When Jury Duty calls

When Jury Duty calls

It took 34 years for a jury summons to arrive in my mailbox.

I knew it was coming, I just never knew when. But alas, it’s arrived. So here I am in the Jury Pool awaiting my instructions at Dade County Court in Miami, Florida. Getting here wasn’t an issue. It was about four minutes from my apartment. But surprisingly, I never ‘drive’ downtown for anything. So today I had planned to find the parking lot. I first pulled into to one lot and was angrily told to turn around by the parking guard since only ‘authorized’ vehicles were allowed. He was no help. Hey man, I’m a JUROR. I may save your ass some day. That mentality did nothing for me.

So begins my Jury Duty live-blog. Enjoy.

My Jury Duty Live-Blog

7:51 AM. So I parked in the lot directly behind the courthouse thinking it would be validated by the court. I just returned to my seat and was told it wasn’t, and that I could move it, or pay the fee. Already off to a great start.

8:01 AM. The line leading into the pool was an interesting one. It wrapped around the mezzanine of the courthouse lobby which was adorned with an American flag. Nice touch. I’ve covered a few stories here in the past. I’m wondering if my news background will play a role in if I’m called or not. I’m in between jobs, so we’ll see if that guides me straight to the Jury box.

8:32 AM. We’ve received our basic instructions thanks to a compelling and perhaps decade-old video of a man in a double-breasted, pointy lapel, forest green suit. Riveting.

things-you-do-at-jury-duty

The Proposal. Keeping jurors entertained since 2009.

8:50 AM. Movie time! The Proposal has just started. Audio isn’t fantastic. I think I’ll just keep blogging about jury duty.

9:04 AM. All rise! A judge just entered the pool to welcome us. Out of the gate she said we were all very lucky because this is a short week. Their are few judges in court due to the holiday weekend coming up. I’m trying not to get my hopes up. Everything time things seem to go in a direction I want them too, plans go off the rails, so I’ll be cautiously optimistic that my duty will conclude shortly. The judge told us about how the Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that it was illegal for women to not be allowed on a jury. And in some countries, a jury is not even allowed. So she makes a great point in that this is a right and as Americans, we should be thankful for due process. In other news, The Proposal has just resumed.

compensation-for-jury-members-miami

If I play my cards right, I can make $75.00 bucks this week. #Winning.

9:25 AM. All rise. It was time to give the oath. After raising the right hand, we agreed to statement presented to us (citizen, 18-years old or older, etc.). We did lose one person. Maybe he was a criminal. Maybe he was a judge. We’ll never know. Now it’s time to fill out some paperwork in order to receive our compensation. If you are unemployed, own your own business, work part time, or work full-time for a company with 10 or less employees, you’re eligible for compensation of the following:

  • Day 1: $15.00
  • Day 2: $15.00 (if necessary)
  • Day 3: $15.00 (if necessary)
  • Day 4: $30.00 (if necessary)

The jury staff member just informed us that lunch is from 12:00pm – 1:00pm. Hooray.

9:42 AM. First group called. I was not. Blogging continues, as does the ruse in The Proposal.

9:47 AM. Next group called. I was not. One guy just walked in with a mug of coffee. Impressive. It may be time to survey the refreshments. One juror was just called to the window. I wonder what he did?

jury-duty-12-angry-men

A few hundred jurors make up our jury pool, none of whom are rocking a white shirt and black tie.

9:53 AM. 300 slightly-annoyed men and women. It’s a far cry from 12 Angry Men which, for some reason just popped in my head. Here goes, the next group is about to be called. Standby….Nope, still not called. The group is thinning out. My time is coming.

10:18 AM. The longest stretch of inactivity yet. I told you this was rich and compelling stuff.  

10:40 AM. The couple is getting married on The Proposal. That is all. Just thought you’d be interested to know.

harvey-ruvin-clerk-of-courts-miami

Harvey Ruvin, Clerk of the Courts stops in to say a word of thanks.

10:49 AM. Just got a visit from the man himself, Harvey Ruvin, Clerk of the Courts. He told everyone he appreciated everyone being here and that he understood everyone had things to do and that he wanted to simply just say thanks.  That was cool. He didn’t have to do that, but did. And the movie wasn’t paused, so it was unannounced. Still just sitting here. That was a good break from the monotony. The Proposal just ended.

11:46 AM. I have escaped to the ‘quiet room’ where it’s just that…quiet. They have power strips and I’m in need of power for my devices. Just as I sit down, they say we’re released for lunch. EARLY!? Wow. It is a slow week. I called Tara and she’ll be meeting me at a local establishment for lunch. That’s what’s nice about your girlfriend working overnights. Free for lunch every day even if it’s not even noon yet. We have to be back by 1:00pm. I’m sure that’s when I’ll get mine. More to come. Lunch break.

My view from the 'holding tank' the quiet room on the end of the Jury Pool room.

My view from the ‘holding tank’ the quiet room on the end of the Jury Pool room.

12:54 PM. Back in the Pool. Had a nice lunch at Granny’s Feelgood restaurant down the street. It has since started to rain. The remaining potential jurors have returned to their favorite chair. I am in the holding tank (or quiet room as it’s called) because there is a power strip and, well, quiet. I sit and wonder how long I’ll be here. It got me thinking how long the longest trial was – a whopping 7 years costing $15 million. Wow:

The McMartin preschool trial was a day care sexual abuse case of the 1980s. Members of the McMartin family, who operated a preschool in California, were charged with numerous acts of sexual abuse of children in their care. Accusations were made in 1983. Arrests and the pretrial investigation ran from 1984 to 1987, and the trial ran from 1987 to 1990. After six years of criminal trials, no convictions were obtained, and all charges were dropped in 1990. When the trial ended in 1990 it had been the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history.The case was part of day care sex abuse hysteria, a moral panic over alleged Satanic ritual abuse in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Meanwhile, my wait continues. Lets hope it’s not 7 years.

what-to-do-in-jury-duty

When it comes to gadgets and a lot of time, you can never have enough to keep you occupied.

1:38 PM. Methinks we’re in for the long haul until 5:00 today. Getting some good work done on the laptop. They said bring a book and a sweater. I brought the following:

  • iPhone 4S with charging cable
  • MacBook Pro with charging cable
  • Verizon JetPack 4G LTE with charging cable (Allows for my own internet network anywhere – thing is amazing.)
  • iPad 3 (my ‘book’)
  • Pad, paper and 1 Uni-ball Vision pen (Micro, not fine. Always go Micro)
  • Joker Media business cards.
  • CBS business cards (Unnecessary leftovers)
  • Sweater (I listened)
  • Bottle of water
  • 4 mints (all have been consumed)

There’s one guy in the pool who has been sleeping since we got here. I kinda want to ask him what he did last night. He’s dunzo. Oh, guess what?! Still waiting.

2:14 PM.  My name has been called.

2:18 PM. Hooray! Our group was notified that we could go home and we’ve fulfilled our duties. But there’s a catch. You have to give up the $15.00. If not, you must stay all day to collect your compensation. Man, tough decision. But I think I’ll head home.

While uneventful, it was good to see a little bit of how our judicial system works from a juror’s eyes. I’ve seen it from the media perspective many times. So this was a nice change.

And while I won’t be collecting my $15.00 check, or sitting through a 7-year trial at this point, I received a certificate stating I have fulfilled my obligation as an American citizen (for now). 6 hours and 18 minutes later.

God Bless America. Have a good Thanksgiving week and please try not to make your way into the judicial system… juror or otherwise.

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Josh Benson

<p>Josh Benson writes about the web, technology, TV News and life in general. He’s a self-admitted geek and loves being a Dad. He covers the day’s news on WFLA-TV in Tampa, Florida. He struggles to learn code and work out but loves all things tech and web!</p>

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  • Dirk Strauss

    What a great read!!! I really enjoyed this article Josh!

  • dmynor

    I delved into your nice full day description as I have been selected myself All I have to say is, even if I end up there all day I hope my day goes almost like yours, uneventful. Who wants to be stuck in a jury for a day or longer and having to make the harsh decision of convicting (or not) a fellow citizen. I understand very well it’s our civic duty, I’ve done it before, but it is not something I can say I was thrilled to do or wanted to repeat.

    • Good luck! Hope it is uneventful. I had a lot of time to do nothing so I’m glad you took some time to read this post. All a part of life, I guess. Thanks for the comment.

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