I reported to the main San Francisco courthouse today for day 2 of jury duty. On day 1 they made us fill out an 8 page form, asking our opinions on everything from health care to lawsuits in general. A few other questions were centered around the main issue of this case (which I'm not allowed to discuss, but it rhymes with as-shmestos).
Today, about 75 of us filed into the court room and the lawyers began the laborious process of reviewing our questionnaires and trying to discern whether we'd be inclined to agree with their arguments. I have no desire to be on this jury (6 weeks!!), but I won't avoid it to the point of lying in a court room. So, I had mentally prepared a slightly exaggerated version of myself, enhancing the non-civil-lawsuit friendly portions of my persona, while still staying true to my core beliefs. I was prepared to put on a nuanced performance where I proudly state my ability to be fair, yet subtlely letting them see my biases.
Of course, the morning kicked off with the usual questions about hardships. These continued throughout the day. People had jobs that wouldn't pay for 6 weeks of jury duty, or contractual obligations, and one guy didn't even get his ass all the way into his seat before he blurted out, "I'M BIPOLAR!!". For the most part, the judge lectured these people about the hardship process and then excused them from jury duty. Bipolar man had to sit his ass all the way into the seat though. He'll need to bring a doctor's note tomorrow.
What was more alarming was the jury interview process. The plaintiff's lawyer had a folksy incompetent demeanor and kept getting tripped up by legal complexities like the seating chart. Meanwhile, he ran into juror difficulties almost immediately. All went well with the first prospective juror but the 2nd one was a doctor with some vague familiarity with the issues at hand. Doctor man took a less nuanced approach to getting out of jury duty by just flat out stating that he was incapable of being fair in this trial.
You can't be fair?!?! Didn't we all learn how to be fair to each other in kindergarten? I mean if you recognize your bias, isn't that the means by which you can then compensate for it? If I were in charge of the jury system, I'd take that bastard and put him in jail for contempt of court. The judge stayed out of it and we moved on.
Meanwhile, Mr. Can't Play Fair With Others had set the bar pretty high for obnoxious juror behavior. The next 22 interviewees all did their best to meet this new standard. One by one, nearly every single one of them explained how they couldn't possibly ignore their biases/morals/experiences/hatred-of-THE-man.
The judge asked some of these people, "Are you capable of accepting that the law is what I say it is?" The answer to that question was often, "No."
One guy spoke of his moral outrage against the death penalty, which was an impressive stretch in a civil trial ("I'm going to sue you...TO DEATH!"). Another prospective juror just summed up by saying to the lawyer, and I quote, "Personally, I wouldn't believe any evidence you presented."
WHAT THE HELL?!?! I go to all the effort of constructing a multilayered courtroom persona and these guys just fall back on the legal equivalent of "Nyah nyah!"?? I don't know if I'm mad because of how they're abusing the legal system or because they're better at being an asshole than I am.
Frankly, the only redeeming portion of the day was a guy named Peter Beaver. Heh. His first name is a synonym for penis and his last name is one for vagina. Oh, man, that is rich. I love a good single entendre. I giggled every time they said his name, which wasn't nearly often enough. Astonishingly, after a lifetime of what I'm sure was relentless teasing, he turned out to be one of the saner people in that courtroom.