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July 17, 2006

I CAN'T TALK ABOUT IT

I CAN’T TALK ABOUT IT

By Harley

My husband claims I have two qualities that lawyers hate in a client: I’m honest, and I’m chatty.

What he means is, you don’t want me wandering around unattended in a deposition or interrogation. Or, for that matter, a poker tournament.

But honesty and chattiness are issues this week because a very special invitation showed up in the mail last month: Jury Duty.

I blogged about this once, about how no one wanted me on a jury, just because I’m the wife of a lawyer, and the sister, daughter, sister-in-law, and friend of lawyers, and also, the daughter-in-law of a federal appellate court judge.

Last week, though, I was happy with that resumé because my au pair went to

North Carolina

, my cleaning lady/backup babysitter went to

El Salvador

, and my agent suggested that my manuscript was not yet fit for human consumption, despite an August 1 deadline. Last week I was a wee bit busy, with no time to fritter away on the justice system.

Happily, we have new rules in

California

. You show up at the courthouse one day only. Plug in your computer, drink free coffee, answer e-mail, get herded into a courtroom, answer some questions, get rejected, go home.

The judge even says, right off the bat, “This trial may take x number of days/weeks/ months. Anyone have a conflict?” Naturally, lots of people have conflicts. The catch is, our conflicts are not their conflicts. Here’s what they consider conflicts:

1.DIRE financial difficulty (e.g., you’re the sole support of 14 children and a grandmother in an iron lung, and you took the bus to the courthouse.)

2. You breastfeed.

3. You’re dead.

Oh, they’ll LISTEN to you. My group had fascinating conflicts, which unfortunately, I’m not allowed to talk about. Heartrending problems, imaginatively explained, far better than missing cleaning ladies and looming book deadlines. Yet we all made it to the next round: Voir Dire, for those who don’t watch Law & Order.

At 4:45 pm, it happened to me. “KOZAK! You’re up!”

I was asked if I knew any lawyers. I went through my “lawyers-R-us” litany and guess what? Four minutes later I was sworn in.

Now here’s the shocker: a number of upstanding, responsible friends/relatives cannot believe I didn’t lie to avoid this. Starting with my favorite lawyer.

“THEY DIDN’T DING YOU?” My husband yelled over the cell phone, as I drove home from my undisclosed courthouse location. “HOW COULD YOU LET THAT HAPPEN?”

Others shared his response. Why not claim clinical depression, membership in religious cults, belief in conspiracy theories?

Answer: I can’t. I was shaking like Jell-O, just stating my name and professions, former and current. Fellow jurors must’ve thought, “Actress? She can’t have had much of a career.  Her voice is all quivery.” Impossible to say, “I’m a bundle of biases and will be unable to render an impartial verdict.” I, so comfortable acting that I’ve literally fallen asleep onstage am paralyzed with stagefright when playing myself.

Friends also inform me that only geeks adhere to that “do not discuss this case with anyone” admonition. I am a geek. Judicial Awe has overriden my natural Chattiness. I live in monk-like silence.

So here I am, having adventures I can’t talk about, while my children run around the house naked and my manuscript cries for attention. Civil case? Criminal? Can’t tell you. Death penalty? My lips are zipped. I’m allowed to disclose the emergency phone number of the courtroom, but I think, with this readership, I better waive that right.

Happy Monday!

Harley

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Comments

Gee Harley,
I did the same thing ten years ago when I got selected for a jury. I told the truth, was chatty and I still got selected!

At that time,
I was a middle school teacher with G.R.E.A.T. in the classroom, that is
Gang-Resistence-Education-and-Training.
The case was a gang related manslaughter shooting.

I guess the district attorney knew what G.R.E.A.T. meant, while the high priced District Attorney did not.

SLAM DUNK,
we found the shooter guilty.


*sends box of homemade cookies from Daddy and Caroline*

Munch on these and warn those suckers the wrath of readers denied a book at the time promised. They don't want us going Jerry Springer on their butts....they really don't. (And is it considered poor taste to try out plot lines on the rest of the jurors while in deliberations?)

Considering the fact my husband has done forensic photo work for the city and knows most of the attorneys by name and drink preference, I'm surprised I haven't been excused...been selected for jury duty three times in the past thirty years (petit jury, not grand jury)and sat on six trials. My favorite was the one in which the defendant neglected to show up and was voted guilty by default. Precious Jewel was her name :o)
Even served as a foreperson for one in which no one wanted to take the position...got us out in time for dinner!
Most trials here (unless they're the high profile kind) are over and done with in the course of a day,so no sequestering. No cautions not to talk about them either. However, there was one drug case in which the defense attorney asked that the jury be polled.The defendant looked at each one of us. Seven years later, I saw a notice this guy was being paroled and took a deep breath
or two.
Just one tip...try and get selected in the morning and be in deliberations before lunch :o) The court system (at least here) feeds you :o)

Precious Jewel made me spew my coffee. Just so you'll know....

Welcome back, Harley! Good luck on meeting the deadline, but maybe you can look at jury duty as research?

Absolutely it's research. I guess you now know how Book #4 will begin. The tough thing is, they make us take notes in PENCIL on boring steno pads. And they make us leave them there.

I was called for a particularly ugly homicide case last year and, my nephew, a preosecutor, had already told me that no smart DA would seat me, a crime writer.

Obviously, our prosecutor had skipped that class.

I really was looking forward to the experience, because of what I do, but that feeling didn't last. It took two weeks to find this kid guilty of felony murder, meaning automatic life with no parole.

It was one of the worst experiences of my life, and that includes me shot at.

I hope your experience is much less traumatic.

I got called for a death penalty case a couple of months ago. I knew two of the defense lawyers, I'm a lawyer myself, and I worked on a death penalty case for five years. I told them that the death penalty is basically a crap shoot and there was no way to answer "no" to the question about "emotion" or "vengence" without either lying about it or not thinking about it, since that's the whole idea of the death penalty.

I got excused.

Not to panic Harley, but it's my observation that people who are selected for jury duty tend to get selected over & over. It's like once they've found you, they keep you on speed dial or something. Is that a false impression?

Oooh, I'm jealous.

I've never been summoned for jury duty. And I'm convinced that I'd be the Perfect Juror and that the justice system is really missing out.

I live in a town where, when you get picked for jury duty, you're scheduled to serve one day a week for 8 weeks. Generally, you call in and there's no jury needed. When I received my dates, I predicted to everyone that I'd be fine until week 8 and I was right. In the jury room, someone said it had been at least 5 years since they'd had a jury trial.

Luck of the draw made me the second juror selected and I found myself spending the day as a juror (you pretty much stay until the case is resolved, in our case that meant 8pm). In the end, I was glad for the chance to do it, because it was interesting to see the process in action, even on a very small scale.

Harley - it's great to have you back!

Sorry about the jury duty, but you really should get some great material out of it.

For some reason, this topic came up over the weekend, and here are some of the best lines I heard for avoiding jury duty - some worked, some didn't:

"I can't spend that much time sitting down, since I have uromycetosis" (Note: that is the disease that Jerry Seinfeld made up when he was caught urinating in the parking garage - the defense attorney recognized the bit and laughed so hard they had to take a break.)

"I have necrophelia." The guy meant to say narcolepsy, but since the case was about possible misdeads by the coroner, even the tipstaff lost it.

"You SHOULD pick me because I can tell if someone's guilty just by looking at them." Harley - that one's your best bet, since most of the people who say it are telling the truth.

Can't wait for the post-trial details!

It must be a sign of a decrease in the population.............heard this week-end on the radio that even Jeanenne Garofolo is spending a month on a Federal Grand Jury.
I wonder as a former plaintiff in a wrongful death, victimologist, pal of lawyers and judges, ACLU director and current crime novel reviewer and bookseller if even I might get chosen after 5 callings and turndowns?
Can't wait for the details!
Mary Alice sweltering

In New York, it's truly impossible to get out of jury duty. I was called to sit on a state narcotics grand jury -- 30 days, 8 hours a day, commuting all the way downtown. Naturally I wanted to get out of it. This was shortly after I left the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office, where I'd been Deputy Chief of the NARCOTICS Unit. So I thought, no biggie, all I have to do is tell the truth. They'll never seat me in a million years. WRONG! I told them I'd spent a career working narcotics cases, that I knew every trick in the book and that it would be difficult for me to avoid sharing all this insider knowledge with the other grand jurors. They seated me anyway.

Oh Harley, I weep for you. I get called EVERY year around my birthday. The only time those notices stopped was during the year and a half that I served on a Federal Grand Jury.

When I had jury duty four years ago, they told me that LA County had so many cases that everyone basically was going to have to serve once a year.

I made that jury, but I haven't been back. :)

There was a woman in that court room I so wanted to be on the jury, too. She got up, stated her name, and announced that she couldn't possibly be impartial. After some more questions, they let her go. I wanted her seated just to spite her.

Mark

Necrophilia? Damn, I totally forgot. I DO have that! Oh-- and FYI, the judge gave us the day off due to a witness scheduling snafu. It's almost as if I were MEANT to blog today.

The "necrophilia" made me spit coffee, dammit! One of these days, I'll learn to drink coffee BEFORE reading here..:)

I was called for the first time in my life about three years ago. The defense attorney looked at my paperwork, looked at me, and said "Your name is familiar to me, sir. Have we met?" I said I didn't think we had. Things continued, when all of a sudden he stopped everything and whirled around to me. "Do you know XXXXX XXXXXX with the FBI?" I said yes I did. "And do you know YYYY YYYYYY with the Secret Service?" I said yes I did.

He asked I be excused as work I had done two years prior had caused his client to get a twenty year sentence for posession of child pornography.

I've not been called since. Wonder why?

I got called too. I'm supposed to report Thursday. My husband saw the summons in the mail, and said, "Oh, good, it's you." Then he commented that I'd probably get chosen because I'd be the perfect juror. Uh oh.

I call in Wednesday night to see if they still need me to come. I'm hoping they don't.

Funny story,
we hired a new employee and was told that he had jury duty. Given our new hire probation standards, I suggested to the new hire's supervisor that the new hire postpone jury duty. The manager replied,
"He has to appear for jury duty!!!!"
I replied,
"Since it is only jury duty, then he should be able to postpone since he is starting a new job."
The manager had a hissy fit and hung up on me. I later found out that it was not jury duty, but the individual was really a defendant in a court case for white collar crime.
Sigh!

Yay! a Harley blog!!!
Jury duty....fun...fun....
I guess I'm lucky (if you wanna call it that).. after spine surgery.. I get a nice little note from the doc, excusing me from serving cause I can't sit for long periods of time.. and if there is one thing you do on jury duty.. it's SIT!!! and sit and sit..
so while I am a total court tv/law & order junkie who would love to serve.. I can't do it!
It's not OJ, Michael Jackson's case is over.. Anna Nicole hasn't married anyone lately.....I am now completely intrigued as to what your case is.. :)
have fun..?? do they still pay like $15 bucks a day to serve? and how is that fair exactly?
have a good one..
biscy

I'm always selected for juries - I have a gullible face I guess. However, the best reason I ever heard for being excused from a jury was "I can't serve on this jury because I'm supposed to be chopping onions for Martha Stewart tomorrow."

I think the judge didn't want this wacko anywhere near the courtroom.

That onion-chopping for Martha Stewart -- as that behind the TV camera or behind bars? Okay, enough of this fun. It's Tuesday mornings. Back to the salt mines.

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