Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,

My Grand Jury Experience and its Connection to Primary Day

Today is the New York primary election, for Mayor and other offices. I still have an ugly rash on my forehead and am not sure I'll be voting. I did get out Monday, for the first time since last Tuesday, to send 7 books out from the Post Office. So one would think voting is more important than doing book trades.

I haven't been closely following the mayoral race, but I have a personal interest in another contest, for District Attorney. The 30-year incumbent is Robert Morgenthau, age 86. His challenger is Leslie Crocker Snyder, a tough judge, age 63. The NY Times has endorsed Judge Snyder.

Why do I care about this race? Let's go back to 1991. I was called for grand jury duty, and was interviewed for an insurance fraud case (actually, 2 cases being heard together) that would require 2 afternoons a week for 6 months. At the time, I worked for MetLife and was the sole person responsible for updating medical and dental schedules twice a year each. At update time, I worked very late hours, and even my normal job required long hours. Two updates would definitely occur within the 6 months of jury duty. What's more, I worked for an INSURANCE company, so how could I be impartial on an INSURANCE fraud case?

The judge was none other than Leslie Snyder. I stated what I thought were good reasons why I would not be the best person to serve on this grand jury. Too bad, next! By the end of the day, I was empaneled into servitude for the next 6 months.

As it turned out, the cases were very interesting, involving manufacturers accused of arson to collect insurance. Besides specifics of the case itself, we heard about sham arranged marriages to immigrants, testimony from the wife and mistress of one guy (we never found out if they knew about each other), and the logistics of transporting valuable merchandise.

And the firemen. Oh, the firemen! In the middle of a parade of one great-looking firefighter or fire marshal witness after another, I turned to a fellow juror and said, "Is it just me, or are these guys unusually gorgeous?" It turned out I was not the only one swooning over these witnesses.

As if that wasn't enough, one day I was standing outside the courthouse when a vision appeared walking down the street. Now normally I like nice nerdy Jewish guys with glasses, but I can appreciate an Adonis when I see one. And this guy was so astounding he literally had an aura. I recovered long enough to realize the object of my open-mouthed gaze was JFK, Jr. He was working at the DA's office at the time. I frantically told my co-jurors, "Look! It's JFK, Jr.!" but by then he had passed us and was retreating down the street. "That's him," replied my co-juror. "I'd recognize that ass anywhere!"

But back to the drawbacks of serving 2 afternoons a week from September through March (which includes the bitter cold winter). Since I was still expected to get my work out, on jury days I'd leave work after lunch to go downtown, and come BACK to work at dinnertime to make up for the afternoon away, leaving around 11 pm. This was exhausting, and I blamed one person for this grueling schedule: Leslie Snyder.

We mainly dealt with the assistant DAs, but when we did interact with Judge Snyder, she was sharp, tough, and impressive. I continued to follow Judge Snyder's career. She was often in the news with high-profile cases. When she wrote a book called "25 to Life" in 2002, I made sure to get it out of the library. She did mention the case I was on very briefly, though I found the rest of the book somewhat dry.

I'm just not sure if I can bring myself to vote for her.

As long as I'm talking about jury duty... near the beginning of the stint, in late September, my "Jeopardy!" appearance aired. I mentioned it to some of the jurors, but not to the higher-ups. It aired on a Friday, and that Monday, the ADA began what sounded like his usual introductory remarks. But then, he related how he turned on his TV Friday to "Jeopardy!" and said, "Oh my God, that's one of the jurors" and quickly called up the other ADAs and got them to watch. That was good for the ego. I don't know if Judge Snyder was called, too.

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