I'm pleased to say that I have finally seen our justice system at work. Kind of. Well, actually, it was more like I sat in a courtroom for four hours, while the judges spent most of the time elsewhere in the building
Yes, jury duty. It's a wonderful thing, isn't it? While most people run away screaming at the thought, I was actually somewhat interested. While I was reasonably sure that none of the cases would be a big as O.J., I thought it would be interesting to see how the system works, not to mention the county officials for which I voted.
So I went into that courtroom this winter, not sure what to expect. Most of my knowledge about courtrooms came from the movie 12 Angry Men and the 80's sitcom Night Court. I was pretty sure, though, that the judge wouldn't come out and start doing magic tricks.
I don't know what I was expecting. I guess it was something besides waiting in the courtroom for almost four hours while the plea bargaining was going on. My day went as follows: arrive about 10 minutes early, wait about half an hour, go through roll call, wait about 45 minutes, get a speech from the judges about how we should be proud to be a part of the justice system, wait another half hour, watch nervously as they start selecting people to start interviewing, wait another hour, get an update that some kind of plea bargaining is going on, and wait some more, until finally we find out that nobody's going to be on a jury because all four cases had been plea bargained. Sounds exciting, huh?
Needless to say, before the first half hour of waiting was up, I was regretting leaving my book on the seat of my car. I looked around a few times and actually wondered if I could make a run for it - just to grab something to read. As strange it may sound, the informational pamphlet they gave me about the court system in my county was not enough to keep me occupied for four hours. Though now I'm proud to say I can name all of the judges that have served in my county's courts.
After the first hour, I was almost ready to tackle the woman in the row in front of me for her puzzle book. I had to make do with reading the People magazine over the shoulder of the woman in front of me. Several times I had to stop myself from yelling at her for turning the pages too fast. I also used the time to think of ways we could make the jury duty process a better experience.
consolation prizes to those who don't serve on a jury, kind of a sorry-we-wasted-four-hours-of-your-life
gift. Maybe a lollipop, like the bank used to give you when you were a
kid. It's amazing how much a lollipop could cheer you up. "Yeah, I didn't
get on the jury, but, look, I got a lollipop!"
Think game show. "Mary Matus, come on down! You're the next person on jury duty!" And instead of asking all those boring questions, ask trivia questions in categories like Important Dead People I Should Know and Obscure 200-Year-Old Laws Nobody Knows.
Apply the 10 minute rule. If they don't show up in 10 minutes, you're outta there. It would make the legal system move so much faster.
Have a news ticker flashing across a screen at the front of the courtroom to keep you updated on what's going on. Or even better, a play-by-play commentary. "And they just accepted a plea of guilty and a sentence of six months probation. Six months probation going once. Six months probation going twice. Ooh, rejected! We were so close, ladies and gentlemen!"
As you could see, there are tons of possibilities.
So, although I'm not thrilled with the idea of reliving that experience anytime soon, I would like to see the justice system at work someday. And, if not, maybe I'll at least get a lollipop out of it.