This was originally written May 21, 2012. I wrote a lot of notes into a paper journal I’ve since lost. Thankfully, I typed up the notes before I lost it and this has sat in my drafts folder and got overlooked until today.
I got called into Jury Duty today. I was juror number 29 of the 376 people who were called in today. Today was mostly a blur and I wrote some notes in a notepad as I was sitting in the courtroom being selected (or ultimately not selected) for service as a juror on this criminal trial.
It was a long day, that was for sure. From what I remember, I parked around 8am and found my way through the rain to the Judicial Center around 8:10 or so and got through security and up to the 4th floor where the Jury Lounge was.
I was delighted to see the room was not completely full and the chairs were spaced well apart so my knees would not be bumping up against the person in front of me. There were some power plugs and wi-fi was available. There were vending machines for some much-needed caffeine in the back of the room and there was a space for laptops so people could work on tables and not have to sit with their computers on their laps.
The entire time I was there, we were thanked for our service and our patience and they understand how coming to jury duty is a big inconvenience for all of us and takes us away from our jobs and lives and daily schedules.
We sat in the room until around 10am when we were called in a large batch to the criminal trial juror selection. This lasted until nearly 1pm. I understand why jury selection takes so long.
There were a series of questions asked of us including: * If we knew the accused, legal teams, judge, or anyone on the perspective witness list. * If English is your Second Language, do you feel you’d have any problems understanding the proceedings? * Do you have any formal legal training or have you or your direct family work in law-enforcement or legal positions? * There was a couple of questions about repressed memories * There were questions about if we felt we could render an impartial decision based on the case at hand, which was a multiple rape and sexual abuse case.
There were many more questions, some which required a simple conversation between the judge and juror and others which required a trip to the bench, surrounded by the various lawyers for the sake of privacy.
I was nearly selected for the jury. I was seated in the jury box, I was going to be Juror number 7. I was in the chair, I had my number Juror 29 called and both the prosecution and defense had replied to “Seat the Juror” which means they didn’t object. So there I was, as I watched others selected to my right and left be excused, mostly by the defense, I was readying myself for the trial.
I was preparing myself for a trial which was scheduled to last 6 days. I was readying myself to figure out the work situation and how I would be paid and how I would file my time sheet… And most importantly, how I was about to be bombarded with 6 days of testimony and evidence about the rape and sexual abuse of two young girls back in the late 70s before I was even born.
Then, for reasons beyond my knowledge, the prosecution asked that Juror 29 be excused. And with that, the judge said, Thank you Juror 29 for your service. Please gather your belongings and check in with the Jury Office.
And that was it. My short time as a juror was over. It was exciting and nerve-wracking. I will never know why the prosecution decided to let me go. The only information they had on me was my age, address, vocation, and obviously my race and my physical characteristics. I don’t know what they saw which apparently they thought would work against them, or for the defense, or maybe they were just trying to get to someone further down the line they liked better.
I will never know and I am going to stop thinking about it after today. But all in all, it was a long but good day. It was really interesting to see how the jury selection process worked. It was interesting to see how the trials are setup and how jurors are selected.
It is a very important process that deserves the time and attention paid to it. It did strike me as interesting that the accused was present in the court room with his defense team. I don’t know what I expected but all the potential jurors got to see him and I imagine that was part of what the legal teams were looking for as they called the roll and went through the series of questions.
Now on to my random notes from the day…
Stipend is $15 per day and $50 per day for the 6th day or a trial and longer. I had already done the math that I might receive $125 for my 6-day trial service, if I had been selected.
Bring a paper book or a magazine for sitting in the court room. Electronics are allowed in the jury lounge but not in the court room so a book would have been nice as I waited for the various people to approach the bench to answer the selection of questions.
Eat a good breakfast. The summons read that I was to appear in the jury room no later than 8:30am and by the time I was finished, it was 1pm. We were given a couple breaks during the morning wait and even during the questions in the court room we had the choice to use the restroom or slip our to the water fountains but it was still a long day and I don’t know how much longer it would have been if I had been selected and kept on the jury. It’s so much easier to concentrate when your stomach is not growling.
Pack a snack or a drink to keep in the lounge since I was called early in the day but there’s the chance I would have sat in that room from 8:30 until 4:30 with an hour break for lunch around noon. It would have been nice to have some snacks or a soda to sip on as I passed the hours.
Allow at least 15 minutes to get through security. I was there a little early and I am glad for it. They tell you to allow time for security but there was only one entrance and one set of X-Ray Scanner and Metal Detector so even the 20 or so people who were there, it took awhile to process everyone.
Wear pants that don’t require a belt to stay up. I wear a belt with my pants and I had to remove it as part of the security screening and send it through the metal detector. My pants were fine but it would be embarrassing to have to hold my pants up and walk through security.
Bring non-noise-canceling headphones. I was enjoying a podcast this morning in the jury lounge but I needed to make sure I heard the announcement when we were going through orientation and being called out to report to a court room. The audio made the morning wait far more pleasant but I didn’t want to risk missing anything. I used the standard white Apple ear buds and they worked just fine.
376 people were summoned to be perspective jurors today and only around 200-250 people showed up. It was interesting how many people did not report to the court house. There are all sorts of reasons but it means a lot more of us were called out to this criminal trial to get the large pool they needed to choose from.
I opted not to bring a bag. I just had my umbrella, iPad and a Mountain Dew in my hands this morning. It would have made it a little easier to pick up and move from the lounge to the court room and back and then to the car with a bag. I would have had less to carry and somewhere to place some snacks or a drink instead of carrying it. My pockets were full and I had to empty them to go through the security line as well which is always a pain.
I should have brought a phone charger. I was down to about 50% battery when I was called into the court room at 10 or 10:30 when I had to turn the phone off. But if I had sat in the lounge all day, I would have had a dead phone and been wishing for a charger for the afternoon.
All in all, it was an eye-opening and exciting day. I was sort of jealous of the high numbered people who I thought had nearly no chance at being selected. But I was also happy with my low number of 29 because I thought I might get to serve on a jury which would have been really interesting.
And I almost got my chance. Almost…