Friday, August 10, 2007

Weekend is almost here!

A relatively benign week is almost at an end. Woo-hoo! It's nice having a walk in the park after the week of July 29-Aug. 4. At the beginning of that week, we had the helicopter crash, then an officer was gunned down trying to chase a guy cashing forged checks the next day and a man died from a stun gun after trying to perform an exorcism on his granddaughter. I don't know why so much weird stuff happens in Phoenix. What's more, some family and friends erected a memorial with flowers and candles for the grandfather. There was even a giant cross with "Thank you Ron" painted on and little notes of "We'll miss you." I mean, wouldn't they be too upset with him for...oh...I don't know...trying to strangle his 3-year-old granddaughter?! People are so odd.

Yesterday, I saw one of the worst article ledes. Ever. For those of you who don't know, a lede is just how a reporter opens a story. This was the lede for a story in a newspaper in Tucson on a growing trend of motorcycle deaths in Arizona:

"Six-month-old Evelyn Ausdemore will never know her grandfather, but she will learn he was part of a growing trend."

Not everything needs to be turned into a feature. It's sad when bad ledes happen to decent story subjects.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A taste of law & order (thunk, thunk)

I got home around 4pm today. Why so early? Well, it's all due to our country's justice system. Basically, I got called for jury duty. Amazing. Took YEARS before I was ever summoned in California. Even when I was, I called in and wasn't needed to come down. Sixteen months in Phoenix and boom! The courts get me. I was in a group that had to appear this morning at 8. At first, it was like going to traffic school. It's way early, nobody's very happy and we all sit in a room and watch a video. Talk about cheese. The video was about how the jury process is done in Arizona and how the state has a "good" judicial system but they would not settle for good, but work toward "great." Hence the original name for their "Good-to-Great" campaign.

Then the woman in charge of the assembly room said they were first looking for 50 prospective jurors to serve on a four-week trial! Luckily, 50 people said yes before she got down to calling my name. You could've answered yes or no. I would've said no and used the old "fear of loss of income" reason. Also, with my boss gone the next week and other people out, I don't think the newsroom could've taken my departure Monday-Thursday for four weeks.

Later on, I got a number on a card and was sent with about 44 others to go to a judge's chambers to be screened to sit on the panel for a home robbery case. So, we were all seated there and the judge introduced us to the bailiff, the court clerk, court recorder, prosecutor, defendant and defense attorney. Then he collectively asked us questions like if anyone had a compelling reason that they couldn't come back the next day if chosen, if they or a relative had ever been a victim of a burglary or other crime, if they had any family in law enforcement, etc. Then you hold up your card until the judge gets to you to hear your explanation. Everyone is addressed by their number for anonymity. Boy, you hear people disclose some really personal things. One woman said her daughter was shot five times by a boyfriend a few years ago. A man disclosed that he had been arrested two years ago for marijuana possession. Another guy said his girlfriend was arrested on a felony seven years ago, before they met. You feel kind of guilty for hearing such personal things but you can't help it.

There were some people you hoped would get excused because you'd hear things like how someone has to work two jobs, so getting time off is hard, or they have to care for an Alzheimer's-stricken mother. There was a woman who had to practically yell across the room that she didn't think she could come back the next day if she was picked because she was on medication that causes irritable bowels (yikes). And the judge said "I'm sorry, can you repeat that last word?"

After our lunch break, everyone had to stand up one at a time and answer a series of questions posted on a board on an easel. Basic questions--occupation, company name, years at job, marital status, children and if you've ever served on a jury. I wonder if I didn't get picked because I work for the media. Maybe they thought it wasn't a good idea to have someone who helps cover the news. Well, who knows. I'm just glad I don't have to miss work again. And I can rest knowing I did my civic duty and Maricopa County cannot bother me for another 18 months!