Michael J. Radwin

Tales of a software engineer who keeps kosher and hates the web.

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Jury Duty: Day 1

jury1.gif I showed up for Jury Duty today at the criminal courthouse in Downtown LA. I’m completely filled with a sense of civic pride and good old-fashioned patriotism. As I mentioned yesterday, I think that serving on a jury is one of the major duties of a citizen, right up there with paying taxes. (Pop quiz: can you name 3 rights and 3 duties as a citizen? Something we do every November is both a right and a duty.)

Juror Waiting Room

After going through some airport-like metal detectors, I rode a packed elevator up to the 11th floor and reported to room 302. When I walked in, José (the Juror Waiting Room Guy) was in the middle of giving instructions to people who would like to get postponed from serving due to some upcoming vacation. About 50 people flooded out of the room, so I took one of the empty seats.

A judge came into the room and told us what an important job we were about to do, thanked all of us for being such devoted citizens, about how the system relied on our participation, etcetera.

The Juror Waiting Room Guy then showed the 200 or so of us a couple of videos which explained what Jury Duty was all about, described what happens in a criminal case, and even covered some administrative stuff. I learned that we’ll get paid a whopping $15 a day + 15 cents a mile (one way) for transportation. I also learned that they need something like 1,000 jurors each day for duty, but the term of service is usually less than 7 days. I think my employer pays for 10 days.

José took about 15 minutes of questions. People asked everything from “What happens if I run my own business and it’s a financial hardship?” to “Do we need permission to use the restroom?” to “Do you know if there are any phone jacks in this room so we can dial out for Internet access?”

We got a 20-minute break. I got a cup of coffee, an egg salad sandwich, and a pack of cinnamon hard candies. I read a little bit of my PC Magazine, then headed back to the room. They called a bunch of names for Panel 1, but mine wasn’t on the list. Then they called a bunch more names (I don’t know what for, maybe those folks had some hardship so they were excused?) and again I didn’t hear my name. Ariella called my cellphone and we had a brief chat. She mentioned that United Airlines filed for Chapter 11.

Assigned to Courtroom

About halfway through the list of names for Panel 2, I heard “Michael Radwin”. Whoo-hoo! I wasn’t going to have to wait around in the mind-numbing Jury Waiting Room all day! We were told to report to Floor 9, room 105. I seemed to recall from José’s instructions that this was the maximum security floor and that we’d need to go through a second set of metal detectors.

Sure enough, Floor 9 was for the Accused Really Bad Guys. We went through the metal detectors, and then waited in front of room 105 (lots of waiting when you’re serving jury duty). The court clerk took another roll call. We filed into the courtroom, the judge and attorneys introduced themselves, and then they started putting people in the jury box by calling out the last 4 digits of our juror id numbers (printed on our big red juror badges). I was assigned to seat number 15. About 25 of a total of about 45 prospective jurors were seated in the box. Once we were seated in the box, the judge read the charges out loud: felony kidnapping and something to do with discharging a firearm. He also noted that the case was expected to last until December 20th (but could finish as early as Tuesday or Wednesday of next week).


It was almost noon at this point, so the judge declared a lunch recess until 1:30pm. I haven’t been on foot in Downtown since the LA Marathon a couple of years ago, so this was an opportunity for a 90-minute tourist trip. I went a couple of blocks away to the food court at the Los Angeles Mall and got a veggie burrito and a medium Horchata. I haven’t had Horchata in 2 years. Delicious! After lunch, I walked over to the recently-built Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and took a look around inside. They were doing Mass, so I tiptoed around the perimeter. I heard somewhere that this church was built to last 500 years. Sure looks it. It’s a pretty plain concrete exterior and interior, but the thing looks totally solid.

Jury Selection

I returned to room 9-105 (after a couple of more trips through metal detectors, another crowded elevator, and roll call) and took seat number 15. The judge spent the next hour asking jurors various questions about close relatives who work in the legal profession (civil & criminal attorneys, judges, police officers, corrections officers, etc.) and if they thought that if those relationships (or whatever we know about the penal system from them) would cause any bias in this particular case. He also asked about any prior experiences with the law (“Have you ever been a victim of a crime?” or “Have you ever been arrested?”) Of the 25 of of us in the jury box, about 15 answered yes to one or more of the questions, and the judge asked some follow-up questions. Up to this point, I didn’t have anything to say, so I kept quiet.

Next, each of the 25 potential-jurors were asked to state:

  1. Occupation
  2. City of Residence (and neighborhood if you live in LA proper)
  3. Marital Status (plus Spouse or ex-Spouse’s Occupation)
  4. Number of Adult Children (and their Occupations, and their Spouses’ Occupations, if any)
  5. Prior Experience Serving on a Jury (Civil or Criminal)

Finally, I got a chance to speak. My answers:

  1. Software Engineer
  2. Beverly Hills
  3. Married (Graduate Student)
  4. No Children
  5. No Prior Experience Serving on a Jury

The judge only asked me one question: “What is your wife’s field of study?” I answered “Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.” I should’ve answered “Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Your Honor,” but I didn’t remember to throw that in there. Nobody seemed to notice.

After all 25 folks answered these five basic questions, the prosecutor and defense attorney then got an opportunity to ask prospective jurors some more questions about potential bias. I didn’t get asked any questions. Both attorneys waived their rights to excuse for cause. The attorneys then took turns issuing peremptory challenges, reducing the jury pool to 12. I moved into seat number 4.

The clerk called out another thirteen juror id numbers, bringing the number of folks in the box back up to 25 (and reducing the number of potential jurors in the “audience” section of the courtroom down to about 7). At this point, the judge dismissed us for the day, and we’re supposed to be back in court at 10am.

That was it. No opening arguments, no evidence, no testimony. Just jury selection. Apparently this part often takes more than one day.

Tomorrow, I plan to take the MTA Bus instead of driving.

Jury Duty

Clara-Shortridge-Foltz-Criminal-Justice-Center.gif I got a notice in the mail saying that I was summoned for jury duty at the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. So I called this weekend to see if they actually wanted group number 2 for court location 11, and sure enough, I’m actually scheduled to report at 7:45am tomorrow morning.

So it looks like I’ll be missing work tomorrow to go to the courtroom and wait around with the rest of the prospective jurors. We’ll see if I actually get selected for duty; I’ve heard that they often call a bunch of people to show up, but then dismiss you because the lawyers call for a continuance or something.

I really hope that I’ll actually get to serve. Aside from voting and paying taxes, I see this as one of my fundamental duties as a citizen.

My friend Scott is lazy

scott-kirkland-headshot.jpg My friend Scott Kirkland said I should feature him in my blog. He’s too lazy to write his own blog.

He works for Apple. Call him up and ask him all about Mac OS X (but be sure to pronounce it “Oh Ess Ex” and not “Oh Ess Ten”).



har har har.

My friend Gabriel has a blog

Gabriel_Cheifetz.gif I set my friend Gabriel up with a blog today. Naturally, he’s using the same toolset I’ve got: MovableType hosted on NetSpace. Setting him up took me about 15 minutes, including a workaround for NetSpace’s broken copy of Digest::MD5.

Gabriel was my college roommate and is the co-founder of DoTheGood, which provides philanthropy management solutions to financial institutions.

I look forward to seeing what he writes about.

What a long day!

I’m exhausted. I just got back home from a very long day in Sunnyvale. LAX to SJC to LAX. 16 hours of travel, caffeine, meetings, a bunch of phone calls, a ton of email, and some more meetings. I don’t think I wrote a single line of code today.

A few quickies before I light Chanukah candles with Ariella:

  • story.kosher.oysters.jpg Is it kosher to sell ‘kosher’ oysters? My brother-in-law forwarded me a link about a story on CNN about a guy in Louisiana selling “Certified Kosher” oysters. Hilarious.
  • For the first time in a long time, a spam email message slipped through my SpamAssassin filter. “Create Professional 3D eBooks” got a score of 4.0. Just one more point and it would’ve been neatly procmailed into my ~/mail/possible-spam folder. Oh well. Can’t win all the time.
  • I spent about 45 minutes chatting with one of my co-workers late this afternoon about the world of search engines (Google, AltaVista, Inktomi). Great technical discussion.
  • I met my folks for dinner at a Mexican restaurant off Castro St. in Mountain View. They got us a Chanukah present from Crate & Barrel. I can’t wait to open it!
  • CARAVA28.jpg Returned the stupid mini-van I rented from Dollar this morning. I won’t be renting from them at SJC ever again for two reasons. First, I’m sick and tired of reserving an Economy, Compact, or Mid-Size car and getting stuck with a minivan. Second, our travel policy indicates that our preferred vendor is Avis. Even though I’m saving the company money (getting the $32.99/day rate from Dollar vs. $50-something even with the Avis corporate discount), apparently I’m not being a good corporate citizen. Next time I’m going to just take taxis to/from SJC.

I’m off to light some candles!

International Abolition of Slavery Day

handcuffs.jpg Today (December 2nd) is International Abolition of Slavery Day. According to the iAbolish Freedom Action Network,

This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the international community’s decision to abolish slavery everywhere, through the adoption of the Slavery Convention in 1927. Though the legal argument against slavery has been won, slavery persists and even thrives in some parts of the world. By conservative estimates, 30 million people are enslaved today — more than any time in history.

To do your part to help to end slavery, visit iAbolish.

Here comes the rain again

It has been raining in LA the past 24 hours. This is fantastic. I can hardly even remember the last time it rained. Certainly not this summer. This has lots of great side-effects:

  1. I don’t need to water the lawn this week.
  2. The streets are going to get nice ‘n’ clean.
  3. All of that gross LA smog goes away (and when the rain stops, the visibility will be superb).
  4. I can go outside and splash in some puddles if I need a break!

Of course, there are a bunch of drawbacks, too:

  1. LA drivers don’t really know what to do in the rain, so there might be some more traffic accidents today. God willing, nobody will get hurt.
  2. Our new house has a flat roof, and I’m a wee bit worried about whether it’s going to leak or not. So far, we’re drip-free! (my grandma would add “Kin-a hura poo-poo-poo”)
  3. My brother-in-law, who is in town this weekend from New York, happened to visit LA in some of the worst weather we’ve had in a year.

Ariella and I were musing about writing blogs this morning, and about how it’s stimulating a healthy flow of creative energy. Even if nobody is actually reading this, it’s fantastic exercise to organize my thoughts and put them into words. Although I don’t have anything profound to say this morning (the weather isn’t exactly what I would call the makings of an intellectual conversation), it’s still such a thrill to be able to do some writing. I sure missed that.

I’m going to muse about something more profound than the weather next time. Look for an upcoming blog in the Intellectual Property category on micropayments, PayPal, and online music.