FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT www.queenscourier.com NOVEMBER 6, 2014 • THE QUEENS COURIER 31 SNAPS QUEENS BY PAULINA TAM What do you think about the new lower “Strongly disagree; 25 mph is too unrealistic, especially with traffi c conditions. If they try to enforce that strictly, the cost will be snowed under. ” Alvin Billings “Let’s give it a try and see how it goes. Sometimes, people don’t even stop when there’s a stop sign.” Cathy Cacavas “I think it’s good. The new speed limit is going to make everybody more cautious with driving and will reduce accidents.” Claire Leder “30 mph is too slow to begin with, and 25 mph is too excessive. It’ll be too slow during the morning commute.” Frank Morales “Yes, it might lower some accidents, but people speed all the time, so I’m not sure how this will help much.” Leo Wei “This is a very good idea. It’s good for children as well as school areas because it’ll be safer, but I’m not sure how much a difference of 5 mph will do.” Max Hom 25 mph speed limit? oped street talk “It’s not really going to make a difference. There’ll be more traffi c and more road rage.” Cedric Herbin “The speed limit should really stay the same or be 35 mph. I normally drive around 30. Yes, the new speed limit will prevent some accidents, but there’ll be more traffi c.” Lynus Ora Crocheron Park in Bayside Photo courtesy of Samantha Tuchfeld Send us your photos of Queens and you could see them online or in our paper! Submit them to us via our Facebook page, tweeting @queenscourier or by emailing email@example.com. EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT AND RESPONSIBILITY AS PART OF A DIVERSE JURY POOL BY AUDREY I. PHEFFER Every citizen has a right to a trial by a jury of their peers, and in a county like Queens with its 162 nationalities, that calls for a veritable melting pot. Yet, a great many Queens residents ignore the juror questionnaire they receive from my offi ce, and inexplicably abandon their legal obligation and, in fact, their community. A jury, the impartial factfi nder that determines guilt and innocence in criminal cases and liability or lack thereof in civil cases, works best when it contains a representative cross section of the community. A jury that mirrors the diverse ethnic, social, economic and political perspectives and values of the borough is best equipped to sit in judgment of its fellow citizens and render a verdict that is fair and consistent with the law, while also refl ecting the common experiences of the community. But that promise went unfulfi lled for many generations. Since the fi rst juries were comprised of the social elite, they tended to represent the interests and viewpoints of the privileged. That problem was addressed by extending jury eligibility to anyone registered to vote, but at a time when African Americans were not eligible to vote and therefore ineligible to sit as jurors. A series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions beginning in 1880 with Strauder v. West Virginia put an end to offi cial discrimination. And then there were the exemptions: Until relatively recently, people in 22 different occupations, ranging from lawyers and doctors to embalmers, were exempt from jury service in New York State. Thankfully, all those impediments and perks are now gone, and any citizen over the age of 18 who is a resident of Queens, able to understand English and does not have a felony record is able to serve. Finally, we have arrived at a point in our history where a truly diverse jury pool is at least possible! Finally, the citizenry has the full power envisioned by our constitution! But many view jury duty as an annoying inconvenience, to be evaded if at all possible; every week, we send out about 15,000 questionnaires to determine if an individual is eligible, and we’re lucky if half of them come back. Frankly, it breaks my heart. Besides the fact that citizens are legally required to respond, whether they ultimately qualify or not (failure to do so is a crime carrying a possible fi ne of up to $1,000 and/or 30-day jail sentence), the personal experience is just too valuable to pass up. Along with the voting booth, the jury box provides an incredible opportunity for common citizens to actively participate in and infl uence the course of our democracy as the conscience of the community. We’ve tried to do our part to make jury service an empowering and pleasant experience; if you serve, you could be paid $40 a day, and all of our facilities are WiFi compatible. Now it’s time for you, my fellow residents of Queens, to grasp the power provided by the United States and New York State constitutions. Please, stand up and make a difference. Audrey Pheffer is Queens County Clerk and Commissioner of Jurors.
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