Frederick (fgmr) wrote,

grand jury

I've just been fucked by the legal system, though in a different way than usual.

I had jury duty last week, which they kept putting off until I got the call on Friday. Turns out they were picking the next SF grand jury, and I ended up one of the 30 chosen (out of how many ever hundreds they started with).

The grand jury will meet just about every tuesday and thursday, plus other days as needed, from November through February. They estimate 240 hours total, which would be 30 eight-hour days, except that they only do it a few hours a day, so it will be god knows how many days.

And they don't care if it totally fucks up your job, they explicitly said they *don't care*, and you can't get out of it for that. (They even said that self-employed people, for whom this would cripple their businesses, couldn't get out because of that.) I guess they claim "it's often only a couple hours, or a few hours a day," but as I work in Mountain View, and take a commuter bus, that pretty much means I will have to miss the entire day. (And my employer is not very keen on "working from home.")

(Footnote: the grand jury doesn't sit on cases. When the DA (or equivalent) wants to prosecute someone, they present their evidence to the grand jury, who decide if he's got a case or not. If he does, they hand down an indictment, which is essentially permission to proceed with the prosecution.)

Maybe I can get my company to write a letter about how I'm tech lead of a project that's launching during that period, and if I miss that many days I'll have to relinquish that post, but being tech lead of a successful launch is what I was needing for my next promotion, etc. etc. I suspect the court won't buy it though.

During the questioning ("can you be impartial and only consider the evidence," etc.) I asked "What if I disagree with the law; what if the case is something that I think shouldn't be illegal?" This is a legitimate concern (I strongly feel that some things just shouldn't be illegal, like drugs, porn, prostitution, etc.), but of course I was also hoping the DA or judge would throw me out because of that. They weren't buying it. "You're going to look at the evidence and decide if it reasonably appears the suspect broke the law." Not "did something wrong," or "should be prosecuted," but "broke the law."

But still, when we go back in for more instructions, I'm going to press this point and say that it's going to lead to conflicts of interest. However, it sounds (from when other people had objections, to e.g. some types of "possibly graphic or disturbing evidence,") that at best I can just recuse myself from those cases. I don't know yet if they just take a vote, or if (like in normal juries) we have to reach consensus. If the latter, I'm going to make a lot of enemies.

On the other hand, maybe there are going to be zero drug prosecutions in San Francisco this winter.

Words of advice: they do this three times a year, for four month terms, beginning November (and presumably) March and July. If they always do the selection six or so weeks ahead of time, that tells you what weeks to avoid having jury duty. Also, being a full time student, having plans to move out of the city, and not being able to speak English can get you out. (Though in the case of the one person who had just moved, the judge did say he would notify their new county that the person had moved and was now eligible down there.)

Just planning on claiming "Gee, I never received the summons, you should have used registered mail" doesn't sound like a good option. They took a roll call of how ever many hundreds of people were there, and those not present had warrants issued for their arrest. I suspect nobody will go hunt them down, but having your next traffic stop turn into a night in jail before you can go explain your case to the judge doesn't sound like fun. Though compared to having your job totally fucked, I suppose it's a close call.

I have one final chance at not having my job screwed up: of the 30 of us on the short list, they'll actually impanel 19. I'll find out November 4th. I'm not holding my breath, though.

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