Tagged "seattle"

Jury Duty Complete

My obligations as a juror this year ended on Tuesday, August 11th. I promised you more details, and here they are!

First, I’d like to point out a few interesting facts about jury duty in Seattle.

  • An individual only has an obligation to serve once a year.
  • A juror’s “compensation” of $10 per day is supposedly the same as it was in the 1950’s.
  • At least two-thirds of jury summons are ignored, postponed, or excused.
  • Jurors are not summoned by the courts for a particular trial, but for a two-day jury pool.

I would like to elaborate on this final point. When I tell people that I have received a jury summons, some of them ask me what trial I was chosen for. In Seattle, at least, the system does not work this way: The courts send jury summons for a two-day pool of potential jurors, rather than for individual trials. This juror pool is replenished every Monday and Wednesday, which means that any jurors in the courthouse on Friday have already been assigned to a trial and are in the middle of deliberations.

So, all jurors start their service by waiting in the Jury Assembly Room. When a judge needs a jury for a trial, he or she contacts the administrative staff in the Jury Assembly Room. The staff then asks the local oracle, a computer, for a numbered list of potential juror names from those people currently waiting in the Jury Assembly Room. The computer dutifully selects (more or less) at random ~20 names for a 6-person jury and ~40 names for a 12-person jury. After their names and numbers have been called, the potential jurors are escorted by the bailiff to the courtroom, where they will be cross-examined by the judge and attorneys.

This is where the process gets interesting. The judge first asks some basic questions to determine which jurors could be disqualified for obvious reasons, which may include the following:

  • Knowledge of the case in advance
  • Familiarity with either the plaintiff (prosecutor) or respondent (defendant)
  • Strong opinions regarding the trial itself
  • Religious objections to judging another human being
  • Financial or physical hardships caused by serving on the jury

Next, each attorney gets a chance to cross-examine the jury. Apparently King County uses the “struck jury” method, which in this case means that each attorney engages in a discussion with the entire jury rather than questioning every juror in order. Note that an attorney can and probably will single out jurors who have not answered many questions, but this does not have to happen in any particular order. At any time and as often as they like (within reason) during questioning, the attorneys have the opportunity to make a challenge for cause, requesting that a juror be dismissed for an obvious bias. In this way, the jury is whittled down until the attorneys have used up all the time allotted to them.

This process of questioning that I have just described is known formally as voir dire, “to speak the truth”.

Remember how each juror was given a number when he or she was selected by the computer? Now that number becomes important because at the end of voir dire the jury box is filled in with jurors holding lower numbers. To make this easier to understand, assume that the trial requires a 12-person jury and there are 40 potential jurors. Originally, jurors 1-12 are the jury. However, if jurors 3, 5, 8, 9, and 10 are dismissed during voir dire by a challenge for cause, jurors 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 will take their place on the jury. If jurors 14 and 17 had been dismissed by a challenge for cause, as well, jurors 13, 15, 16, 18, and 19 would move to the jury box instead.

At this point the attorneys have a chance to use their peremptory challenges, which basically allow them to dismiss potential jurors without giving a reason. For each juror that is dismissed from the jury box, a new one (with a higher number) takes his or her place. Because each attorney has a limited number of peremptory challenges (I have seen this vary between 3 and 8 per attorney), the jury will be decided when either all of the peremptory challenges have been used up or each attorney is satisfied. All the other potential jurors are then dismissed to the Jury Assembly Room to wait for another trial.

This process repeats for two days. Any jurors chosen for a trial during that time must continue to report to the courtroom until their trial completes, and all other jurors are free to leave.

We really do have a fascinating legal system in this country.

A Day on the Town

Today was one of those rare days that I was able to spend in the city in which I live. I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t usually have much time on weekdays to appreciate Seattle because I work on the other (east) side of Lake Washington, in Redmond. Today and tomorrow are different, though, because I have jury duty and actually get to appreciate the Emerald City for once!

Jury duty itself has been interesting so far: This marks the second time that I’ve been summoned in as many years. Luckily, I’m within walking distance of the courthouse and was actually selected as a potential juror on a trial before being promptly dismissed; this is far better than my previous stint as a juror, which consisted of waiting in the juror assembly room for two days without ever being selected as a potential juror for a trial. The moral of the story is to bring a good book, laptop, or portable gaming system to pass your time!

After my obligations to the Supreme Court of Seattle ended at 3:30 p.m., I went back to my apartment and took an hour-long nap, which I sorely needed for two reasons: (1) I am not used to waking up before 7:00 in the morning and (2) I have been fighting a cold-induced headache for the past two days. Be that as it may, I met up with some friends around 5:00 to see a movie at The Central Cinema, our local pizza, beer, and movie joint. We watched The Dark Crystal, an old Jim Henson movie about the Skekses and Mystics and a prophecy of how the world would be changed by a Gelfling. It was a bit of nostalgia and as good as I remembered.

Oh yeah, and it finally rained today. We definitely needed it.

Critical Mass in Seattle

This entry is about Critical Mass in Seattle. For the background story, please read Emotions Still Running High After Critical Mass Confrontation, the online version of an article in the Seattle Times, as well as the entry on Wikipedia.

As a bicyclist, I am torn between the pros and cons of Critical Mass, myself. Although the debate will never end, my experience has told me that for one reason or another, Seattle (this does not include Bellevue or Redmond on the east side) has developed a culture that is considerably friendly to bicyclists. As long as I obey the rules of the road, I have found drivers on the whole to be quite courteous within Seattle city limits, generally giving me more than enough space to maneuver. This stands in stark contrast to my experience living in Cleveland, Ohio, however, where irate motorists leaned out their windows to yell at me to “Get off the road!” at least once a day while I commuted to work. Why is this? Is Critical Mass one of the factors that raised awareness of cyclists on the road in Seattle? Or is Critical Mass made possible by the strength of numbers that cyclists have here? I suspect that it may be a bit of both.

Seattle-Redmond Commute, Part I

This route starts from my favorite morning coffee shop (and art gallery), Ancient Grounds, crosses over the I-90 bridge, passes through Mercer Island, continues east of Bellevue, and finally connects with the 520 trail. The key point of this route is that it avoids the cycling hell that is Bellevue and the I-405 interchange entirely. It’s unfortunate that it took me a few months to find this “scenic detour”, though! I average about one and a half hours for this route, though I have completed it in 1 hour and 20 minutes, going east, and 1 hour and 10 minutes, going west. To tell the truth, I didn’t realize that Redmond was on such a large hill until I compared my trip times; elevation gain really does make a difference.

Read more…

STP Weekend

This weekend was the annual Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, in which I was originally quite eager to participate. Of course, that was before I discovered that it would cost about $130 to participate ($85 for registration, ~$50 for a bus or train ticket home, and other various and sundry fees), which struck me as a bit excessive to just ride 200 miles to Portland. Perhaps I could just do it solo one of these days?

Anyway, instead of going on a double-century ride, I have spent my weekend in a much more pedantic fashion. I was struck by a bit of a cleaning bug this weekend, so I reorganized all of my laundry, started archiving all of my old e-mail, set up an automatic backup solution (which I will get to in another post), and finally configured this Movable Type install. I also managed to wander around a bit in the sun yesterday at Myrtle Edwards park—which, as I discovered, has a breathtaking view of Mount Rainier—and take in a Sergeant Major performance at a bar on Capitol Hill.