So much stuff!

Alamalan finally got here, after a travel saga that would cause strong men to weep. Happily, he's staying for an extra couple of days, to make up for the initial schlemozzle. So, as will happen, we're doing all sorts of stuff that we wouldn't normally do, and dragging poor Alamalan around with us when I'm sure all he wants to do is relax. I also made him fix up my plants.

Saturday was an all-too-brief tour of Napa Valley with Carl and Tam. Much wine was drunk and not enough food was eaten (at least on my part). Sunday was a trip to The City, mainly to visit MOMA but also to do the standard touristy things. I was hoping to get to the Golden Gate Park and, specifically, the Gee's Bend quilts, but wandering and shopping snuck up on us.*

Monday was supposed to be local wandering, but I ended up having to do jury duty for half the day. I'm almost totally unfamiliar with the legal systems of both Canada and the US, so the novelty kept my interest for about an hour or so, but I was very, very glad to finally be excused. There's a pool of about 40 people, of which 12 have to be picked.** So they randomly pick the first twelve, and then the lawyers apparently do a game of demographic-balancing, taking turns replacing various "unsuitable" jurors*** with new ones from the pool. The trial wasn't anything particularly interesting (a contested DUI charge****) and would have gone until Thursday. I think I was excused because one of the questions was whether I had any friends who worked in law enforcement or the court/justice system. So thanks, Chris, Zena, Calvin, Jared and Rob!

And Tuesday I had to work, so I just put our guest on a train pointed towards The City and he managed to amuse himself for a whole day, buy cool new boots, and find his way back! Yay!

And today I had that long-awaited doctor's appointment, and found out that indeed, I should exercise more, eat more fruits, vegetables and fibre, and lose a bit of weight. Told ya. However, the doctor did have a good guess about a crazy-making-itchy rash that's appeared right below my navel; she thinks the lacquer has worn off my jeans button, exposing the nickel and causing an allergic reaction. Here I was blaming the new laundry soap, but the nickel explanation makes more sense, considering how localized the rash is and that if I wear earrings with nickel my earlobes swell up like kumquats.

It's been a busy week!

* I bought a lovely dress in Chinatown, but suffered severe body-image issues when I realized that I needed an XXXXL (yes, 4XL). Then I realized that my skeleton is a Chinese size XXL, and felt a bit better.

** My take-home lesson from Monday was that I should do everything in my power to keep my fate from resting in the hands of twelve average Americans.

*** Unsuitable for the purpose of obtaining the verdict they want, of course. Completely unsuitable people seem to be weeded out before this stage, mostly. Mostly.

**** Do things like this need a jury in Canada? I thought it was just for murder and stuff, not some frat boy claiming that he can still drive after six beers.


  1. cenobyte said...

    Nail polish on that button should do ya for a while. I'd recommend clear, but sparkly should do the trick also.

    At least your doctor didn't come back in the room, glance at you quickly, then back to the chart, holding his/her breath, then exhaling in a burst of breath and saying "Ah. Well. Yes. You see...that is...what I mean to say...there seems to be...Ah, God I hate this."

    No matter WHAT the next bit is, that is just a BAD opening for a doctor.  

  2. Terry said...

    * Your skeleton needs to lose some weight.

    ** Twelve average Americans who aren't smart enough to get out of jury duty. (From what I understand, it's actually pretty easy to avoid jury duty if you want to.)

    *** My mother was in the jury pool for the Colin Thatcher trial. The defense lawyer asked her to "Look at my client for a moment", then immediately challenged her and she was excused. Afterwards, she was "Did I scowl at him or something?"

    **** Section 11(f) "Any person charged with an offence has the right

    (f) except in the case of an offence under military law tried before a military tribunal, to the benefit of trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment;"

    So yes, you need a more serious charge in Canada before you get a jury.  

  3. Terry said...

    Whoops. Read the criminal code a bit further and discovered that a jury is mandatory if the maximum punishment is 5 years... but if your maximum punishment is 2 years or more, you can opt for a jury trial.  

  4. Amy said...

    ** Well, it's not all that easy, or at least not without outright lying, which I'm not all that good at. One woman asked to be excused because she's a single working mother and her employer didn't pay for absences due to jury duty (it would have been unpaid leave). The judge said that was *not* sufficient cause.

    *** That crossed my mind too, as the defendant really did look like an overprivileged frat boy and I'm very bad at keeping a poker face. So maybe I did give him the stink-eye.

    **** Huh. Since neither I nor anyone I knew ever had to do jury duty in Canada, I assumed it was a rarer thing.  

  5. Terry said...

    ** Really? I heard it was as easy as
    "If you are, have been, are any any way affiliated to law enforcement, tell the Judge
    If you are a lawyer, know a lawyer, talk to lawyers, or even think about lawyer stuff, tell the Judge
    Claim to know somebody else in the room; the lawyer, the defendant, or another jury panel member.
    If you, a relative, or someone you know has been victimized by a similar crime, tell the Judge.
    Tell them that if the defendant was accused, they must be guilty.

    Another person says they got out just stating the truth "I have a deadline in Friday". The defense attorney immediately jumped with questions; "Can you concentrate on the trial?", "If you were chosen would you hold it against my client?", etc. and they were let out.

    In your case, a contested DUI charge, simply stating "I knew someone who was injured by a drunk driver" would've let you walk out. (Just don't mention that the person you 'knew' was an actor on some TV show you watched...

    That doesn't really seem hard to me.  

  6. Amy said...

    Depends what you mean by "getting out of jury duty" then. I did not end up having to actually serve as a juror for a trial, but I still had to spend half a day at the courthouse. That's still jury duty; it counted. That's not too easy to get out of.

    And sure, you can outright lie and be excused. I never said otherwise. If you lie it's "easy" to do a lot of things. :)

    There's a questionnaire that every potential juror has to answer out loud and be questioned on. I don't think these questions vary with the case. Among these questions are whether you (or family or close friends) have been accused, convicted or a victim of *any* crime, work in law enforcement or work in the court system. If you say yes to any of these, the judge asks you clarifying questions to see if you'll still be fair.

    It's *completely* up to the judge and lawyers to decide if your answers are enough to excuse you. A lawyer can ask for an excusal for a specific reason ("He wouldn't concentrate! He has a deadline!") but the judge can overturn it. I saw almost that exact scenario happen. Just knowing someone who was injured by a DUI was *not* enough to automatically excuse someone; again, I saw the defense lawyer ask for that to happen, the judge asked the juror if that would affect her judgement, she said no, and the judge rejected the lawyer's request.

    However, the lawyers get a certain number of "free" excusals where they don't have to state a reason (that's what happened to me) but I don't know how many (I left before the end). The woman who knew a DUI victim was also excused as one of the lawyer's "freebies," an obvious strategic move on his part.

    So yeah, you can colour your answers (or plain lie) to make yourself seem like an undesirable juror, but it's no guarantee.

    The only thing I heard that was an instant "Thanks for coming, goodbye" was someone who basically said that because the guy was accused he must be guilty. So if you're willing to say that, it's "easy."  

  7. Zena said...

    Since I was mentioned by name in this one :-) and since it's all legal-y n' stuff, I figured that was enough to waive the unwritten rule about not posting to old blog entries.

    ** There's "easy" as in "a few simple steps to accomplish a goal", and then there's "easy" as in "this poses no challenge for me of any nature, including moral". Some people find avoid jury duty to be easy on both counts. I'm not one of them. It requires fibbing or at least bending the truth, and I'm not good at that.

    I think "getting out of jury duty" commonly means turning up when called and then being sent away as unsuitable. You do have to come when called - there are consequences for skipping out. So legitimately not turning up at all means you weren't called at all, which happens to millions of people daily. But yeah, "getting out of jury duty" doesn't seem like you've gotten out of much when it's consumed part of your day.

    *** In Canada, Crown or defence can challenge potential jurors on specific grounds. They also get a limited number of peremptory challenges where they don't have to give a reason - they can just eyeball you and say 'no'. It's an art.

    **** Yes, juries are a rare thing in Canada. Legally, they are available, but they're not used as much as in the US. Probably some cultural differences behind that (e.g. the thought of 12 average people deciding their fate gives most Canadians the heebie-jeebies). Juries are also technically available for (some?) civil trials. I saw one where a guy was suing SGI, but these are exceptionally rare.  


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