Thursday, December 12, 2013

Jury Duty – A nun, a security guard, and a writer walk into a jury room

So I was on jury duty for the past two days. Here’s a hint: bring plenty to read and/or a laptop. It mainly consists of sitting around, waiting to see if you’ll be called in to be part of a jury pool. But first, let’s look at the scenery. First a friendly picture, then a scary one.

The tunnel also handles light rail
which accounts for the tracks

A Metro bus went from near my home all the way into the Seattle underground bus tunnel, where there was a stop right below the courthouse. After climbing the stairs (or using the elevator) one emerged with the King County Courthouse less than half a block away. That was handy today, since it was raining.

Now look at the structure below. Does it look like a huge rectangular block is connecting two tall buildings? You’re right. It’s a skybridge, but with no windows. It goes from the courthouse on the right, beyond the building on the left, and ends at the County Jail one building beyond. This is like Con Air, but without the planes. Prisoners can be frogmarched back and forth without using squad cars. This saves time, since downtown traffic can be bad, but it also prevents the prisoners from escaping during laborious loading and unloading from vehicles. If something bad happens in the skybridge, massive steel doors can be slammed shut, trapping the prisoner inside.

Why so serious?

If this doesn’t make you imagine interesting scenes, maybe you shouldn’t try being a writer.

Here’s Seattle City Hall, about a block from the Courthouse. It really looks beautiful during sunny weather, and sometimes they have people selling fresh produce—an offshoot of the famous Pike’s Place Market. Alas, it’s December, so the only noteworthy thing was me taking pictures.

Just beyond it is the Columbia Tower. It’s the tallest building in the state of Washington. It has numerous little restaurants on the first floor, so if you do jury duty in Seattle, I highly recommend it for a fast lunch. I had a nice turkey pot pie at JJ’s Gourmet Burgers.

I call it the Dark Tower
Guess why

So on to jury duty itself. Something like a hundred and forty of us waited around to see if we would be called to a jury pool. The waiting can take hours at a time, so I got a start on a new novel on my laptop (I won’t reveal the title yet). Then forty of us get called in to a jury pool. The lawyers take turns asking us questions to see if we’re biased.

On the way in, the potential juror in front of me recognized someone who happened to be sitting on a bench outside the courtroom. They were so jovial about being in the Courthouse I thought, “Oh great, they’re fellow criminals.” But after he sat down to the right of me in the jury pool, it turned out he was a security guard. They can be asked in a lot to be witnesses to altercations, so his friend waiting outside the court was probably also in security. I felt better.

As the lawyers tried to weed out biased people, they asked questions that didn’t apply to me, such as whether any of us had ever been shot at, would we use a gun in self defense, whether we had bad experiences with police officers. You can probably guess at some of the arguments they were preparing for trial by these questions.

A woman behind me said in a soft voice that she could not imagine using a gun under any circumstances, even if someone was shooting at her. Based on short bios we had filled out on ourselves, the defense lawyer asked her if she was a nun. I wondered what he meant, then he went on to say that he had trouble recognizing her as a nun, since she wasn’t wearing a habit. This was somewhat ironic, since I had watched the stage musical version of The Sound of Music last week and had just ordered the soundtrack.

Based on the answers to the questions, each attorney is allowed to excuse a certain amount of jurors, each hoping to end up with a jury beneficial to his side of the case. Enough people before me were excused that I ended up in the top twelve. Then, even though I replied to none of these general questions, the prosecuting attorney decided to excuse me from jury duty. That puzzled me until I guessed that he wanted the security guard to be on the jury, thinking he would be more likely to convict the defendant. I didn’t see him afterwards in the jury waiting room, so I think he stayed on and became part of the jury for the trial. 

As a last note, in the waiting room for potential jurors, I saw what I thought was a whiteboard for people to write on. It turned out to be some sort of art. If you see some rectangles on the lower left and some blotches of color in the upper right, you’re correct.

I still don’t see why I can’t write on it

There was another piece of art that was simply a photo of a door slightly ajar. Really, that was all there was to it. I wanted to take a picture of it, but since it’s near the entrance to the ladies’ room, I thought would get accused of being a pervert trying to take pictures of women inside. In that case I would have stayed longer in the King County Courthouse, but not as a juror. 


Emily R. King said...

Very cool. Glad you dodged jury duty. I love Seattle. Seeing your pics makes me want to spend the weekend there again soon.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

It's been years since I was called for jury duty, but I do remember a lot of waiting.

That sky bridge is a good idea and creepy at the same time.

Cherie Reich said...

I served on jury duty last year--or perhaps the year before. *shrugs* It wasn't bad, but not nearly as interesting an experience as you had.


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