Wednesday, October 10, 2007

She's absconded: You're dismissed

Today I was summoned to the County seat for jury service. Anticipating a great deal of downtime, I took the book I'm currently reading, Rachel North's, Out of the Tunnel, a riveting memoir from The Friday Project about her life and suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after she was injured in the bomb that went off on the tube at King's Cross on 7/7/05 (the UK's 9/11 equivalent).

Jury duty was an interesting experience because Bucks County has a One Day-One Trial system, which means the jury is on call one for day only unless selected to form part of a jury in which case it's for the entire trial and not for the full two weeks as they do in say New York State. It makes for a very efficient handling of both the Court's time, the jury's time and the lawyers time. Indeed, it appears that Bucks County, as a result, is the most efficient court system in Pennsylvania (and undoubtedly beyond) as as result of this system and many jurisdictions are emulating it because it has been so successful.

In the United States, the fact I am an attorney does not preclude me from having to do jury service, which I believe is right and proper. I think the jury should reflect society at large, so the fact I have legal training and am a litigator should not mean I can't serve the interests of justice in a case in which I have no direct interest. I'm sure I would get elected the foreperson for the jury--or would try my damndest to make that happen, as I'd like to manage the deliberations and read the verdict at the end of the trial.

In any event, it wasn't to be on this occasion. I was to be sent to a court room for 'voir dire' (selection or rejection by the attorneys) in a criminal trial, but the judge and a tipstaff (Pennsylvania equivalent of a bailiff) came into the jurors lounge at 1.45 and stated the defendant had decided to abscond during lunch and the bailiffs were now in hot pursuit of her. Much chuckling ensued. After thanking us for our time, the judge said he was letting us go as he was not a mean man and going to keep us until she had been apprehended. I guess she decided she was guilty and likely to do time.

I was rather hoping to serve in a murder trial, though one part of me was also nervous because Pennsylvania has the death penalty which is very alien to me as Ireland and the UK abolished capital punishment many years ago. It would, however, have been marvelous grist for a plot or two.


Rachel said...

Thank you very much for reading my book and describing it as 'riveting'.
A friend tipped em off that you had mentioned it - he lurks on your blog - and so I wanted to pop over and say thank you

Damian McNicholl said...

Rachel, I finished it and found it a solid memoir, especially the second half where you start to take control of your situation.

Maybe you'd consider answering a few questions on my blog when you have some time.