Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My civic duty, soaking in hours of boredom, just in case I’m needed

By the time you read this, I most likely am sitting in a room at the Cook County Criminal Courts building, being kept isolated from any “real” people and trying to justify in my mind how to keep myself from losing my mental faculties.

Yes, I have jury duty!

TUESDAY IS THE day that I am supposed to report to that grand old courthouse in the Little Village neighborhood where generations of Chicagoans have had JUSTICE!!! dealt upon them for whatever criminal offenses the state’s attorney was able to justify.

I’m supposed to be at the courthouse, most likely for the entire day – and always the possibility of several days thereafter. Although I won’t know for sure until day’s end whether my service on behalf of the people of Illinois will be complete.

I can’t say I’m looking forward to Tuesday, although I have to admit it is made a little bit easier by being employed, so to speak, as a freelance writer.

I don’t have a company to whom I have to explain why I can’t show up for work on this day. I won’t have some snide nitwit of a boss thinking it is a major inconvenience for him that I can’t be present at the office as though my life is supposed to center around making him look good professionally.

THEN AGAIN, IT is a day in which I have to focus on the prospect of being called to service to decide the fate of a person who happens to face a criminal charge or two. As in I can’t do anything that might actually earn me some money with which to live.

In short, I exist on Tuesday to collect that check of $17.20 that the Cook County sheriff’s department will issue to me and to all the other would-be jurors – to cover the cost (as they estimate it) of our transportation costs to and from the courthouse.

In my case, I took a combination of Metra and CTA “el” trains to get myself to the 26th Street courthouse. Unlike all those suburban Cook County court facilities with ample parking, I’m at the building where street parking is limited, and the few nearby lots are ridiculously expensive.

I’d rather deal with the transit transfers in order to make the trip.

I SUSPECT I have an advantage over all my other would-be jurors in that I have been in enough courthouses – including this very building where I was once the regular assigned reporter back when I wrote for the now-defunct City News Bureau.

I also comprehend the degree to which I’m being kept in isolation to prevent any less-than-reputable attorney from trying to influence my thought process.

Although the most intense judicial outburst I ever personally heard from a judge upset about jury contact involved a courtroom sketch artist (you know, the ones who do the quickie drawings on television news) who had the gall to try to say “Hi” to a juror.

I’m prepared to sit for hours on end on Tuesday, to see whether or not I need to go through the process of being grilled by prosecution and defense attorneys to see if I’m fit to have a say in whether or not a criminal defendant deserves to lose his freedom.

I DON’T KNOW whether my reportorial experience having covered courtrooms across the county makes a difference – although I wouldn’t be surprised if some insecure attorney-type person would think I “know” too much and can’t be trusted to be impartial.

Then again, some attorney-type might enjoy the idea of inconvenience to a reporter-type person and go out of his way to pick me. I really don’t know whether I’ll make it onto a jury, or have my own freedom back on Wednesday.

For the record, I have done jury duty twice before in my life – and have never actually been picked. One of those times, I didn’t get rejected until something like 8:30 p.m., and didn’t get back home until just before 11 p.m.

I’m braced for another day just like that. Which will go a long ways toward explaining my grumpier-than-usual temperament on Wednesday.


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