Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How to avoid serving as a juror on the Garcia case without really trying

The grammatically challenged summons issued by $94,000-a-year Douglas County Clerk of the District Court, John Friend, came several weeks ago: for the first time in our life (we use the royal we and our) our presence was being requested requisitioned for jury duty; that presence to commence at 8:30 am, an hour several hours past our bedtime.
     We have anger issues from the getgo with governmental overlords who mess with our sleep. We would argue against taking this interference lying down, but that would play right into the elegantly manicured day fascist hands of Douglas County Clerk of the District Court, John Friend.
     While we certainly don't take the obligations of the Republic lightly, we're sick and tired (mostly tired) of all this first-degree discrimination, especially by the so-called JUSTICE system, when we are already subject to all manner of injustice, including, but not limited to:
  • UPS drivers who can't (or won't) read mailbox addys and instead knock on your door asking where other people live and then return to ask if they can leave their packages with you
  • Jehovah Witnesses who knock on your door,
  • Mormons who knock on your door
  • Baptists who knock on your door
  • Assorted lazy fucks who don't knock on your door — but honk repeatedly outside your neighbor's door, upon which they should be knocking tapping lightly
     Yes, yes, we know jury duty isn't really obligatory — one may always opt for incarceration for contempt of court — but we doubt our chances of day sleeping in county jail are better than trying to do so discretely in a jury box.
     So we showed up at 8:30 AM, and were surprised to see more than 200 other draftees, in "business casual." (By the way, French students: if you want a real-life demonstration of "casual," you should see how lawyers, judges, bailiffs and Douglas County Clerk of the District Court John Friend pronounce voir dire.)
     We saw dozens of potential jurors, those evidence weighers on whom the success of our court system vitally depends, show up at 1701 Farnam, instead of at the newer building at 1819 Farnam, which was the address on the document sent to them.
     Signs directed them to the correct building.
     The signs were not hand-lettered, strong evidence that this happens a lot, which is a disturbing comment on the gene pool of Omaha's jury pool.
     That five jury trials start this week in Douglas County, three more than average, doesn't entirely explain the inflated number of jurors summoned. Another fact does: this is the week that the Trial of the Year starts.
     That case would be the one of a pissed-off Creightonian, Dr. Anthony Garcia, charged with stabbing the housekeeper of another Creighton University doctor, and his son, to death, and coming back five years later to fatally shoot a different Creighton doctor and stab his wife to death. Also, he tried to get into the house of a third Creighton doctor while she was home.
     (Why yes! That 2009 episode of Law and Order that you may have seen did rip off this crime as its plot, but only the first serial killing installment, not the 2013 sequel.)
     Such cases cause prosecutors and defense attorneys to go through prospective jurors during voir dire like Creighton (Nebraska's most expensive college) goes through the money of its students' parents.
     WOWT said 136 potential jurors were rousted for the Garcia trial. Since 5% percent of America is nocturnal, that means Douglas County Clerk of the District Court John Friend screwed over almost 6.8 day sleepers for the Garcia trial alone.
     While in line at the metal detector we pondered other important questions:
  • What if we're assigned to the Big One?
  • How many weeks might that drag on?
  • What is the IRS mileage compensation formula the county uses?
  • Why don't they pay for parking in a garage?*
  • Does the #16 bus stop closer to our house than the #18?
  • If you're caught "resting" in the jury box, will you be carted off to county jail, where the trial-awaiting Dr. Garcia claimed he was sexually assaulted by five guards?
  • If you button-holed (not prison slang) Garcia, would he admit he did it?
  • Is it possible to sleep during the day in jail?
  • Is juror pay of $35 a day even minimum wage?
  • Would one make more money doing laundry behind bars, if jailed for contempt of court, than one would be paid for jury duty?
  • Where does the county get off, according to the sign on its metal detector, claiming it isn't responsible for any damage to anything it makes you put through its machine?
     Happily, we were not selected for the Big One, but were sent to a civil case. The judge congratulated us on lucking out and not having to spend six weeks on That One, which most assuredly would have involved the viewing of photographs no one except a forensic pathologist would want to see.
     Next came jury selection, to see which of us the opposing attorneys could mutually agree would be the most gullible, pliable, stupid, amenable to their well-reasoned, well-funded arguments in a case involving snooty public school bureaucrats in a pissing contest with a large corporation which may or may not have been gorging itself too greedily at the public trough.
     The bailiff, while pointing at the lectern, told us to stand by the "podium" while we introduced ourselves.
     The play-fight attorneys thanked for us coming, in the manner that a pipeline company land agent thanks you for signing their easement offer after threatening you with eminent domain condemnation had you refused.
     The attorneys told us how valuable our contributions were! Then they sat down at their big table, with the coffee and the bottled water that jurors are not allowed to have.
     We had no idea what the judge was drinking, but he seemed friendly enough until he saw a juror prospect glancing down at what His Honor took to be a cellphone, at which time he proved how fast someone in a black robe can turn on you. (Yours truly was not the offender.)
     One of the attorneys asked our group if any of us were prejudiced against litigation in general, as some jurors are. We were so tempted to ask this: if one hates both of the litigious parties in a lawsuit equally, why would one be particularly biased toward either?
     We say "tempted to ask" because we were too sleepy to get the words out.
     In the end, it didn't matter. We were not selected in any case, for this case, and our recess was permanent. 
     Leo Adam Biga, a much better writer than the one you're reading, got rejected too, which pleased us to no end, unless he is a nocturnal fellow traveler, in which case we childishly, malevolently and jealously would have wanted him to serve.)
     As we exited the courthouse, we waved at the weird outdoor statue of MLK in his robe, channeling the sculptor's apparent dream of how some repressed Flying Nun inside Dr. King might have busted out into the open.
     As for us, we were free at last to hole up with our pillow.
*In Lincoln, a parking lot is provided for jurors. In Omaha they have to pay their own parking, are not reimbursed, and are told not to use metered parking. In Lincoln, jurors are paid 2-3 weeks following the case on which they serve. In Omaha, the delay is at least four weeks. Thanks, John Friend, Douglas County Clerk of the District Court! And good luck on your reelection!

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