Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Jury Duty

gavel

I’ve only been called to jury duty one time in my life and couldn’t go because I was attending college in another county. So yes, I got a little thrill when the summons arrived a month ago. Mystery writers are weird that way.

Still, it’s a bad time to hijack any chunk of my schedule. I could have postponed, but there isn’t really another time this year that would have been better. Besides, my friend Patricia mentioned it would be a real fluke if I was selected. First off, there would be a large crowd from which to choose. Secondly, I write about crime, so even if I did end up in the initial random drawing it was unlikely they’d want me to stick around in the long run.

Wrongo. First off, I was in the random group selected from the thirty people who showed up. The attorneys nixed half of us after extensive questioning. Not me, though. I got to participate in two days of trial goodness – a surprisingly good experience.

I’m going to post more about the particulars of the trial on Inkspot, the Midnight Ink author blog, on April 18th. That’s “O” day in the A-Z Challenge, and I’ll add a link to that post along with my regular post here. Right now, though, I want to share a few memorable bits and pieces unrelated to the actual case.

  • When we checked in at the County Clerk’s office, no one asked to see IDs. We had to go through security, but I could have been anyone as long as I had the jury summons in my hand.
  • Everyone who went through security set off the buzzer. The officer went over most people with a wand. He just shrugged at me, pointed at my shoes, and went on to the next person. My heels must have contained metal of some kind?
  • The courtroom had such good acoustics that whispered sidebar discussions between the judge and attorneys could be heard by everyone. They successfully dealt with the problem by turning on a white noise machine every time the attorneys approached the bench.
  • The majority of potential jurors showed up in jeans or shorts. I didn’t expect black tie, mind you, but that did seem a bit casual.
  • We were a six-person jury. I hadn’t realized (or even thought about) the fact that not all juries are made up of twelve people. There are also three-person juries. The charge in this case was a criminal misdemeanor, which apparently determined the number of jurors.
  • When we were all done the judge came in and gave us each a Certificate of Appreciation for completing jury duty. Nice, if a tad juvenile. It says, “… trial by jury is more than an instrument of justice and more than one wheel of the constitution: It is the lamp that shows that freedom lives …”

I was happy to serve as a juror, and would gladly do it again. Have you ever served on a jury? If not, would you want to? If so, what did you think of it?

4 comments:

  1. I served on a jury for a murder trial about 4 years ago. The guy did it---had a eye witness, he even confessed earlier but by the time the trial rolled around he figured he had served enough time---so he said he didn't do it. I was amazed by a single young naive liberal on the jury who despite all the evidence against the guy just kept saying, 'but he said he didn't do it'. I have a lot of respect for the lawyers who worked so hard to present every little detail of the case. And I'm probably going to catch a lot of flak---but I'm proud that I helped put him where he belongs!

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  2. Fascinating post. I have not has the privilege to serve on jury duty. The closest I got was the the questioning round and then I was let go. As a writer, I think the whole thing would be interesting. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I served on a 12 person jury in a civil trial several years ago. I loved it! I dreaded jury duty for so long but found it so interesting to see how it actually worked. We had a cool judge too. Afterwards he told us we had made the right decision. It was downtown San Diego so during lunch I could go anywhere I wanted and walk around so that was fun too.

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  4. I've received two summons for jury duty - once in college, but I got out of that one due to distance, but barely. The other was just last year, and my group never got called in.

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