Thursday, November 9, 2017

Obama does civic duty, just like the masses who get called upon for jury

I’m sure the ideologues amongst us who want to believe that Barack Obama exists on some sort of alien plane of existence will hate this characterization, but now the former president has something in common with many of us Cook County residents.
Obama went from Oval Office ...

He had to blow a few hours of his day at a courthouse (in his case, the Daley Center downtown) on the off-chance he would actually be needed to serve on a jury.

THE REPORTS I read indicate he showed up at about 10:15 a.m., and was released from duty by the county by mid-day.

He got to watch that video of a youthful Lester Holt talking about the great civic duty one performs when they’re asked to be one of a dozen individuals who decide the guilt or innocence of someone caught up in the court system.

Just like I have done three times in my life. Like Obama, I wound up not being picked – and in two of the cases didn’t even come close to being considered. Almost as if it was a waste of my day.

Except that it will be argued the need for a large pool of individuals is essential to come up with enough acceptable people to have enough juries. In short, it’s not a process that can be run with efficiency in mind. Somebody’s time has to be wasted!

IT SHOULDN’T BE a surprise that Obama wasn’t picked, and not just because I’m sure many attorneys arguing a case in court want the attention focused on the merits of their legal arguments – and not on the fact that one of the jurors is (at the very least) a former law school instructor who probably knows more about legal issues and public policy than they do.

Not that I’ve ever been rejected for jury service because I was too knowledgable. In fact, two of my times I received the call, my stint ended as abruptly as Obama’s service.

I remember being back outside the Criminal Courts building at about 12:15 p.m.. waiting for a bus that would take me to the el platform a few blocks north that rode me back into the heart of the city – then back home for the day.
,,, to jury room of Daley Center

In my case, I was part of a group that was supposed to be considered for a jury in a criminal case – only for the defendant to suddenly decide to accept a plea agreement.

SINCE THERE WAS no trial, there were no need for jurors. Which means the sheriff’s deputies wound up having to sort out the paperwork so we could all be given our checks for just over $17 each to compensate us for our service.

Which pretty much was enough money to cover the cost of my el and bus fares I encountered to get out to the courthouse that one-time Mayor Anton Cermak had constructed in the neighborhood because it was where he came from – he liked the idea of all his supporters being able to get jobs near home.

Of course, I might be more mocking of Obama’s two hours of jury service that resulted in him not being picked if not for another experience I once had at the county courthouse in Maywood.

On that particular day, there were three cases scheduled to come up for trial (all civil), only for all three to be settled out-of-court at the last minute. Meaning, once again, no jurors needed. We all got to go home by about 1 p.m.

WHICH I REMEMBER had all of us relieved. Because no matter how much it is a civic responsibility, no one wants to have to give up several weeks of their lives to sit through a criminal trial – which, based on my experience covering criminal courts cases as a reporter-type person, isn’t unheard of.

So I’ve had my own Obama-like experience with jury service – having to sit in isolated rooms with vending machines providing overpriced sustenance. Although I understand Obama was allowed to sit off by himself in a judge’s private office so he could continue to get some work done.
A touch of nature outside a place that focuses on humanity's ugliness
The version of me that once actually had to submit to interrogation from prosecutors and defense attorneys picking a jury wouldn’t have been as sympathetic. I remember being at the Criminal Courts building until about 8:30 p.m. before I was formally rejected to serve in the case against a man facing attempted murder charges of a Korean grocer he was accused of trying to rob.

In my case, I had just been laid off from a job a couple of days before, and I remember seeing the looks of dismay on the attorneys’ faces when I was able to say I was unemployed. Almost as though they could pull out their rubber stamp of “rejection” and plop it on my forehead. Which sent me packing just moments later.


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