Potential Juror’s Hardship Excuse: I Am Having a Heart Attack. Judge: It Can Wait

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Did a judge in Queens actually ignore a potential juror's potential heart attack? It's hard to say.

This is why I left quotation marks out of the title. According to the reports (New York Post, UPIABC7), Nyima Dorjee didn't actually say "I am having a heart attack," he just said he was having chest pains and difficulty breathing. Sure, it turned out he was having a heart attack, but he could have been more clear about it. Also, the judge allegedly said "they can wait," after a court officer relayed this information, which at least suggests the judge didn't realize there was a specific medical emergency. He might have thought "the jury pool" as a whole was griping, as jurors will understandably do.

So the judge's alleged response, "There's a few more minutes left [of voir dire]. They can wait," might not have been deliberate disregard of a serious medical issue.

Or it might have been.

The Post quoted an anonymous "witness" for the above statements, and it also talked to Dorjee. According to its account, the judge ignored the court officer's concern and said the prosecutor could go ahead and finish his last few questions. "The officers removed the juror anyway, and called for help. Dorjee was rushed to Jamaica Hospital, where doctors determined he was having a heart attack." Dorjee said he didn't hear the judge's remarks, but of course he was busy at the time trying not to die. We don't know who the witness was, and the judge himself declined to comment.

Interestingly, the reports also quote the president of the New York State Supreme Court Officers Association, who called the judge's conduct "egregious" and added, "I'm disturbed by the continued extreme ignorance of the court administration for the public's safety." In addition to not making much sense, that statement obviously suggests some existing bad blood between the union and the court administration, and here we have a story about court officers acting heroically and apparently in defiance of orders by a heartless judge. Not saying that didn't actually happen—Dorjee said he was very grateful to the officers who got him help—but the union president, at least, might have an interest in making the judge look bad. On the other hand, the judge hasn't denied the allegation.

Despite the near-death experience, "Dorjee said he wouldn't hesitate to return to court for another jury session." Which is a good plan anyway, because it's illegal not to show up.