I’ve been summoned for jury duty in several states, and although the selection process is different depending on where you live, the purpose is the same. Yesterday it was my turn, again. Some people come up with interesting ways to get out of it. One young woman in my group was dressed more appropriately for a booty call than jury selection even though the dress code was stated clearly on the summons. I heard one woman say she wouldn’t update her facebook status if she got dismissed, because she wanted the day off, her boss doesn’t have anything better to do, I guess.
Some people think jury duty, like voting, is a waste of time. I don’t speak for them. However, I do understand why they equate the two, because we all know the truth, money talks.
This was the second time in less than five years I’ve had jury duty. The difference this time is that in an effort to expedite the jury selection process, an online questionnaire was provided in advance. There were routine questions – name, address, date of birth, etc. Some additional information was needed to assist the court in determining if I would make a suitable juror. All answers on the digital voir dire must be true and correct, affirmation of such is done by clicking YES next to “Do you swear or affirm that all the answers to this questionnaire are true and correct.”
I wondered how the information would be used.
Level of education, of course, is needed to be sure we can read and follow instructions. Marital status, how many children we have and their ages is needed to let the court know how close we are to going crazy.
Okay, I get it, for the sake of fairness, it’s important for some information to be recorded.
Here are the questions which I found a little more than irrelevant to determine if a potential juror can draw a conclusion based on evidence.
1) What is your religious preference?
Maybe jurors in the past requested excessive breaks to practice their religion; maybe during deliberations they suddenly began speaking a language no one else could understand. Maybe this question is to determine what deli trays in the jury room should include.
2) List hobbies and personal interest.
This question must be to route out anyone who grows “hybrids” for personal use or perhaps to identify bloggers.
3) What TV shows do you enjoy or watch regularly?
Selecting people who watch CSI, Law & Order, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Lifetime, WE or 24 hour news channels might result in a jury sequestered at the Starlight Motel pooling their six dollars a day to purchase oxytocin and viagra.
4) List newspapers, magazines, or other publications that you read.
Twelve people who read, well, we all know what that could lead to.
5) List clubs or groups to which you belong.
Which would throw up a red flag? Meat Dress Quilters Guild or Gummy Bear Textile Society?
6) Please describe your use of alcoholic beverages.
Oh, this one I cannot even begin to understand. Please describe my use of alcoholic beverages? Do they want to know if I use red wine to tie dye white shirts? Beer to wash my hair? If I say I think tequila can get you pregnant, it may be true, but is that really the kind of answer they’re looking for?
7) Rank the following highest to lowest according to what you believe the goal of the criminal justice system should be:
• REHABILITATION – to reform the offender
• DETERRENCE – to prevent or discourage other crimes
• PUNISHMENT – to punish for the crime committed
The question, not to be confused with what you believe the goal actually is, must mean I shouldn’t consider the less obvious goal of having potential jurors sit outside the courtroom, giving attorneys passing by with their clients a way to persuade them to take a plea deal.
There were 24 questions in all, but these are the ones that gave me pause. The system isn’t perfect, but I wonder if it isn’t working exactly as intended.