I went to court today

as a witness for the state, in a felony criminal case.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to talk about the case I saw, but the courtroom was open. Anyone could just walk in, and nobody specifically told me not to talk about it. I never got to testify, because a competency hearing was scheduled instead. The prosecuting attorney told me I might get another subpoena after the competency hearing.

For people who haven’t seen a real courtroom in action; it’s not anything like TV. I was in the court room for 45ish minutes, and 20+ cases were resolved in that time. One lady was chastised for wearing inappropriate clothing to court. Another guy brought his toddler child into the court room. He was arrested by the bailiff, or constable, or whoever the armed uniformed officer is in court, because he didn’t do the court ordered community service or pay his fine in time. He was also chastised for bringing his child to the court room. From the time they called his name and case number, to the time he was in handcuffs, looking miserable in a little corner of the room, was 3 minutes, max. She was issuing warrants and denying bail and reprimanding lawyers and dismissing charges and setting appearance dates at a ludicrous speed.

Anyway, the whole experience blew my mind a little bit. Just thought I’d share it with you all.

When my old girlfriend was in law school, we used to go on hot dates…down to the courthouse to watch trials. She was learning real law stuff; I was grooving on the real-life soap opera!

And, yeah, it isn’t anything like on tv!

I sat through a jury-selection process for two days (as a prospective juror).

There was a table right in front of the judge’s dais (or whatever you call it), and the reporter sat on one side of that. It was all being recorded and the stenograph machine hooked directly into a computer (as best I could see), but it still produced a long paper tape as well that fell in a big pile on the floor.

On the table was also a medium-size laser printer; probably a combined printer, fax, scanner, microwave oven type of thing. It was right in front of the dais. From time to time, the judge called the lawyers to approach the bench for some whispered conversation. The way it was laid out, one of the lawyers had to stretch out on his tip-toes and lean way over the printer (so he only had one tip-toe on the ground) in order to speak to the judge.

The judge has a computer in front of him too. (I think the leaning lawyer may have been trying to lean to one side of that to, so he’d get face-time with the judge instead of with the backside of the judge’s computer monitor.)

One of the prospective jurors was simultaneously on-call as a witness in another case down the hall. He asked to be excused because of that, but the judge woudn’t excuse him. The judge suggested that one or the other courts could adjust its schedule, or calling of witnesses, or something, so accommodate that. Poor juror, I don’t know how he would be able to keep from getting the two cases all confuzled in his mind.

At one point, while the lawyers were questioning prospective jurors, the judge was distracted, busily tap-tap-tapping on his computer. I think he was e-mailing the judge down the hall. But damn, he’s got a clerk at his right hand, also with a computer, to do things like that for him. He should have been paying attention instead. Poking away on his computer during the proceedings was just plain rude at the least, I thought. I don’t think a judge should have had a computer, or at least not a monitor in front of him during a case. That’s what the clerk is for.

At a few points, the judge remarked that the jury shouldn’t “leave common sense at the door” when entering the deliberation room. Meaning that you should bring your common sense in with you. The lawyers mentioned something like that during questioning from time to time. I responded to one of the lawyers: “Define common sense.” (:General tittering throughout the court-room: ) BTW, he gave a definition that was just plain silly: If someone claims he is innocent because the evil deed was actually done by invisible Martian aliens, common sense tells you to ignore that.

At several points, a bunch of jurors were dismissed and everybody else moved a few seats closer, or into, “the box”. At one point, there were like six people to be moved up, and the last of the six to get moved into “the box” was – me. I remarked “It’s my lucky day.”

Shortly after that, the lawyers did another round of peremptory dismissals, and I was the first one dismissed of that bunch. (Probably because of that “Define common sense” and other similar smart-assy things I said.) Again I remarked “It’s my lucky day.” (:More general tittering throughout the court-room: ) I walked out, never to be seen there again.

(The case was about a child molestation, apparently with priors but the judge was cagey about telling us that. But the lawyers harped incessantly on asking us if we could ignore the defendant’s “prior” or “priors”. I wasn’t the only one who noted that one lawyer said “prior” and the other said “priors” – another prospective juror asked about that. I thought the defendant looked kind of “mongoloid”, and I’m guessing that might have been a factor in the case.)

Departing prospective jurors got a survey thingy to fill out, with an area to write up any comments. Everything I wrote above about the printer that the lawyer had to lean over, and the judge typing on his computer, I wrote up there.