Right now I'm trying my best to not listen to an irritating video about the All-American importance of jury duty, a video I've ignored before previous times I've been called as a juror.
It's being played here in the jury assembly room on the 5th floor of the Marion County (Oregon) Courthouse. One purpose of the video is to make me and my fellow morose potential jurors feel better about being forced to take time off of work, or whatever our usual life consists of, and do something we don't want to do.
Amazingly, I just heard a woman on the video say "It can be disappointing if you're not picked to be a juror."
Are you freaking kidding? I will be overjoyed if I can get out of jury duty today. I have zero interest in being a juror. And I'm pretty damn sure that my feelings are shared by most of the other people in this room.
Therein lies my distaste for jury duty.
It's absurd to force people to perform a service they don't want to do. How would you like to be operated on by a surgeon who doesn't want to be in the operating room, who is utterly uninterested in performing the procedure that you need to preserve your health, or even life?
The United States used to have a military draft. People were forced to serve. Now we have a volunteer military. Works much better. The quality of our fighting forces has gone up because they want to be a soidier, sailor, or whatever.
I don't want to be a juror. My expectation is that I'd be a lousy juror. My sole goal at this moment is to be excused from jury duty somehow or other. (Maybe the trial won't happen because of a last minute plea bargain or settlement.)
I'm not the person who I'd want to be in the juror box if I was on trial. So this destroys the oft-heard notion that the current jury system is founded on we are entitled to a jury of our peers.
Sure, I can agree with that. But the "peers" I want deciding my legal fate are akin to me in my best moments, not my worst. Most days I'm reasonable, in a good mood, willing to listen to both sides of an argument.
Today, like every day I've been called for jury duty, I'm not. I'm bummed at being here in the juror assembly room, doing nothing at 9 am after getting up at 6 am, killing time by blogging about how much I don't want to be here.
I have a cold. I didn't sleep well last night. I'm living on Sudogest and cough drops.
Believe me, I'm not in the frame of mind that I'd want someone to have if they were faced with making an important decision. If we get to the point that an attorney questions me, I won't be shy to say just that. This isn't a ploy to get out of jury duty, though that's my goal.
It's the truth.
If forced jury duty is such a great idea, why don't we conscript uneducated people to teach periodically in overcrowded classrooms? Why don't we periodically require atheists to attend a church on Sunday and preach to the faithful? Why don't we periodically require vegetarians to prepare meat dishes in prisons?
Here's an answer: they'd do a crappy job. Forcing people to do something they don't want to do almost always is a recipe for poor performance.
Four years ago I blogged, "Jury duty sucks, is un-American, and stupid." I still feel that way.
Permanent panels of judges manage to render verdicts competently. So why can't we have permanent juries made up of citizens selected for their intelligence, fairness, and willingness to listen to boring testimony for long hours?
Call me an elitist, but I'd just as soon not have a "jury of my peers" if that means having average Americans decide my case. Some of the people with me in the jury assembly room looked to have their wits about them, but not all.
Eight years ago I blogged, "Well, that was fun." Actually, not. I still feel that way.
Getting there right on time and then waiting for three hours. Uncomfortable chairs. Having to fill out forms that ask personal questions. Outdated reading material. Other people being called while you sit…and sit…and sit. Why, I found that jury duty is just like going to the doctor. Except you go to the doctor because you have a problem that needs to be fixed.
With jury duty, the problem is that you are there and you want to be somewhere else. At least, this seemed to be the case with all of my fellow jury duty selectees this morning, and it certainly was with me. Notwithstanding the annoyingly cheery video that we were shown about the patriotic nature of jury duty, how our presence was assuring that the Republic Would Stand, blah, blah, blah, the mood in the jury assembly room for those three hours was seriously sullen.