We made our way from the main jury pool room up to a courtroom on the fifth floor, the only one that hasn't been divided or remodeled.Portraits of dead white male lawmakers glared down at us from the red and green marble walls between huge gray pillars. All the furniture was made of thick oak and looked incredibly uncomfortable. We took seats on the uncushioned pews in the spectator area and the clerk counted heads. When everyone had arrived Judge John Whitmeier entered and began lecturing us on grand juries and our roles as juriors. He was attired in his judicial robes which look like those worn by people graduating school or perhaps something the Pilgrims might have invented.
He said that grand juries were originally set up to protect the innocent from false charges; that the juries decide if the the district attorney has enough evidence to proceed with a case. How warped this process has become in these dark days!
I learned that Multnomah County runs three grand juries year-round unlike smaller municipalities which may only seat a jury for a few months. Jury #1 hears cases of violent person-to-person felonies, #2 considers felony drug charges and #3 is for felony property crimes.
Each juror serves for four weeks, eight hours every weekday. There's no slack time like with regular jury duty and it pays a little more, $25 per day. An employer has no legal right to prevent jury service. Jurors are pulled from the regular jury pool at random, then seven plus two alternates are chosen from that group. If there hadn't been enough candidates from our group, another batch would have been called upstairs.
Judge Whitmeier told us that the usual reasons for being excused from service were:
*Child or elder care issues
I had no time to think up an imaginative excuse or political pronouncement because he called me first so I used the medical one-I have panic attacks if confined indoors too long (it's true). Just looking at all that marble and those hard oak seats nearly set me off right then. He didn't interrogate me or anyone else who asked to be excused and nine people qualified before he reached the end of the list. One woman told me later that she was happy to escape her boring job for a month. I was just happy to leave that cold marble room.