Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jury duty as gigantic waste of time

Posted By on Wed, Jan 7, 2009 at 4:09 PM

I love jury duty. I really do. Civic duty, the American way, whodunnits, sitting in judgment — what's not to like?

But I didn't love jury duty today. Because today, at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center, I had to witness the gigantic waste of time, money, labor, energy and brains that is expended on taking a single individual to trial for the alleged crime of "trafficking in cannabis."

I never got to find out how the case turned out. Maybe that's because, when the prosecuting attorney asked if any of the prospective jurors would have a problem judging this case impartially, I spoke up with a version of what I just said above. And I didn't say it to get out of serving — if it had been murder, theft, Hogan family collisions, hey, I'm there for you, court system. (And the state's attorney looked like a younger Harry Connick, Jr., so there was at least eye candy to entertain us.) But I just couldn't see the point of assembling all this machinery  —  judge and bailiff and clerk and lawyers and a roomful of jurors — for this: one guy who allegedly sold some dope.

And I wasn't the only conscientious objector in the room. By the time attorneys on both sides had completed their extensive (and I do mean extensive) voir dire, it looked like the court would be lucky to find anyone to serve. One by one came the objections: from a woman who believes the drug war is stacked against black males (she was white; the defendant was black); from another woman who'd seen friends wrongly accused; and from people like me who feel marijuana should be legal and regulated, like alcohol, and that someone who sells it should no more be put in jail than the guy who runs the neighborhood liquor store.

But six jurors were called. The rest of us filed out, relieved. But Harry Connick Jr., Jr., if you need me for anything else, just call.

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