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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jury Duty

Oh what fun. Everyone's favorite civic duty. Jury Duty. At least the people who work there realize that everyone before them is trying to think of a way to get out of it. They acknowledge it and try to convince you that being there is a wonderful thing.

So - I had to go. (Had already had it postponed from the summer.)

I was hoping for one of those terribly boring experiences where you sit in the room all day and wait for your name to be called. And your name isn't called. I had a good book with me. I figured that would work for me.

That's not what happened. And that actually turned out to be a good thing.

First panel of jurors called - 25 people out of a room of several hundred. And of course I'm one of them (worse luck, I'm figuring.)

We get up to the courtroom. The judge talks to us for awhile. Then he picks 8 people to serve on the jury (civil trial). He starts questioning them. Many questions that ranged from if they knew anyone involved in the case down to what bumper stickers they had on their car. A couple of people were excused at this point.

Then the attorneys get to excuse jurors. So one is excused, another chosen - who must then answer all the questions.

Another juror is excused. And another chosen.

Five, six, maybe seven jurors excused (picky attorneys, I'm not sure quite what they were looking for). Then my number called.

Oh dear. Didn't want to be on a jury. And now I'm sitting in chair number one. But I decided to look on the bright side - the case was only going to run for three days. Today, tomorrow afternoon and Monday. I figured I could work out after school care for those days. So, as things go not so bad.

Then lunch break.

Went back in and I was asked a few more questions.

The Plaintiff's attorney excused another juror.

Someone else was picked - and questioned.

Then the Defense attorney excused me!

Slightly mixed emotions. After all I don't want to be on a jury - so this is good. But hey, what's wrong with me? I'll get over it.

So I went back downstairs to wait to see if I would be called for another panel (and seriously hoping I would not). I sat with two other people who'd been excused from the jury (seriously they excused maybe 10 or more people - and not because the juror asked to be excused - I don't know if this is typical or not) and one woman who had simply been sitting there waiting all day.

Only two panels had been called. Ours and one other (possibly for a 5 week murder trial based on something another judge said, but perhaps not). Everyone else was sitting in the waiting room. Waiting. For hours. The 45 minutes or so before they made an announcement that everyone could go home felt much much longer.

So in the end I was glad I was on the panel - definitely more interesting than sitting in the waiting room (though I would have had a chance to read my book) and I don't even have to go back. It all worked out quite nicely.

And bonus! I'd never been in a courtroom before. But now I have first hand experience with not just the waiting room but the panel selection - and even sitting in the jury box. Plus there were interesting people - all with a story to tell - great for thinking about characters. Somehow, somewhere, I bet I can use all of this in a story someday.

5 comments:

PJ Hoover said...

Jury Duty is a blast! I was on a murder trial back when I was working. Yes, he was guilty.
Now that I'm at home, I opted out since I was called over the summer when the kids were home. But it was a great experience and one everyone should be able to do!

PJ Hoover said...

And I neglected to mention I was 9 months pregnant when I was chosen for the murder trial and the first witness they brought out was a pregnant police officer.
Funny.

Jim Danielson said...

Jury selection is always (from my personal experience) an unpredictable event. This might say something about me, but I have been at the selection point 3 or 4times. I've never been selected. All involved chiropractors and that might be part of it. I sware, however, that jurors from the last panel I was on were being selected based upon lowest ability to analyze facts. As I watched, everyone I thought would be good was dimissed and those I thought would be bad were taken. I was kind of glad not to be chosen to work with that group!

Bottom line: In most cases we'll never know why not or why we were selected. If the case or the lawyers were different, those selected probably would be too.

I found the waiting area a good place to write -- I write in a spiral notebook (I don't think laptops are allowed).

Christine M said...

PJ - you are a better person than I am - I really didn't want to be there and am quite happy I was excused. And if it had been a murder trial I would really not have liked it. But I did have fun talking to the other people there and I did find the whole thing fascinating.

Jim - they do allow laptops - but I didn't bring mine. Which was just as well - when on the panel there were no books or other distractions allowed - so I really wouldn't have had that much time anyway. I was only there and not on the panel for about an hour and a half.

keri mikulski :) said...

Wow.. I heard jury duty was just sitting in a room waiting all day. Sounds exciting.