Monday, January 4, 2010

Jury duty - day 1

Not much dog stuff this week. Partly because I’ve been trying to work some stuff out with the THS which I’ll write about once I know where it’s heading and also because I’m doing jury duty this week and it throws a wrench into my usual routine at Toronto Animal Services.

I have to wake up two hours earlier than usual for this jury thing and that means getting the dogs out of bed at 5 in the morning. My dogs hate me for this. This morning, Stella and Rocky did their best to pretend they were both dead but I could see they were still breathing. Rocky got up after I pulled off his blanket and gave him a couple of nudges but with Stella I had to lift up her bed by one end and roll her out of it. Neither appreciated their morning wake up much. They liked stepping out into the frigid air under still dark skies even less.

I had to be at the courthouse at 8:30. Well, it’s not exactly jury duty. It’s jury selection which means I sit in a big, uncomfortable room with about 300 other people waiting to be selected for jury duty. It’s kind of a terrible set up, really. Most of the people here are sitting shoulder to shoulder in long rows of chairs just staring into the backs of the heads of the people in front. It’s like waiting around in a really cheapass walk-in public health clinic. After a week of this, I’m expecting there’ll be some fights breaking out, some tawdry love affairs between mismatched couples, hemorrhoid flare ups, body odor complaints, people dying unnoticed while they’re slumped over dozing in their chairs, incoherent sobbing and laughing and hopefully some spontaneous displays of inappropriate public behaviour.

I shouldn’t complain, though. Not yet anyway. This morning, I managed to snag one of the few laptop cubicles so I had a tabletop, an outlet and elbow room. If we all suddenly found ourselves in some sort of lord of the flies situation at the Ontario courthouse, we’d be clubbing in each others heads with our cel phones and shoes for these cubicles. That hasn’t started. Yet.

First thing, we were all treated to a 20 minute video about what a great experience it is to do jury duty. So much of this process has been like sitting on the Greyhound bus waiting for it to pull out of the station. They failed to mention that in the video.

I suppose I could use this opportunity to mingle and practice my schmooze skills. I start thinking up other annoying things I could inflict upon my potential jury mates. These include buying a bag of potato chips and eating them one by one, clearing my throat every 30 seconds, sniffling and coughing, playing Pac Man with the volume turned way up on my laptop, talking on my cel phone all day – oh wait, that’s what the woman beside me is doing already which wouldn’t be too bad except that her conversation is even less interesting than the white paint on the wall in front of me.

This is the way the day went. We show up in the jurists’ main lounge on the first floor. After the video and some other preamble, we are sent into a court room on the second floor. After a bit of intro talk from the judge, the fire alarm, goes off and everyone just sort of sits there in disbelief and then we all trundle out of the courtroom, go down the escalator and vacate the building. The crowd gathers across the street and ten minutes later, we get an all clear (rumour was that a janitor accidentally pulled the alarm). Now everyone has to go through security again – security being like at the airport where you have to put all your stuff through some x-ray machine and you have to walk yourself through a metal detector. There are hundreds of people in line and the line moves slow and I feel bad for the people at the end of the long line who probably end up waiting half an hour longer outside in the subzero temperatures. Once we make it inside, we go back upstairs to the second floor courtroom. Now various excuses for not having to do jury duty are presented by a few people and some of those people are let go while others are told to suck it up and do their civic duty. Next the lottery begins. It’s like Bingo and we wait for the possibility of our names being drawn from the drum and called for the next step in the jury selection process. As each stub is drawn, the name and the person’s occupation are announced, more often than not with the name being spelled out, and the person approaches the bench. Each draw takes about a minute. The whole process with two groups of about 20 people, takes about 45 minutes. At one o’clock, my name has not been called and we break for lunch. I go out, buy some food and then head back to the courthouse where I am directed to go to the lounge on the fifth floor. About half an hour later, we are all directed back to the courtroom on the second floor. Once we are all seated, more names are called but not mine. We are all directed back to the lounge on the fifth floor to wait in case the three groups previously selected do not provide an acceptable jury. Nothing else happens until 4:30 when we are told we can go home.

Four more days to go.

Continued here.


Marcie said...

Wow! & I thought spending 6 hours in the ER with a screaming toddler was fun. Jury seclection sounds awesome!

Anonymous said...

Take a book or three. And bless the fates that you live in a country where there are jury trials, defense counsels, and at least some attempt at equality before an impartial law in which evidence has to convince a jury of ordinary people like you.

There are millions in the world who face arrest, torture, summary conviction without so much as a judge, let alone a jury, if they happen to annoy someone who has money and power.

Sure, it's a pain. But I have seen the alternatives. The pain there is a lot more.

Be proud. You are a tiny part of making one corner of a nasty world just a little better for the people who live there.

House of the Discarded said...


I was on jury duty in the states, and I was really hoping Canada was more efficient and had a Tim Horton's set up or something. :)


Biscuit said...

Good luck, Fred. A colleague of mine just called summoned to serve on the Jane Creba jury: unfortunately, he's also got tickets for the Olympics, which will be taking place during the trial. Regardless my personal feelings about the Olympics, I'll feel bad for him if that's not considered a valid reason to defer him.

And yet because it's a trial he's very interested in, he'll also be really disappointed if he can't serve.

Social Mange said...

Philosophically I agree with Anonymous about living in a country with rights and freedoms (unless you live in Ontario with a dog of a certain shape) but OBAAT, your description of jury selection (hurry up and wait) made me howl with laughter!

Lynn said...

Oh, sorry Fred. It can be dull. Oddly, California did something right some years back and came up with a "one day or one trial" system, which means you'd be done by now (mmm. Sorry). I've been on several juries and find it all so messy yet so fascinating at the same time. With everything wrong about it, at the end I always find myself asking how we could do it differently. Who better to decide than you and I? All that said, I look forward to your funny stories about it all.

borderjack said...

Anonymous said, "...a jury of ordinary people like you." Alas, there is nothing ordinary about Fred.

Fred said...

Hi Lynn, I'm a full supporter of the trial by jury ethic but how I would do it differently is I would start by supplying free donuts. Yes, I think donuts, say Boston cream or apple maple fritter (had one of those this morning!) would be a step in the right direction.

Heather Houlahan said...

You could become their KING by simply bringing a couple 6-outlet power strips to multiply those precious outlets.

Fred said...

Heather, I never thought of that but I'll give it a try. If they don't make me their king, I'll just charge them by the minute.