Here is the Storify from the #PAEdChat from Thursday, March 2, 2016. It is also cross-posted on Blogger at the Southwest Regional Directors blog.
What I great conference I wish I was there…anyway, here is a Storify of Tuesday evening Tweets through Wednesday morning.
This is also posted on the Southwest PAECT Region Blog on Blogger located here.
I returned to jury duty at the Lawrence County Court house this morning at 9:15 AM. On my way in I was able to apologize to the lady I was kind of short with yesterday. She was very kind and said no apology was necessary, but I thought I owed her one anyway. She explained that once you are summoned to jury duty, there is no limit to how often they can call you, unless you sit on a jury. In my humble opinion that is nonsense, my family situation is what it is, and cannot change.
I went in with laptop in bag hoping to get some work done. I still could not get on the Internet. The courthouse system blocked me and wanted to download some sort of anti-virus software. Yeah…right Sporto, “That ain’t happenin'” For goodness sakes, I have a Macbook…but I digress yet again.
I was able to type a good bit of my Literature Review for grad school and work on an Easiteach file for Econ. I used the Google Form feedback from my students to find areas that needed addressed. So my day was not a total waste.
About 10:30ish the gentleman in charge of telling the prospective jurors what was going on came in. He let us know that the case we were to possibly sit on had reach a plea agreement. Sounded good, however the county changed the rules and did not release us as they had originally planned. They were trying to organize another case and would need us to stay longer. Very dirty pool in my book.
Around 11 AM we were told that we could leave for lunch. No pizza today, the roads were passable. I was going to stay and continue working on my grad work, until I realized that we were getting TWO HOURS for lunch! What a waste of our time. On the way out, we ran into the jurors from the case we were not chosen for. The defendant accepted a plea agreement right before the trial was to start. They were done. I drove home and shoveled my driveway yet again. I was able to get some work accomplished because I have Internet access there.
Upon my return to the courthouse at 1:15 PM, I sat and talked with a number of jurors, none were too pleased with the rule change by the county. Most of us had been thrown off the previous case jury because of knowing family members who were either victims or law enforcement officials. All were in agreement that we were not a very fair jury pool for a defendant.
About 2:15 we were summoned to the jury waiting room and were told we could leave, the last case had reached a plea agreement. The District Attorney, Josh Lamancusa, came in and thanked us for our service. Once again, we had no choice, so no thanks were necessary. I commented that is was a good thing because, “Only a moron of a defendant would want to pick a jury on a Thursday Afternoon and tie everyone up for another week. Like they would even get a fair trial.”
The District Attorney laughed, he must have thought I was joking. In all seriousness, I do not believe there was a fair trial to be had, there were few people who were happy to be there and most were unhappy with the change in rules by the county. Many of us were repeat potential jurors and knew of many who never were summoned.
Overall, they showed us a video on jury duty, which played patriotic music, quoted Thomas Jefferson, then held us longer than necessary. So much for my civic duty, but I did gain a teachable moment from the entire ordeal, but that is another post.
I must preface this post with the the fact that I am not happy with being called to jury duty, every three years since moving to Lawrence County in 1997. I know people who have never been called for jury duty and they have lived here all of their lives. My wife never had jury duty until we were married 5 1/2 years ago, she has had it twice since then. I teach social studies and thought I was fairly well versed in Civics, but I am being reminded that book knowledge and practical knowledge are not equal.
I was summoned again to serve on a jury about a month or so ago. When I received the summons, I called and talked with the county officials in charge of jury duty. I asked why I was being called every three years and others never get called. The answer from the older gentleman on the other end of the line was, “Names are picked randomly.” I explained my situation and was told, “If you aren’t actually picked for a jury, you could be called more often.” So much for my argument. In my defense, if random is every three years at this time, I should have hit the Powerball Lottery a couple of times by now.
So I filled out the questionnaire and returned it to the county. I was truthful, the threat of perjury for lying on the form has a tendency to do that to people. The two big questions that will usually disqualify me are, “Are you related to any law enforcement officials?” and “Were you are any family members ever the victim of a crime?” The answer to both is yes. I have several family members in various jobs within law enforcement, I have many friends in law enforcement, and my grandparents were almost killed by a driver who was impaired by some substance. There was another question asking to describe my answers, I filled up the space and used part of another section to be thorough.
I lucked out days 1 and 2, not having to go to the courthouse. Last night, in the middle of the snow storm, I called the courthouse and the recorded message said I had to report. I called back twice to make sure I typed my juror ID number in correctly, but the answer was always the same. Soon after I received the call from the school that we were closed. Yay.
I got up, dug out my truck and hoped for court to be canceled. No such luck. I dug out again, and forty-five minutes later I completed the normally fifteen minute drive. The courthouse employees were all very friendly, they even had donuts for us. We waited around and finally I was called for a criminal trial. The judge had us all sit in the court room and reviewed the details of a criminal case.On the way in, one of the court officers thanked us for showing up. Not to be a funny, or sarcastic, I mentioned that there was no need for thanks, “we didn’t have a choice, but to show up. Opting out is called contempt.” Another prospective juror chimed in, “If I don’t show up today, you’ll have me here in cuffs next week.” The court officer laughed and said we were still appreciated.
In the court room, we were asked if we were related or on friendly terms with any of the people in the court. Then they read the witness list and ask the same question. Then they started asking the questions from the questionnaire we had to fill out and send back. We were to stand if our answer to the question was “Yes.” Once again, I stood for the two questions I answered yes to on the questionnaire.We broke for lunch, the court house ordered pizza for everyone since it was still snowing outside.
After lunch, we returned to the court room and one by one, prospective jurors were called to the side barand asked the details to why we stood up during previous questioning. I had gotten this far three years ago and once again I was called up to the side bar. I was asked about the details of why I stood up. It was a lengthy answer. After each answer I was asked if I could still be impartial. I think I could be, but who knows for certain and I said as much. During the questioning I discovered that the Assistant District Attorney on this case and my wife are distantly related through marriage. The Assistant D.A.’s aunt is married to my wife’s uncle, who was a police officer. Needless to say, I was not picked to be on the jury for this criminal trial.
We were sent back to the jury holding room and were told that we had to report the next day at 9:15 AM. They still had one criminal case that possibly needed jurors. I asked why I needed to show up, I was just disqualified from a criminal case. I was told, that they needed prospective jurors so it didn’t matter that I would probably be dismissed. The message was simple, we need people and you have to show up.
Nice…the only way I make a criminal jury is if the defense attorney is totally incompetent, or they want a shot at a mistrial. I made the fifteen minute trip home in about thirty minutes, the roads were getting clearer. Once again, I received a call, school was canceled. Tomorrow I head back to court, to be someone they can send home after wasting a day sitting around doing nothing.
In Lawrence County, Pennsylvania we receive a whopping nine dollars a day for showing to the mandatory jury duty. I guess I just resent the fact that they try and make it sound that we are picked randomly. There were several people in the court who are picked every couple of years, so it is not just me who thinks the randomness is skewered. I also disliked the fact that I have to go back again, for another criminal trial tomorrow, when I was not picked for a jury today. My family situation isn’t going to change overnight, they know it, they just need bodies in a room, even if it is just to take up space. Whoever the defendant is, they will have a pool of rejected jurors to choose from, how fair is that?
I do owe one lady an apology. On my way out to my truck, in the snow and wind, one of the court employees asked if I was in the jury room and knew I had to report back the next day. I said, “yes,” and I guess she could tell I was not happy about it at all. She tried to apologize for the inconvenience, but I brushed her off. I should not have done that, she may have been sincere.
I am just tired of the insincerity, “we randomly pick jurors,” “we need impartial jurors,” “we are sorry for your inconvenience.” If I am to take them at their word, I am sure they could sell me some oceanfront property in Nebraska. No wonder people hate being summoned.