Jury Duty, Part 1: The Summons

In which I am summoned to the Alameda County courthouse to report for jury duty selection

A month ago I got a jury duty summons in the mail. I’ve never received a jury duty summons; 33 years I lived in Ohio, not a single jury duty summons in sight (though Michelle had one summons after six years there). 18 months in California, Michelle and I have both been summoned once.

Anyway, I pretty much ignored it until the night before when I am supposed to check to see if I have to report. Turns out, I am in the 4th group so I have to report. No big deal, I just have to get up early to take the bus out to Oakland so that I can be there for the 8:30am report time.

The day starts off with no caffeine; normally I would drink coffee, but since I have to leave so early I figure I’d get a Red Bull from a gas station or drugstore nearby. Nope; nothing in the area of the courthouse. I’m distraught until I see that there is a snack bar in the courthouse and they have Red Bull. In what foreshadows my entire day, the credit card machine doesn’t work and I don’t carry cash.

Off to a good start.

I go into the jury room and find a seat near the back, away from everyone…at least temporarily. As time passes, more and more people file into the room. I end up with people sitting near me after all. We sit around as the 8:30 deadline approaches…and nothing. 9 am. 9:30 am. 9:45 am, a man gets on the PA and tells us the deal: we’ll be shown a 10 minutes movie, have attendance taken, have our groups called, and we will be sent up to the courtroom.

So, an hour and fifteen minutes after we are told to show up, we actually get started. They’re doing nothing to dispel my conception that the justice system is a ponderously slow, inefficient mess.

The movie that they show us is…very 90s. It’s clearly from the 90s or early 2000s, and everyone in it is just thrilled to be called for jury duty; it’s their civic duty and they are absolutely delighted to be there (a stark contrast to the group of people I am sitting with). In fact, one lady told us that she is still friends with many of the people she served on jury duty with! I doubt that I’ll be keeping in touch with anyone if I actually get called.

Several times in the ten minute video it is mentioned that no matter how much you disagree with the law, you have to vote guilty if you think the defendant is guilty. This seemed pretty obvious to me until someone told me about a thing called jury nullification. I had never heard of this, but don’t think it will be a problem for me.

After the credits roll, a really irritable lady gets on the PA and starts doing roll call. We sit through over 400 names, many of them she is unable to pronounce (though she did get my last name correct). The jury summons had barcodes on them: why weren’t they scanned as we entered the room to take roll? Why are there barcodes if they don’t do anything? I checked the barcodes, they are all Code39 representation of my juror ID number, readable by pretty much any modern barcode scanner and even apps on phones.

More blindingly stupid inefficiency.

By this time it’s around 10:45 am. The same lady is now calling for group three, and I hear my name called out. Once she is done announcing this group, she breaks some bad news: the judge isn’t there, and they need the room that we are in for the next pool of jurors. We are told to leave the building and come back at 1pm. We are told that we cannot stay in the room or elsewhere in the building. I figure I’ll just go get some lunch and coffee somewhere.

Sort of a dumb mistake for them and a pain in the ass for us, but at this point I’m not surprised by anything. Unfortunately it picks that day to actually rain in northern California (or at least Oakland). So that’s fun, I’m toting around my bag and work laptop in the rain. Luckily I brought the mostly waterproof bag.

I find a cafe a few blocks away, order a sandwich, some coffee and sit down to read my email. I get pretty bored after a while, and end up taking BART to downtown Oakland to find somewhere to buy a bottle of water (and get some cash back, in case I need to get a snack at the courthouse later today).

Around 12:45 I get back to the jurors’ room and am allowed to wait there. I sit near the only outlet in the room to charge my laptop, and settle in for a fifteen minute wait. The jurors’ room does have free wifi, but it is so pathetically slow it’s practically unusable. I had the foresight to bring my mifi so I am able to have access to usable internet and get some work done.

Which turns into a two hour wait. My group has returned by around 1:00 pm, but we ended up sitting around until 3 pm for reasons unknown and unexplained. At a little after 3:00 pm, we are again called and told to head upstairs to department 7.

We all file into a smallish courtroom; there are about 100 of us total in this group. The judge talks to us about what the trial will entail: he tells us that it will be a criminal trial (the lady next to me and I look at each other and grimace) and that it is for a double murder (the lady next to me and I look at each other and say ‘fuck’). He tells us that, if called upon, we can expect to be in this jury for at least a month.

A lot of the people in my group are going to claim hardship, and I believe them. I can’t think of an employer who really wants an employee to miss a solid month, and even if the law is against retaliation, I bet they make it unpleasant for the people called. As such, I’ve decided that if I am called to serve I won’t go to any lengths to get dismissed; I can afford it, my job is good enough that they won’t fire me if I miss work for this, and, to be honest, the case sounds interesting.

So we sit in the courtroom and hear about the case and are told to fill out a six page (front and back) questionnaire. It is a tedious affair in a room that has poor ventilation. I end up having to take off my button-down shirt because it gets so warm in there. Once I’ve finished my survey, I hand it in and am instructed to report back later in the week to see if I am selected. So basically I spent eight hours in a courthouse (minus the time I was not allowed to sit in there) to fill out twelve pages of questions. Seems like a massive waste of my time.

That is the end of my day; I head home, exhausted despite having sat around all day. I am mentally and physically drained from the events of the day, and hope that the rest of the time I spend there isn’t like this.

I did learn a pro tip for dodging jury duty though: one of the people there had a shirt on from the documentary “Loose Change” that said “Investigate 9/11” with the 11 stylized as the twin towers and a plane flying into them. Pretty sure he will be able to go home and not have to report back.

P2 slain for Giants bobblehead, TVs, police say

The shooting deaths of a man and woman in East Oakland in March were the result of a home-invasion robbery that netted items including a Giants bobblehead, authorities said Tuesday as they charged three men in the double slaying.

Noe Garcia, 28, of Oakland and Trisha Forde, 34, of Union City were shot and killed at a house party on Apricot Street near the Oakland-San Leandro border about 4 a.m. March 2.

Oakland police later determined that Forde and seven other people were robbed by Joseph Tabron, 23, his brother Jeffrey Tabron Jr., 25, and Joseph Manuel Castro, 54, authorities said. Joseph Tabron then shot Forde and Garcia, police said.

The suspects stole flat-screen TVs and a Giants bobblehead before fleeing, authorities said. The three defendants were arrested last month after witnesses identified them, Officer Eriberto Perez-Angeles wrote in an affidavit filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

Each has been charged with two counts of murder and eight counts of home-invasion robbery in concert. All three have previous felony convictions, including for drug crimes, court records show.

Joseph Tabron was also charged with two special circumstances, murder in the course of a robbery and committing multiple murders. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death or to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Jury Duty Saga