Posted by: Marie | October 8, 2010

(418) Holding my breath

Post #418
[Private journal entry written on Monday, April 19, 2010 – morning]

Today, I have jury duty. In our neck of the woods, the process traditionally goes something like this:

Joe Blow Citizen receives a formal notice in the mail that he is supposed to show up for jury duty on a certain day. Assuming some major life crisis doesn’t prevent Joe from being able to show up (very few crises qualify), he shows up.

At some point in the day, he may be selected as a member of a jury or he may be dismissed from the jury pool. Sometimes this selection/dismissal process requires more than one day, but usually not more than a couple of days.

If he is dismissed from the pool, he is free to go about his business, and he is exempt from being called up for jury duty again for the remainder of the calendar year. However, if he is selected to be a member of a jury, he is required to return to the courthouse everyday until the trial is concluded and the jury has rendered a decision. This can take as little as a single day or it can require months.

Joe’s employer is required to pay him for the first three days he misses work in support of jury duty. After that, the court system pays him $50/day – of course, the paycheck from the courthouse doesn’t show up until three months later . . . but, that’s beside the point.

Sea View by Martin Chen

So . . . you might wonder how that relates back to my own experience of jury duty . . .

I am employed half-time by the school district . . . so, the school district will pay me for the first three days (for four hours each day). However, I am also self-employed via the piano studio. If I’m not able to teach lessons, I won’t make money . . . no one is going to reimburse me for that loss. Furthermore, if the trial ends up lasting for weeks, I might actually lose established students. I most certainly would have a hard time responding to requests for an interview from potential students, which would cause me to lose out on new students.

This is not good for a small business just getting off the ground.

I am happy to do my civic duty and be on a jury. But, I really hope I will be in and out of here within 2-3 days. The odds are with me . . .

I arrived at the courthouse at 7:45am this morning – 15 minutes ahead of schedule. The clerk at the sign-in counter gave me a questionnaire clipped to a clipboard . . . she asked me to fill it out as quickly as possible. No problem.

Before tackling the paperwork, I asked the clerk what time we could expect to be finished for the day (assuming I didn’t get dismissed before then). She said we would be done by 4:00 or 4:30, at the latest.

Cool . . . my first lesson is at 5:30 this evening . . . I should be able to drive the 30 minutes back to my little town and still be on time for the lesson. That is good – no financial loss so far!

I found a seat, pulled a pen from my bag and started reading the questionnaire . . .

The first questions were pretty much what I expected to find . . . age, gender, education, profession, etc.

I flipped to the second page.

The second page contained a summary of the case:

Case #10-75923: Weld County vs. George Smith

Sexual assault of two minor children by one in a position of trust; possession of child pornography.

I suddenly felt very sick to my stomach.

This has to be some huge cosmic joke, right? I mean, I figured I’d get a case having to do with driving a vehicle while intoxicated, or theft, or someone beating someone else up in a bar. The possibility I might draw a child sexual assault case just never crossed my mind.

I am so very unprepared, emotionally, to deal with something like this. Not now. Maybe in five years from now. Maybe five years ago – before I started all the remembering. But, not now.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

I have to do this. I am required to do this.

I will do this. It will be tough . . . but those minor children must have a voice. They must be heard. I must be willing to hear them speak. I will do this.

I remember when no one heard my voice.

I will hear their voices. I will listen.

The questions got tougher . . .

Have you or anyone close to you been a victim of violence? If so, please describe.

Have you or anyone close to you been a victim of sexual assault? If so, please describe.

Have you or anyone close to you been molested as a child? If so, please describe.

Have you or anyone close to you been involved with law enforcement? If so, please describe.

Have you been involved in a court case? If so, please describe your involvement.

As succinctly as I could, I started answering all the questions . . .

I was involved in multiple court cases, including criminal, civil, family and traffic court; as a plaintiff, defendant and witness

I was a key witness in an acquaintance-rape case in military court

I have argued cases as an advocate for citizen groups in land use cases within the quasi-judicial legal system

My car was broken into a couple of time

I had an experience with a “peeping tom” who masturbated at my bedroom window

I was physically abused by my parents

I filled up both margins of page two. I went up to the clerk and asked if I could have another piece of paper. (No.) Could I write on the back of one of the sheets? (No.) Then where am I supposed to write the rest of my answers? (Have you used the margins of page one yet?)

I was the victim of attempted/minor sexual assaults when I was 7 years old, 12 years old, 16 years old and 27 years old

I have reason to believe I was molested when I was about four years old

I used to be a fire fighter and EMT so I worked along side law enforcement in some scenarios – I have provided emergency medical care for a number of victims of rape and domestic violence

I assisted in the search for Kayleah Wilson last weekend

How the hell am I supposed to record all my history in the narrow margins of a questionnaire?

I wonder if I should include the time a man pointed a loaded gun at me, or the time I stopped a man from beating up his girlfriend, or the time I protected a mom and her three young daughters in a disabled car from two drunk, violent men, or the time I threatened a drunk semi-truck driver who told me he was going to break into my car and assault me while I was sleeping in my car on a trip . . .

Naw . . . I’m getting into the minor stuff now . . . I’ve written enough.

Surely I will be one of the first people to be dismissed . . . unless there are too many others just like me and they can’t weed us all out.

Finally, I got everything answered to the best of my ability. I turned in the questionnaire. I went back to my seat.

And, now, I’m waiting . . .


Responses

  1. Wow. I hope you have the support you need if you do get selected.

    In Australia we can ask the judge to excuse us even after we are selected. We need to give reasons – but if you feel that you couldn’t deal with this you may be able to ask even after selected.

    I realise how hard this would be for you to do, Evan.

    • Hey, Evan –

      This did bring up a question in my mind . . . we weren’t supposed to talk about the case to anyone if and until we were dismissed. So, if things got too traumatic for me, I wasn’t sure how much I could say to someone (like Edward) in order to get through it.

      It was a challenging experience . . .

      – Marie

  2. http://etherealhighway.blogspot.com/2009/12/you-would-not-believe-what-kind-of-case.html

    • Oh, my goodness, EH . . . it sounds like it was a very tough experience for you! I hope you were able to process it after the fact . . .

      – Marie


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