was over by 9:15, and nothing (let me emphasize, NOTHING) happened for another 2 hours. I sat and read my book (THANK GOD I BROUGHT IT) until we were called into the courtroom around 11:15.

I believe there were approximately 50 of us called for service this morning, and upon entering the courtroom, 12 of us (including myself) were called to the front for questioning. I swear I just said that I worked at a university and that I hadn't been on a jury before, that is all. Later the DA asked me what I did there and I said I was a professor. This was the ONLY question I was asked during the entire process. Meanwhile others were being asked about previous jury duty, possibly knowing persons involved in the case, etc. After approximately 20 minutes, the DA said that he was going to excuse 3 people. Those people included myself and 2 other gentlemen. This was even before the defense had a chance to question us. One of the other guys is also a professor and the third guy said he might know people involved in the case.

This led me to a realization. This is that prosecutors do NOT want professors on their jury. Most likely it is because they believe we may be too liberal and sympathetic with a defendent and would therefore have difficulty arriving at a guilty verdict. I was amazed that, without being asked any additional questions I was one of the persons kicked out of the jury pool. From now on, instead of claiming a hardship when called for jury duty I will simply say that I am a professor and that should release me from any responsibilities related to our judicial system. While I would have liked to have hung around to see how the rest of the process worked, I didn't. Because, while it might have been somewhat interesting, I also realized that it would have been painfully boring, so I left.

If nothing else I can say that I made an attempt to fulfill one of my civic duties, but alas, it was not to be. So, unlike John Cusack in Runaway Jury, I will not make millions while trying to sway a jury in one direction or another.

By the way, the case involved a young guy accused of robbing a 60 year old woman of $10 and a 40 bottle of beer. In fact, he is also accused of attempting to kill her with the same bottle of beer.

Posted by Woundwort at September 29, 2004 04:14 PM | TrackBack
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Wow. Back in the 90s, I told them I was unemployed, and they couldn't wait to sit me right down on a jury in a kidnapping/rape case.

It's still nice to know they're trying to filter out the libs, though.

Posted by: Hrairoo at September 29, 2004 04:59 PM

Details, man, details!

What kind of beer was it?

Posted by: Bigwig at September 29, 2004 05:09 PM



Posted by: Stephen at September 29, 2004 07:01 PM

They didn't say exactly what kind of beer it was, but I'm fairly sure it was a domestic brand. Just a hunch. After all, it would simply be tacky to kill an old woman with an import, plus then it could have turned into an international incident.

Posted by: Woundwort at September 30, 2004 07:06 AM

Just two words about why a prosecutor might exercise his peremtories to rid a jury of professors: Wendell Williamson.

Ask Bigwig about him. I'm sure they're still talking about his killing spree, and the favorable jury verdict he received in his civil trial, which occurred in Chapel Hill and featured a bunch of professors from UNC-CH on the jury.

Posted by: Blackavar at September 30, 2004 12:07 PM

It's been my experience if you dress professionally, and appear to be impatient and decisive, they will drop you from a jury panel as if you were made out of plutonium. I think they prefer jury members who are easily baffled and unable to make up their mind.

Posted by: Sgt. Mom at October 2, 2004 06:30 PM

It's been my experience if you dress professionally, and appear to be impatient and decisive, they will drop you from a jury panel as if you were made out of plutonium. I think they prefer jury members who are easily baffled and unable to make up their mind.

Posted by: Sgt. Mom at October 2, 2004 06:30 PM
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