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Without Cause

Started: 2004-04-05 22:07:18

Submitted: 2004-04-05 23:12:29

Visibility: World-readable

My alarms went off at 0530 this morning (which, with the recent switch to Daylight Savings Time, was 0430 according to my body clock, but I generally let my body clock shift a few hours on the weekends), rousing me out of bed at a rather ungodly hour. I showered, dressed (in my conservative business suit, which I haven't worn in eighteen months, my most conservative tie (which Gem acquired recently for me), and combat boots, which I intended to shine last night but I couldn't find my shoe polish; I thought about wearing my dress shoes, but I wanted to be able to walk non-trivial distances), ate breakfast, assembled the stuff I had sitting next to the door to make my early-morning departure as seamless as possible, and departed (after reading a few more articles from The Wall Street Journal than usual, since I had more time than I expected) at 0640, just as the horizontal early-morning sunlight was painting the apartment buildings in my complex a warm shade of pink.

I headed out into the pre-rush-hour traffic and made my way to the East Flatiron Circle Park-and-Ride, essentially due south of my residence. My plan was to catch RTD's route H on its way to downtown Denver, but I screwed up reading the bus schedule (regional routes F and H share a common starting point -- south Boulder -- and follow essentially the same course to Denver, except F makes more stops and terminates at Market Street Station, while H headed right where I wanted it to and ended up at the Civic Center; both routes were printed on the same map, something the online version of RTD's schedules didn't make obvious), so I concluded the best solution was to drive an exit west on US-36 to Superior Park-and-Ride and catch route H there. I ended up on route F anyway (I should have been a tad more patient when I saw a bus roll up that went vaguely where I wanted to be) and had a relaxing ride into Denver reading The Wall Street Journal instead of fighting traffic.

I arrived at Market Street Station in downtown Denver at 0740, ten minutes later than I was supposed to show up at my final coordinates. (My plan, which was thwarted by my inept schedule reading, was to arrive fifteen minutes early, or right on time if I missed the first bus and had to catch the next one.) I grabbed an F/H schedule (printed on the same pamphlet and far more legible than the online version), surveyed the pair of printed maps of downtown Denver I had handy, and walked a kilometer to the United States District Court, Alfred A. Arraj Courthouse. I walked through the door at 0755, took a few minutes to pass security (this being a federal building built after 11 September 2001), and entered the jury assembly area at 0759, twenty-nine minutes after I was supposed to show up.

No one seemed to care that I was late. I filled out a slip of paper stating how far I had driven (Yahoo! Maps revealed the distance to be 20.8 miles, which I accepted as gospel truth; my attempt to use my GPS to determine my distance traveled failed when it couldn't get a strong enough satellite signal in my coat pocket) and how much I paid for parking (nothing, which was a significant factor in my decision to take the bus). I sat down in the jury holding area (with seating for probably 200 people; it was fairly full) and waited for something to happen. I pulled out this morning's The Wall Street Journal and found more interesting articles to read. The guy sitting next to me was quite pleased to have my copy of the Journal to read while we waited.

After about twenty minutes (during which I switched to reading Eastern Standard Tribe on Vigor), the jury clerk (or someone along those lines) stepped up to the podium at the front of the room and started reading names for people to queue for possible selection on one of the juries to be impaneled from the available people. Halfway through the list, somewhere in the list of names beginning with 'L', my name was read, so I enqueued myself with about thirty other potential jurors and eventually headed upstairs to a courtroom. A minute after we were seated, Chief Judge Lewis Babcock entered (preceded by the "All rise" I've heard numerous times on various fictional dramas but never seen in person) and proceeded to give preliminary instructions to we potential jurors. After Judge Babcock impressing us with the power the United States' legal system places in the judges of the truth (the jurors themselves), the court clerk put our jury cards in a wheel, spun the wheel, and picked thirteen to comprise the jury plus one alternate. As I mostly expected to happen, my name was picked third, so I seated myself in the front row of the jury box, giving myself a different view of the separate tables for the prosecution and the defense, as well as the judge's bench and the various court staff arrayed on the opposite wall. (I was especially fascinated by the court recorder in the middle of the room; she appeared to be chording into an odd little device that printed dots on a two-inch strip of fan-fold paper.)

Judge Babcock gave us potential jurors an overview of the case: the defendant, a middle-aged Hispanic man, was accused of dealing in methamphetamines. (Sitting at the prosecution's table was a thirty-five year old DEA agent who bore an uncanny resemblance to Ethan Hawke's character in Training Day.) The judge proceeded to query we prospective jurors about any connections we might have to the defendant himself, lawyers on either side, and potential witnesses in the case, as well as any potentially prejudicial conditions that might exist. After dismissing two potential jurors (one for medical reasons, one with cause (since he might be prejudicial towards the defendant)), the judge asked each of us to give a brief description of ourselves: where we grew up, how we were employed, how our spouses were employed, and if we had any children. I pointed out that I had a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering and that my wife had a Masters in Library Science, building up the "I'm a professional" front I consciously decided to present.

After going through all the potential jurors in the jury box, the council for the prosecution and the defense had a brief chat with the judge (assisted by white noise piped through the courtroom speakers) and they came up with a list of four jurors to dismiss without cause. (At least, without any cause they had to state publically.) My name was on the list (which I fully expected it to be; if I were council for the defense, I wouldn't want me sitting on the jury), so I collected my jury card and headed back downstairs to the jury holding area to see what fate awaited me next.

To be continued... Part two is here.