Monday Jan. 23, 2006 at 3:30pm, I was finally released from Maricopa Superior Court in downtown Phoenix after spending seven hours there as a potential juror candidate. Unlike many my fellow American citizens, I was actually looking forward in participating as a part of our judicial system.
Aside from the $500 penalty threat printed on the back of jury summon notification; I was suckered in by the “free parking is available at 5th Ave. and Jackson St. Courtesy telephones, laptop ports, computer terminals, wireless internet, magazines and movies are available.”
At 8:30am, I showed up at the court building, went through security search, and waited among with several hundred other potential jurors. The desk clerk passed out verification forms for everyone to fill. The forms are consisted of three copies, color coded with white, pink and yellow. The white copy returns back to the desk clerk. The rest two colored forms will be collected by the court’s bailiff.
Two hours later, my name was called and so were 59 others. We are group 7. A female bailiff led us to the 9th floor via elevator. Out of 60 people, I counted 26 female. Including myself there are five minority people. One black lady in her early 20’s, one South Asian young lady, two Hispanics in their early 30’s and the rest are Caucasian range from mid 20’s to mid 60’s.
The first task the bailiff had us to do was separate our pink and yellow forms into two piles. She then assigned us with numbered badges instead of using our names. As I watched, many people can’t complete the simple task of separating their color-coded forms into two piles. Also they would either forget to give the forms to the bailiff and pick up the badges, and the other would do the opposite.
I was potential juror #2.
After court’s assistant swear us in under oath with “so help me god” (kind of ironic, since I am not a god-believer), the judge started the juror selection process by giving us some background information about the case.
The defendant “Jose” is accused of “assault with intention to kill.” Apparently in early 2002, “Jose” was unhappy with “Francisco” and stabbed him several times with a knife in Phoenix.
About 23 people raised their hands after judge asked if there will be a scheduling conflict if one is selected as a juror. Most of responses were “financial difficulties”, one lady, a nurse at a local hospital claimed that she has already scheduled for a vacation, another person said he would want to spend time with his child, which him and his ex-wife share joined custody with.
Contrary to the movie “Runaway Jury”, the lunch was not provided by the judge, I had to dig money out of my own pocket.
After lunch, the remaining 37 potential jurors including myself were escorted by into the court room. Questions presented in the second stage of juror selection are more personally related. I raised my badge when judge asked if there is anyone knows someone as a victim of a crime and that would change one’s view about justice system.
Several months ago, one of my friends was assaulted in a movie theatre by two off-duty police officers. The police officers arrived on the scene would rather take the off-duty police officers statement than other witness’.
My answer has then land me in the third stage of juror selection.
As of right then, I felt as if I was on some reality competition show, except my prize will not come in form of financial gain, nor fame, instead I will be able to send a man to jail or let him go free. (Fox TV, email me if you are interested in the “American Juror” idea)
Another interesting questions judge asked was: “Is there anyone here will be morally biased based on the fact that both the victim and the accused were once romantically involved?”
A Gay Hispanic domestic crime?!
I was very surprised that only one person raised her badge. What a bunch of closet bigots! After all this is Arizona, we are not known for our tolerance.
In the third stage, each potential juror was interviewed privately only with the judge and both plaintiff and defendant attorneys. The defense attorney wanted to keep me as a juror for the case after I told the court I would not trust someone’s statement over a civilian just because he/she may have a blue-uniform on. Instead, I would be more skeptical at all parties’ statements.
The plaintiff’s attorney objected.
In the end, a nine-member jury panel was selected. One mid-20’s white male, one early-20’s black female, the rest are middle aged White women.
As I was walking out the court room, I looked at the jury panel and the defendant “Jose”. Two thoughts came to my mind:
1. How can one man’s life be place in the hands of nine strangers, whom most of them can’t even follow the simple instruction of separate color-coded forms?
2. He probably will be found guilty. Since this is Arizona, instead of “Bubba”, his cellmate will most likely be “Sanchez”, and Sanchez is indeed dirty.