I complained since the day it arrived.
Where? Cook County Criminal Courts. 26th Street and California Avenue. Not the Bridgeview or Markham branches of the circuit court, which are much closer to my home.
When? A Tuesday. Deadline day here at the Reporter.
Then again, I was a standby juror. Maybe when I call the court the day before my assigned date, I’d find out they wouldn’t need me. It worked a few years ago for my wife.
No such luck. Individuals with last names beginning with D through R were to report. I guess Bob Rakow was spending a day at the Criminal Courts Building.
The trip there was less hectic than I expected despite Western Avenue construction that detoured cars to Damen Avenue. I still arrived in plenty of time and checked into the jury room before 9:30 a.m.
I was on panel 43. There was a decent chance that panel would not be called. After all, I never made it past the waiting room the last time I had jury duty at criminal court.
Instead, I spotted former Oak Lawn Trustee Steve Rosenbaum back then and chatted with him most of the day. I got into a car crash on the way home that afternoon, but wasn’t called for jury duty. Hey, I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy.
This time there were no familiar faces in the waiting room and no traffic accidents on the way home, but my jury panel was the third one called. It was looking more and more like I’d be spending some time in the jury box.
A large group was led on a long walk from the jury room to a courtroom on the seventh floor. Other proceedings were ongoing, so we were forced to wait in the hallway for nearly an hour.
When we finally were seated, the judge told us we were potential jurors in a case involving battery and some lesser charges. He introduced the prosecuting attorneys and the defendant, who was acting in his own defense.
At one point, the defendant called for a sidebar and approached the bench—probably a big “Law and Order” fan. It was the most amusing moment of the day—the defendant as Johnnie Cochran.
The judge then read the names of all the potential witnesses, offered some other instructions and sent us to lunch. A 90-minute lunch. I’d have settled for a half-hour break. There’s nothing to do in the courthouse, and the cafeteria food is average at best.
But the extra time did give me a chance to write a story for the Reporter. If you read last week’s Oak Lawn flooding update story, it was written in the jury waiting room, which is a great place to get stuff done. It’s quiet, there’s usually no one to talk to and working on something helps pass the time.
I returned to the courtroom at 2 p.m. ready to face questions from the attorneys and the defendant acting in his own defense. Maybe I’d be selected, maybe not. As I entered the jury box, I noticed my hefty paycheck for $17.50 on my chair.