May 25th, 2012

New Tilley Hat

Ode to Voir Dire

Ode to Voir Dire
by Deputy Jim Crews

Voir Dire, Old French (via Latin) "to speak the truth": It is the jury selection process: "[Perspective jurors] are questioned by attorneys for each side and/or the trial judge about their background, life experiences, and opinions to determine whether they can weigh the evidence fairly and objectively."

The wall clock ticks on, a monotonous tone,
Only two jurors chosen and the morning is gone.
The cornerstone of Justice and Law we hold dear,
Is the onerous process that we know as voir dire.

The Judge's eyelids are heavy, his patience is thin,
He is anxious for the Finding of Fact to begin.
He sits in his chair and surveys his domain,
While the counselors squabble like Abel and Cain.

The Defense Counsel seeks jurors with tolerance high,
No conservatives, soldiers or cops need apply.
Opinions must be impartial and outlooks non-critical,
A plus is a sense of correctness political.

The prosecutor wants jurors who live by their code,
Who pay all their taxes and carry their load.
He seeks strong moral fiber and character true,
And it helps to slip in an ex-teamster or two.

The jurors, when questioned, defend their world views,
Their habits and opinions of the Six O'Clock News.
When responding to questions they consider each syllable,
In an effort to seem open-minded and liberal.

The Reporter records every word that is said,
And wonders if this record will ever be read,
By Appellate Courts, lawyers or reporter trainees,
Who get career information from ads on TV.

The Clerk sits next to His Honor and tries not to look bored,
And makes trips to the basement where jurors are stored.
She keeps the court ordered and running its best,
While trying not to think of the mess on her desk.

The Deputy, watchfully, observes the whole process,
And fights a quiet battle to remain upright and conscious.
He's not so concerned that the defendant gets loose,
But the fear he may snore like a stuffy-nosed moose.

When I was on Jury Duty a few years ago this was given to the jurors in Hennepin County Courthouse as we awaited our turn. The courthouse people were cognizant of how boring it was just waiting around, and were friendly and tried hard in a mostly-successful attempt to keep us from wandering away. While the conservative bias of the writer is obvious, it captures much of the spirit of the occasion. I have no idea who the author is, and couldn't find him via Google or FB.
New Tilley Hat

Pip the Geek

As it turns out, people don't change very much. The reaction to a new technology (or at least tech which is new to them) is pretty similar no matter when it was or what the tech is.

As a fan who began his fannish career typing fanzines on ditto while my college roommate Frank Balazs did the same, I encountered disparaging remarks on how weird fans were. Instead of talking to the people in the room, you wrote them mailing comments. You might be responding to something they wrote months ago, and your roommate might not see your reply for months.

More recently, people text/Twitter/Facebook to/about people in the same room. I hear the same disparaging things. Often said with a twinkle, to be sure, as the speaker is most likely to have done the same. Still, it got old fast.

And to show you how old: While reading Charles Dickens Great Expectations (Chapter 7), written in 1867, I came across the following. The type of social media interaction is almost identical 150 years later. Of course, I'm reading the book on a Kindle, making the anachronism even more pronounced:

One night, I was sitting in the chimney-corner with my slate, expending great efforts on the production of a letter to Joe. I think it must have been a fully year after our hunt upon the marshes, for it was a long time after, and it was winter and a hard frost. With an alphabet on the hearth at my feet for reference, I contrived in an hour or two to print and smear this epistle:


There was no indispensable necessity for my communicating with Joe by letter, inasmuch as he sat beside me and we were alone. But, I delivered this written communication (slate and all) with my own hand, and Joe received it as a miracle of erudition.

"I say, Pip, old chap!" cried Joe, opening his blue eyes wide, "what a scholar you are! An't you?"

"I should like to be," said I, glancing at the slate as he held it: with a misgiving that the writing was rather hilly.

"Why, here's a J," said Joe, "and a O equal to anythink! Here's a J and a O, Pip, and a J-O, Joe."

I had never heard Joe read aloud to any greater extent than this monosyllable, and I had observed at church last Sunday when I accidentally held our Prayer-Book upside down, that it seemed to suit his convenience quite as well as if it had been all right. Wishing to embrace the present occasion of finding out whether in teaching Joe, I should have to begin quite at the beginning, I said, "Ah! But read the rest, Jo."

"The rest, eh, Pip?" said Joe, looking at it with a slowly searching eye, "One, two, three. Why, here's three Js, and three Os, and three J-O, Joes in it, Pip!"

I leaned over Joe, and, with the aid of my forefinger, read him the whole letter.

"Astonishing!" said Joe, when I had finished. "You ARE a scholar."