A heart attack isn’t exactly a condition that can be ordered to wait for a few more minutes.
And yet, that’s precisely how a New York judge responded when a man sitting on a jury pool last week complained of chest pains and difficulty breathing.
Nyima Dorjee of Queens was serving jury duty for a gun possession trial; when the pain overcame him, he complained to the questioning prosecutor.
“I raised my hand and said, ‘I’m having a hard time breathing.’ I’ve never had anything happen like this,” Dorjee said.
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The officer informed Justice Joel Blumenfield of Dorjee’s complaints. Blumenfield, however, told the officer to allow the prosecutor to finish his round of questions.
Blumenfield’s response was to say, “There’s a few more minutes left. They can wait.”
The officer then intervened, determining that Dorjee needed more immediate assistance. Dorjee, 39, was removed from the jury pool, and an ambulance was called about 10 minutes after his initial complaints.
The ambulance arrived about 15 minutes after it was called.
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Dorjee, a nursing student, recalls his thoughts in that moment, saying, “All I could think was I want to get out of here.”
Doctors at Jamaica Hospital determined that he was, in fact, suffering from a heart attack.
On Wednesday, the father-to-be said he was unaware of the judge’s remarks, and that he is grateful to the court officers for helping him.
Patrick Cullen, president of New York State Supreme Court Officers Association has commented that he is “disturbed by the continued extreme ignorance of the court administration for the public’s safety.”
“It’s pretty egregious what happened, to have a total disregard for the jurors and public safety,” Cullen said.
Blumenfield has declined to comment on the incident. Dorjee, for his part, still plans to respond to his next jury summons.
“Jury duty is one of those things you have to do,” Dorjee stated. “It’s part of a democracy.”
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