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Updated: 07/09/02

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Tuesday, 09 July, 2002

Looks like my quote from the other day was prophetic: "Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desir'st."

Yesterday, I called the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center and said that since I hadn't received a new summons, they obviously didn't need me to report for jury duty, right? "Oh no," the voice said, "We have you scheduled to report tomorrow morning."

[At 8:15 a.m. Oh joy.]

I got up at 5:30 - thank you, Suki - and went skating for about 45 minutes. This is really what I love about summer here - the mornings are just so lovely. Came home, showered, changed, made some breakfast and caught the subway to 13th Street and went to the Jury Assembly Room.

I checked my cell phone at the door [no kidding!] but they didn't confiscate the Blackberry, which was they only way this whole day was bearable from a work standpoint. I went through a few checkpoints and was eventually seated in the jury assembly room, which probably seats 300 people - and which was holding about 150.

[Uh oh.]

"You're going to have a busy day," said the way-too-happy Master of Ceremonies. Apparently my theory of rescheduling jury duty to the summer was flawed - not only do the judges want the time off, but so do all of the jurors. I made it until the last panel of the morning until I was called, and they scraped up the last 23 people in the room and sent us on a confused route to the ninth floor where we were ushered through a large courtroom containing the judge and many lawyers into the jury deliberation room. The walls were covered with Eagles Football posters and a big banner reading, "Happy Birthday."

We settled in chairs around the room and there wasn't much in the way of small talk until our "Tipstaff" came in. A Tipstaff is the generic name for those people that used to be called Court Cryers, until the much more modern "Tipstaff" was introduced, probably in the 1800's. So Bob the Tipstaff came in after an hour or so and let us in on the fact that this was a rape case [Oh great]. But he also advised that they were discussing a possible plea bargain, and that it might take some time but we needed to stay in the room until we were released.

I brought a new book with me [as noted to the left] and read for a while. I also checked e-mails and sent a few on the Blackberry. Bob came back in and even loaned his jacket to one of the women who was on the panel as she was freezing with the air conditioning. He must be a stand-up comedian on the side as he was extremely funny and got us talking and laughing with one another.

When asked if he had ever had to go to jury duty, he asked if anyone was from South Philadelphia. Three people raised their hands and he said, "So you know the gas station at Third and Oregon?" Many nods. He said that there was a trial for a rookie cop that shot and killed a woman there - it's right across the street from the diner that I took Aunt Bernie and Uncle Bill to when they were here! He said that the woman had filled her car and inadvertently gotten gasoline on her sleeve. She got back in the car, started it and took out a cigarette to light it. She dropped the lit cigarette and it set fire to her sleeve! Panicked, she hit the accelerator and drove out into the street, waving her arm out the window to try to put out the flames. The rookie cop across the street saw her, took out his service revolver and shot her dead.

"The jury acquitted him in minutes because it was a justifiable shooting," Bob said.

We all looked at him, wondering how on earth that could be justifiable, until he said, "She was waving an unauthorized fire arm."

[Talk about your ice-breaker!]

After that we all talked and laughed and joked and read and played cards until they came and got us and the judge thanked us for our time and sent us out to lunch for an hour at 1:00 with orders to report back to the jury assembly room at 2:00 where we would be released.


Went to the Reading Terminal Market for lunch, listened to phone messages, returned calls, deposited a check (where my teller asked how the house construction was going!) and made it back to the jury room. Here we were again, with a couple of additions from a few other panels. Unfortunately, Mr. Sunshine the MC said, "We have one more panel today."

[Guess who.]

So a few minutes before three, the twenty three of us from our original panel, and another ten from other spare bits were assigned to a civil case, for which we had to trek across the street to City Hall. I've lived here for fifteen years and have never been to City Hall. And now I know why. Talk about your bad paneling jobs. Oh my. Probably the ugliest [and no doubt most expensive] courtroom I have seen.

We were told that this was a products liability case with a personal injury claim, involving testimony from several doctors and surgeons, and should take no more than three days. We had filled out our juror forms stating our occupations and answering "yes" or "no" to a variety of questions. They called each juror into a side room to question separately - when I walked in, I noticed that both the defense and plaintiff attorneys had circle "Reinsurance Broker" on their copies. I said, "Oh you noticed that?" They both laughed and the defense attorney asked which reinsurance broker I worked for. This was one time that I hoped that "Guy Carpenter, a subsidiary of Marsh and McLennan," would carry some weight. The defense attorney asked if I knew anyone involved in the medical profession. I said that one of my best friends was a surgeon, another friend was an internist and another was an ER doc. They asked if I was involved with products liability issues in my job - I said my firm handled the liability reinsurance of most of the major insurance carriers.

Then the defense attorney asked if I knew anyone involved in law. I said that I had several friends who were attorneys - the plaintiff's attorney asked if I knew in which area they practiced. I said, "Defense work," and the defense attorney said to the plaintiff attorney, "You're not surprised, are you?"

[Ha!, again.]

Now the fun part - they made everyone stay there until they had interviewed everyone and made their selection. It was painful. I did get to know Margaret and Vincent who were sitting next to me. Margaret looks like a younger Susan Lucci and is very bright and fun. Vincent runs the WXPN radio station at the university of Penn campus in town. I told him I would be spending a week out there for a Wharton Business School class at the end of the month - he gave me his card and said to call him and he'd give us all a tour of the radio station or help with restaurants of we needed it. Unfortunately, poor Vincent was called for the jury and Margaret and I got to go home - *huzzah* - at 5:45.

Suki was glad to see me and Mom called a little later to tell me that her procedure with the radiologist went well. They gave her a local, hooked her up to a sonogram, and aspirated a cyst in her breast. She said she watched it on the sonogram and that the radiologist was very unconcerned about it. They'll test it and should know the results in a couple of days. I think she's glad to have it done. It also wasn't painful, which I'm sure would have been the part that was worrying me as well.

So a very busy day of sitting and waiting. I think I'll go to bed.

~ ~ ~

Quote du jour:

"How much of human life is lost in waiting."

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882) US philosopher, poet, essayist

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