My jury duty experience? Ok. So I received a summons a couple months ago. I claimed financial hardship, because, let’s be real, I’m an actress in Los Angeles. Yea I know, you’d think, but no. Denied. So I am forced to show up at 9:30 am on a Monday morning where I could potentially be picked for a trial that can last up to ninety days. They originally scheduled me for 7:30 am but lucky for me, I’m “tech savvy” and I did my orientation online, so they changed it to 9:30 am. They at least pay for parking. But other than parking, you receive a whopping $15 for an 8 hour day NOT including the first day served.
I get there. There are a lot of people. The guy tells me I will be doing a lot of waiting around for the majority of the day. Hmm ok. I am finally called at 2:15pm. For the past 5 hours, I have been sitting in a big ass depressing ass conference room with about 50 unhappy as fuck people, doing absolutely nothing. I’m requested to serve as a juror on the 10th floor. I proceed to the court room thinking “hell no, that can’t make me.” I had a full speech ready, about what I had to say about the justice system and how I don’t approve of being forced against my will to waste an entire day of my life for something I’m not even sure I believe in. They stressed to all of us that we must not be bias as a juror.
So we walk in, literally, I am watching both attorneys and the accused look every single one of us up and down immediately judging and seeing who they want to pick to be in the jury. Wait? What? The lawyers pick who they want in the jury? This isn’t bias? The young man who was accused of a violent crime was a young black man. The way the lawyers looked at us was very similar to the way the slaves were looked at in the movie “12 Years a Slave”, ya know the part where they separate the mother from her kids and the guy parades around showing off his “product.” It was quite eerie. It was like being introduced to another world that I knew existed, but to actually see it was something else. What could they be thinking? Probably something along the lines of, “Ok, that man there is a black man, lets pick him, he will sympathize with the accused.” A guess I had. And then I started thinking, they force all of us to come in, miss work, inconvenience ourselves, stop our lives for FREE because it is our “civic duty”? I don’t remember signing any agreement. I thought this was a free country. I’m confused. And why aren’t they thoroughly testing people’s biasness? Some people are good at separating their biasness from work. Some are not. But everyone is capable of giving a simple yes or no answer when being asked whether or not they will be bias during the trial, whether it is the truth or not. To be asked to PROVE your ability to separate your biasness would be much more truth revealing, after all they hardly know shit about any of us.
Don’t get me wrong, I think jury duty could be a positive experience, but for those who actually want to be there. Perhaps, allowing people to sign up for it and offering a little more incentive for “serving our country” than $15 a day. I mean shit, at least buy us lunch. Damn.
So after they looked at all of us like tools, the judge asked if anyone had trouble speaking English. One guy raises his hand. After a little English test in front of 50 other jurors, the judge, the two lawyers, the secretary, bailiff, and the accused…he’s excused. Then the judge gives a speech about how we should be honored to be jurors and how he needs us to help him do his job. I’m thinking, well shit, I need you to help me do MY job. After his speech, he asks if anyone will not be able to pay their rent if they have to come “serve” for the next week. I raise my hand. I understood what he was saying and where he was coming from, his speech was aight, but now just wasn’t a good time for me. Plus, I will be bias. I’m not one of those people who can separate my biasness from work. I am too passionate about people being human beings that if I thought they were a good person or had mental illness or an effed up childhood, I might not vote to put them away. It’s just the way I am. Not to mention all the poor black men being killed by our police lately…yea I definitely would have been bias. Not to mention, I think our justice system is old and outdated.
“Will anyone here suffer a great financial loss due to serving on this trial?” I raise my hand. The judge proceeds to have me explain myself in front of 50 other jurors, himself, the two lawyers, the secretary, the bailiff and the accused. I had to disclose how much I made in a month and how much I paid for rent. Now even as an actress who is used to performing in front of a live audience, this was a bit nerve racking and quite intimidating actually. This alone could keep people from speaking up about their own financial hardship. After all that, I was excused. I was a little sad I didn’t get to perform my Oscar worthy speech on my thoughts about the justice system, but happy to get the hell out of there.
*I do not believe people should be forced to do jury duty. I especially believe this after my experience. Fear keeps us from standing up for what we believe in. Fear makes us the throw our hands up in the air and do things we don’t want to do. You don’t HAVE to do shit you don’t want to, despite what “they”may tell you.*