Thursday, July 16, 2009

Buz gets jury duty

Well, Buz, like all good citizens in Baltimore got his jury duty summons a while back, and kinda felt relieved: his number was 900. Wow! I thought: very unlikely to be called, since it used to be that if your number was higher than 600, you were saved by the night-before phone call which told you not to come.

Well, were we wrong! Saw a judge at the gym over the weekend, and he said that they often go well into the 900s, but he thought that many judges were not around in this Baltimore July. (Of course, he didn't bother to add that not many jurors were likely to be around in this Baltimore July.)

Alas, our luck ran out. The recording said that jurors with the numbers up to and including 900 must report. Dang! (Why do we all hate jury duty?) But like a good soldier, Buz had made up his mind to go ahead and make the best of it. So, he took some real paper newspapers, the book about the Columbine massacre, and an Alan Furst novel (if you haven't read Alan Furst, you're missing great reading).

So, the next thing to do was to figure out how to best get there. And guess what: the MTA Maryland has a great web site, where you can plug in your starting location, ending location, time you want to arrive, and it uses all-powerful google to tell you what bus, where and when.

So, I plugged in 4300 Roland Avenue, near the water tower, and 100 St. Paul Street; it told me the bus would be at University and Somerset at 737am, arriving across from the courthouse at 8am or so. The bus arrived at 7:38 am. Is this a great transit system, or what!
My adventure:
  • The bus ride was a piece of cake (of course, it was the #61, coming down Roland Avenue from Lake). I didn't have the hassle of driving and looking for a place to park, or walking from the parking place to the courthouse (and paying for the parking,either).
  • It was a new bus and had like 7 or 8 security cameras in the ceiling. No rioting kids, no problem, but the bus got very crowded as it wound its way down St. Paul to the downtown area. $3.50 got me an all day pass, and I got off right across the street from the Clarence Mitchell courthouse. Did not wear my tie this time: too hot, and I got selected for a civil case despite it. (No criminal cases for Buz).
  • Very long line of jurors waiting to get thru security; it looked as though all 900 decided to show up to see the movie. So we went across from the courthuse to a little snack shop to get some unhealthy snacks (and brew!) to hold us over as we waited in the line. Saw a high-ranking sheriff in there that I knew from back in the day in the pd. Asked him how it was going, and was he keeping up on all the discipline problems in BPD. He said, interestingly, it's the same in his organization: guys going around doing stupid stuff, getting into trouble. He also said a lot of sheriff deputies left for greener pastures, found out they're not greener, want to come back, but couldn't because of the hiring freeze.
  • As we were waiting to go thru the scanner into the courthouse, a huge deputy said: "Ladies and Gentlemen: be mindful of what's in your pockets! Be mindful of what's in your pockets!" Huh? Wha...? Is he into some kind of yoga meditation or something? A new kind of court & pocket mindfulness? I know being mindful and in the present moment is healthy, but in my pocket? Does he think I might have a gun or knife in my pocket? The lady behind me said it: somebody emptied their pocket, and there was weed. Buz didn't notice that, but wondered: what do they do if someone has weed? : lock him/her up (do they credit them with jury duty?); confiscate the weed, continue on for your jury duty (we'll give it back to you when you're done--then lock you up); keep the weed, and pretend it didn't happen; throw it down the court house toilet, or what? Just wonderin'.
  • Buz was impressed by the cross section of Baltimoreans who came to jury duty: these are the taxpaying (for the most part), law abiding (for the most part), good citizens here to do their civic duty. It's actually, in its own way, impressive to watch. I know, I know: the OJ case and all. But I subscribe to what the attorney Bob Verderaime told me long ago: most jurors try to do the right thing most of the time.
  • The quiet room was very quiet; it was amazing how the people there actually abide by the rules and don't talk much, and whisper when they do. The main sound heard all day was the "bing" when emails came into people's laptops.
  • Buz was coming back from the water cooler when he noticed Baltimore Brew on this woman's laptop, on which she had been furiously typing all morning. is her website, and she is Fern Shen, a former Evening Sun and Washington Post reporter who writes in a positive vein about Baltimore stuff. (I guess my reader who things the city should be burned to the ground won't like that site.) So, we whispered a bit, and I introduced myself; she had read my humble blog from time to time, and it's always good to put a face to the writing.
  • Anyway, groups were called, went, came back, and I learned a big murder trial was going to start somewhere in the building; that's why they summoned so many. Since I was 900, i didn't even go to a court room by lunch time.
  • For lunch, I went to Au Bon Pain in the old Alex Brown building, er, old Deutsche Bank building, and now it's named something else. But they still had all the traders coming down from upstairs, to get sustenance while they were hard at work practicing banker gangsterism, ruining the economy, and trading worthless pieces of paper with each other. Oh, and making a lot of money, too. However, all the traders were nice and well-dressed, and it's a nice place to eat.
  • Back to court and called for a case. A civil case: two white guys, maybe around 60, in suits, get into a road rage fight in Cockeysville(?), and one severely injures the other. HUH? Cockeysville?! Your consultant couldn't help but wonder why the case was moved to Baltimore City: certainly not to get a jury of their peers. Perhaps they knew all the judges in the county, know what I'm sayin? Perhaps one of them felt he couldn't get a fair trial because he was a well-known big-shot. Who knows!?
  • Of course, Buz did not get selected for this jury. He had been in a couple civil cases in the line of duty as a police officer. No lawyer is gonna take the risk of having him on the jury. However, Fern did get selected! We're hoping to hear a full report of the vicious beating one of these county residents sustained, and the jury's verdict.
  • Upon rejection, back to the quiet room for a little quiet. We were dismissed at 4; it was over for another year.
  • Buz made his way up to Charles Street to wait for the northbound #61 to take him back to the water tower on Roland. What an interesting, fascinating vibrant thing it was to sit in the shade and watch the city evening rush hour evolve. Even saw a woman bicyclist in heels with helmet and dress riding up Charles; nobody was getting banked (except down at the old Alex Brown building). And it was really interesting taking the bus, and being able to look out the window, noticing things one rarely did when one has to watch the traffic and lights and other cars. This bus was an older clunker and every bump banged and clanged; only 4 security cameras in the ceiling, none in the way back where all the good guys hang out. Was glad the woman who was talking out loud to herself and everybody else got off. Was glad that the people who were boorishly talking on their cellphones got off eventually.
  • Noticed a lot of security in this late afternoon around the JHU Homewood campus, guards on bikes posted up and a HopCop or two in their Honda CRVs.
  • Up to Somerset and University, exited the rear door as directed by the lovely computer voice, one of my neighbors holding the door for me. And on to the Wine Underground to get a cool, refreshing beverage in order to recover from this onerous task.