Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Out of the Pool


I showed up at the St. Louis, County Missouri courthouse yesterday morning pursuant to a summons (paraphrased, "you'll help us maintain the pretense that what we operate these days is a 'justice system,' or we'll kidnap and rob you").

After passing through the increasingly familiar police state gauntlet (remove shoes and belt, put everything in a basket for x-ray, walk through metal detector ... hey, uh, WTF guys? You called me!) and checking in at the desk ("Do you have ID?" "No." "Are you married?" "Yes, but I don't have a license for it." "Er?"), I sat in a large room with 209 other people, waiting to have my number called.

In theory, I was to be there for two days, then if my number was not called, I could go home. It turned out to be one day. They called one panel of 36 about lunch-time. I wasn't on it. Then near the end of the day, they called out another panel, told them to report in the morning (I wasn't on that one either), and told the rest of us we were "released."

There was a smoking area, and it was even conveniently located and had a loudspeaker for announcements. There were two television lounges and a number of cubicles for laptop use. They had "free" wi-fi, but it was abysmally bad -- when I could connect to a site, everything had timed out by the time I clicked a link or anything. So I spent most of the day reading (Ursula K. Leguin's The Dispossessed), BSing with fellow smokers, etc.

The little handbook they gave us was a bit roundabout, but did manage to work in the lie that jurors only get to judge the "facts" and that they must follow the court's instructions with regard to matters of "law."

That settled one matter in my mind -- if they can lie to me about jurors' power to acquit in the teeth of the law, then I can lie to them about whether or not I'll swear to follow their instructions on the matter.

I didn't proselytize nullification or anything. For one thing, I didn't want to get pinched on some "contempt of court" bit. For another, I at least half-hoped to be selected for a jury on a case that might allow me to, ferinstance, set some pot-smoker free.

Certain kinds of people tend to find each other, though, and usually they do so in the smoking area. I went to lunch with a guy I'd been small-talking with, and it turned out he had nullification in mind too. He'd once been nabbed on a possession charge, and since scales were involved, they'd upped it to felony intent to distribute. He'd spent two years and several thousand dollars managing to plead it down to a misdemeanor, and was likewise hoping he could help pitch a walk to someone who'd harmed nobody else.

Should I mention whether or not he got picked for a panel? No, I don't think I'll divulge that.

Here in a few weeks, I'll be getting a check for $10 plus mileage. It's tainted money, so I'm just going to sign it over and mail it to a good cause.

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