Grin-ovations: Jury Selection is in (Voie) DIRE Need of Innovation
As I type this post, I’m sitting in the Central Jury Room at the Queens County Courthouse in Kew Gardens, New York City. This is the start of my third day fulfilling my civic duty, which from what I can tell, mostly consists of sitting around in an institutional environment.
This is my first time in a jury pool. Ever. Not sure why I’ve been deemed undesirable for so many years; but I have been. Something changed recently, however, and now I’m apparently worthy of this ever-so-fulfilling experience.
What a great environment for the fertile mind! Imagine being suddenly teleported to the Dark Ages, or maybe caveman times. If you escaped death by the Inquisition or a sabertooth tiger, respectively, think of the changes you could initiate!
And so, after just two days of jury duty, it is glaringly obvious to me that the jury selection process is in need of a major overhaul. Not just a Maaco paint job. We’re talking a new transmission and at the very least an engine rebuild.
Already I could write a book. A very boring, annoying, humiliating, uncomfortable, sometimes surreal book. But since I may get called into a big criminal case at any moment, I’ll just give you the highlights.
Here are a few obvious ways in which advanced innovative thinking could dramatically improve the jury selection process.
1. PUNISH THE FELONS, NOT THE JURORS. There are eight plasma screens mounted throughout the central jury room. Nice touch, right? No doubt THIS was a big, innovative step forward not long ago. Unfortunately, at this very moment I’m watching Kelly Rippa do the two-step “LIVE FROM NEW ORLEANS,” while Regis chides her from off-camera. I know from my two-day experience that in just a few minutes, eight hi-def, cloyingly cute Rachael Rays will appear throughout the room This is torture, worse than Guantanamo. I never thought I’d be in a situation in which I’d look forward to The View. But there you go; at least they’ve got Whoopi.
2. MAKE BETTER USE OF TIME. So instead of the Regisian plasmas, how about a few Nintendo Wiis? Add some Wii Fit activities and you could do something about the obesity problem, as well. Or maybe foosball. Everybody loves foosball, right? A cross between soccer and shishkebob. (Joke courtesy or Mitch Hedburg.) Other activities that come to mind – World of Warcraft, yoga class and a sushi bar (there’s a very nice corner to my left that would be perfect).
3. LAW & ORDER. Just run Law & Order all day. Everyone would know everything going on. Enough said.
4. RETHINK VOIR DIRE. Voir Dire, for those who don’t already know, is this really adorable process where the arrogant judge and the two arrogant attorneys (by definition, all three are infinitely smarter and better-dressed than you – except for the all-too-obvious fact that they’re lawyers) ask you questions to ensure you’re a suitable juror. Sadly, questions like, “Can you think?” or “Can you understand what I’m saying?” or “Have you smoked crack within the past 3 hours?” don’t ever seem to come up. Others like, “If I tell you something is true, will you decide in my favor?” do. And, at least in my experience, most of the jurors say, “Uh, can you repeat that?” and finally, “Uh, yeah.” I had the gall to respond, “Well, maybe.” They didn’t like that one bit. BUT I SWEAR, I could think of at least a dozen circumstances in which I may not. Finally, I told them that I was born and raised in Louisiana. Voila! I could almost hear the Family Feud-style buzzers and see that big red X over my head. I was rejected. (“Louisiana? Maybe he’s a racist. Or in the NRA. Or he eats possum. Let’s cut him loose.”)
5. PROFESSIONAL JURORS. When the judge asked, “Who here has been the victim of a crime?” about 13 of the 16 jurors’ hands went up. UH, HELLO? THIS IS NEW YORK CITY!!! Next, when he asked if anyone on the panel had ever been charged or convicted of a crime, or if someone they are close to had, about 10 of the 16 jurors’ hands went up. UH, HELLO! THIS IS NEW YORK CITY!!! I was really hoping that the fact that my apartment was broken into 25 years ago might get me excused. Yah. Not next to beatings, muggings, carjackings and Bernie Madoff victims. Thank god for the fact I was raised in Louisiana, right? Clearly if we were able to breed jurors, you know, have them born and raised on juror farms, never let them go out into the real world, maybe they could be unbiased about crime. After 2+ days in the Queens County Central Jury Room, I’m all for this.
6. TECHNOLOGY. Why not do most of this crap online? Let me tell them I hate anyone with a gun, or love anyone with a gun (I am from Louisiana, after all). Let me say right up front I have a hearing problem. Or an understanding problem. Or that I hate cops or love cops (they asked about this, I swear) or am pissed that I lost my job or got a ticket or tripped on a sidewalk in NYC and can’t wait to get back at that billionaire bastard Bloomberg. THEY WON’T EVEN LET ME USE MY IPHONE for god’s sake. (Yeah, that’s right, no iPhones.) Let’s infuse this already dysfunctional system with some technology. That’ll either streamline it or make it break down completely!
All said, I’m proud that I’m performing my civic duty. (The judge told me it’s a privilege – and he’s a lot smarter than I am. So I suppose it’s true.) And I’m elated that once this medieval torture is over, I’ll be exempt for SIX YEARS! A lot can happen in six years. Lots of change. Lots of innovation. Lots of better ways of doing things.
Until then, I wonder what’s on Rachael Ray today…