My jury duty is over–at least for the next 18 months. The judge’s admonition not to say anything about the case and/or the experience is over so I thought I’d blog a little about what it was like.
I’d rather not blog about the “who,” but rather take a couple minutes to walk through the “what.”
This was the first time I’ve been on a jury so I was unsure of a lot of things.
When I appeared for the jury summons I wasn’t the only one. I’m guessing there were a couple hundred. They corralled us into two adjoining rooms. The chairs filled up quickly. Some people were left standing.
I didn’t know what for.
We just waited.
After about 30 minutes a clerk got on the loud speaker and announced that they were going to select a jury for the first trial of the day. The trial was expected to last four weeks. The room grumbled. I started calculating the odds of me being picked. How “lucky” was I going to be? As it turned out instead of just picking people and whisking them off to a courtroom, they called each of our names asking us if we would be willing to serve on a jury of that length. I said no. Most others did so too. However, eventually they had a pool of I think 50 jurors and the process lurched to a halt. I’m so glad there were others willing to commit so much of their time.
We waited some more.
Another pool of 50 potential jurors was selected and off they went. I was beginning to think that with so many people there I might be bypassed and allowed to go home for the day. The thought came too quickly. I was picked as part of the next group of jurors. I was given a number: Number 25.
We were shuttled off to a 10th floor hallway at this point, lined up briefly against a wall in numerical order, and then led into the courtroom. Two lawyers, a judge, and three courtroom assistants were already in the room, standing. We sat down. And without any pause the judge, the lawyers, and the courtroom reporter were walking through a ritual it appeared they had practiced many times before. I realized at this point how things get going right away.
I don’t know what I expected–maybe some forms to fill out, a few minutes of downtime while the lawyers review them, maybe a few questions before the judge? Not quite. Instead, the judge swore us in, described the charges (it was a DUI while under a suspended license) and then proceeded to ask a series of questions to each of us potential jurors. They were questions like “Have you, or anyone in your family, or anyone you are close to been in a similar situation?” “Have you ever studied law, worked for a lawyer or has anyone in your family or close friends done so?”, “Do you not drink?”, and so on. We’d earlier filled out a postcard sized bio when we arrived at the courthouse that I think they may have been using too–but I’m not sure.
If we answered yes to a question, we’d have to stand up, give our juror number and name and explain why. As we answered the questions, the lawyers scribbled notes. I realized what they were having to do. In realtime they were having to pick the jurors for the case. No free time to mull things over. We were in the middle of things now.
The defense attorney was quite organized. He had a two sheets of paper taped together with what appeared to be 50 boxes in them. He marked things down in each box as each potential juror spoke. The prosecutor used a legal pad that appeared to have three or maybe four horizontal divisions per page. His notes spread across several pages so he was constantly flipping back and forth jotting down notes. It appeared he used one page as a summary page, but I’m not sure. (If you know me, yeah, I was wondering if there wasn’t a better way.)
After each three or four questions the lawyers would huddle up with the judge, whisper some, and then the judge would announce five or six people that were excused. I kept waiting to get excused. I don’t drink, for instance. The courtroom started thinning out. I’m guessing there were about twenty of us left. We were shuttled back to the hallway for about 20 minutes while the lawyers and judge made their final decisions. When we got back in the judge announced that they had more potential jurors than they needed, so she made the final cut–literally dividing the group down the middle. The first half–or which I was a part–were to be part of the jury. The rest of the group was free to go.
They lined us up again, gave us new numbers (this time I was number 6), and escorted us to the jury box. Notepads were waiting for us with our jury numbers on them. The judge thanked us–actually she was quite generous with her thank yous and acknowledgements throughout the jury selection time–described what was going to happen and then got right to it reading the charges. The case was underway.
I’ll blog some more about the actual case and the most critical part to me–the process of arriving at a decision–tonight.