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Column for 10.5.11
A questionnaire arrived in the mail at the end of last week. It looked official because it is official.
It carried the seal of the State of New York and the United Court System. The heading stated: “Juror Qualification Questionnaire - Oneida County.”
Until the end of last week I thought they had forgotten all about me. I haven’t had anything to do with a jury in many years.
“The law requires you to complete this questionnaire,” it stated. “All answers are confidential. Please respond within 10 days. Your name was selected at random from voter, Department of Motor Vehicles, tax, social services or unemployment lists.””
That’s the reward I get for voting and paying taxes.
“This is not a summons, You are NOT required to appear for service at this time.”
I believe the key words in the above sentence are “at this time.”
The questionnaire listed seven questions, six of which required only a “YES” or “NO” answer. Here are the questions and what I would have liked to have answered had there been room on the form for more than just checking a box.
1. “What is your date of birth?” As ordered, I gave the month, day and year of my birth, although it doesn’t seem possible I’m that old.
2. “Can you understand and communicate in English?” I checked “YES,” although there are those, including some regular readers of this column, who would disagree.
3. “Are you a citizen of the United States?” I was quite proud to check “YES,” although the government keeps doing things that don’t make me very happy. I would tell you and the Commissioner of Jurors what those things are, but I don’t believe it would do much good.
4. “Are you a resident of Oneida County?” “YES.” All my life, except for one year when I got a little crazy and moved out west to work at a big city newspaper.
5. “Are you at least 18 years old.” I answered “YES,” but I should have written: “If you look at my answer to question number 1 you’ll see just how far from 18 I am.
6. “Have you been convicted of a felony?” I checked “NO.” But I’ve done a few things back in the day that I wouldn’t have wanted my family or friends to know about. There’s no sense going into any of the embarrassing details at this date.
7. “Have you been a juror in New York State in the last 6 years, or in Federal Court in the last 4 years, or in Town or Village Court in the last 2 years?” Again a “NO.” I was called to jury duty several times over the years, but never got to serve. Once, at a civil trial, the two sides settled minutes before we, the jury, were to be called into the courtroom, and once I was excused because I knew the judge and the lawyers. On another occasion I knew the judge, the assistant district attorney AND the defendant. At another trial I was excused because of an article I had written in the newspaper.
I wonder if writing about the Juror Qualification Questionnaire will cause them to excuse me again.