By Hal Collier
Last week, I wrote about my first day of jury duty. A short recap is I sat in the assembly room for 7 1/2 hours and then was told to report to Department 108 the following week. It was going to be a 30 day trial–that’s 6 weeks in real time. The only excuses were financial hardship (my pension disqualifies me from that), medical impairment or hardship (I think my twitch is back), or caring for small children or an elderly parent. Now I do take care of grandchildren 1 or 2 days a week, but that’s because I like to spend time with them.
I asked for advice from former cops that have experienced getting out of jury duty. Some of the responses I received were helpful, some would only find me in contempt of court. A few samples: Tell the defense that your experience in law enforcement will prejudice you toward the prosecution. That should work. Another advises to tell them your dog is pregnant and you don’t know who the father is. That sounds like a few hours in the holding tank. I received advice from 3 different states. My sister, always the positive one, remarked that the jury duty experience would supply me with more stories to share. I think I would rather exchange stories with RJ about his putting pennies in a bag of water over a door to keep out flies. Another friend suggested that I denounce my citizenship. He said in his county they are only expected to call in one day. A former cop had the best answer. Explain the many reviews that go into a filing and the prosecution of the dirt bag. In laymen terms that’s means if it goes this far—he is guilty.
I spent many nights lying awake, rehearsing my story. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing my civic duty, but after 35 years of being a cop I figure I’ve done my share. 6 weeks sitting in a room listening to liberal lawyers trying to confuse a jury is not my idea of retirement.
The big day comes, I’m prepared. I’m nervous, just like before taking an oral interview for promotion. I have to be in court at 1:30. I drive downtown early and arrive at 1:00 P.M. I walk the 1/4 mile down Bunker Hill to get to the court house. There is a long line to get through the metal detectors. I get in line and see a Hollywood officer I used to supervise. He is in the short “officer only” line. Another reminder, I’m GP—general public. I remove everything from my pockets and step through the metal detector. I’m advised that I have a handcuff key on my key ring and have to turn it in to the sheriff’s deputy. Now, I have authority to carry my handgun, a fully loaded 9 mm semi-automatic, but there I am, turning in my hand cuff key.
I arrive on the 9th floor which is packed, mostly jurors, like myself. Another metal detector, I’m clean. I find a seat on the bench and wait. I see two former Hollywood detectives get off the elevator. I say “hi” but they ignore me at first. I forgot, I’m wearing my “Jury” badge. Again, I’m GP. No one is supposed to talk to jurors. They are in a different court room. Damn, I was hoping for a conflict to get excused. I see a gentlemen walking down the hall, he looks familiar. He looks at me and there is a look of recognition. I believe I have arrested him some time but can’t place his face. He enters another court.
My court clerk comes out and calls roll. Only one juror is absent. I’m amazed, because my group has 58 potential jurors. After 30 minutes we’re herded into the court room and seated. I recognize the judge, I think I testified before him just before I retired, maybe another conflict. The judge explains that the trial will last 6 weeks, possibly ending just before Christmas. It’s a murder trial, with special circumstances, that means death penalty. We are then given a 15 page questionnaire and sent back out into the hall. Each question has sub-questions. If you answer yes, explain, same for no answers. They want to know my views on the death penalty, illegal Immigrants, drug dealers, gun ownership, well—you get the picture. I could do a whole page on “would you give more weight to a police officer’s testimony?”. I’m worried my pen might run out of ink. The witness list has more names then the USC football roster. I recognize a few LAPD officers, maybe another conflict. Okay, I really don’t want to spend 6 weeks hiking up and down Bunker Hill.
We turn in our questionnaires and are ordered back in one week. Swell, another week of waking up in the middle of the night rehearsing my reasons for being excused. I’m seriously thinking of using the pregnant dog excuse. If I’m in lock-up I won’t be on the jury. I might even be taken off the jury summons mailing list.
D-Day I think I’m finally going to get excused, I sail right through both metal detectors, I’m become a pro. I find a seat in the hall and wait. I’m listening to jurors from another court case, they’re on day 15—yikes. I see the two defense attorneys enter the courtroom, they have California Berkeley written all over them. The court bailiff comes out into the hall and states, “Raise your hand if you’re a juror in Department 108”. Ok this it, time to give your well prepared excuse. The deputy states, “The court has successfully picked a jury and you are all excused.” First there was silence, then some applause, then a dash for the elevators. I’m guessing they had 2 jury pools, one in the morning and my group in the afternoon. No complaints. I’m good for at least a year and then we’ll start all over again.
I’d like to thank everyone who replied with advice. I’m not going to have to denounce my citizenship, sit in the lock-up with someone who is blowing me kisses, and have my dog checked for a due date.
I can just go back to being GP.