Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holding Court in Houston

Actually, it's not really about holding court but experiencing the Houston court system for the first time.

Today was my first-ever jury duty; well more accurately, a call for possible jury duty. I suspect that plenty of you are thinking, "Sheesh, how can she be that old and not have had a call for jury duty?"

Well, try moving around a lot and living out of the country for a few years. That will generally ensure the system doesn't catch up with the person!

Here is how it went:

I reported at 8 am to the criminal court building. I entered a brand-spanking new jury "convening" building in downtown Houston, which gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing that my taxpayer dollars are at work. It's super-nice and modern with lots of natural light.

View of downtown Houston from the courthouse
Next, I got funneled into one of four sizable auditoriums to wait. And wait. Wait, wait, wait and wait some more. After an eternity (wondering if I'd be there though the holidays), they began to call numbers.

Imagine my joy as juror number after juror number were called and none of them were mine? Ok, I'm cool. They (a bailiff as "they" are called) finally called out the last group, and you guessed it, my number was up. The 6o-plus of us (lemming juror wannabees) shuffled through the tunnel and up to the courtroom area. So, I waited some more with the hard realization that I had not had any coffee. Pout!! 

Three hours slowly ticked by. We were finally summoned into the courtroom. The judge delivered his remarks eloquently, yet with a distinct Texas drawl (including a few "all y'alls" for good measure). "Never", he says, "in all my years on the bench have I had this happen where a specific court jury panel has three MIAs.  By law, we must have 64 panelists from which to select a jury and we cannot move forward because of the nature of this case, capital murder."

And with that, we were suddenly and swiftly dismissed. In a way it would have been interesting to be part of this aspect of democracy, but in another way I sort of dodged a bullet. No pun intended. Next time, and perhaps in civil court?

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