When I received a jury summons in the mail, I was excited! But when I shared that information with others, most responses were “I’m so sorry!” What? Looking online, there were plenty of tips of how to get out of jury duty. What? Why would somebody NOT want to be on jury duty? Oh well. I would go and find out for myself what this whole business was all about and why people want to avoid it.
The first day I showed up, paid $13 for parking, and went through the security line. I checked in with my badge and found a seat in the jury waiting room. It was a long room filled with rows and rows of seats, all the way to the back and along the walls. There must have been at least several hundred of those seats. After sitting for about half an hour, a video came on, explaining the jury selection process, thanking those of us who showed up, and what a great privilege we have to be here. Then a woman came up and announced the first jury selection: 100 people for a three-week trial. Those who believe they will have a hardship because of this trial were encouraged to fill out a form explaining the hardship. Mine was simple: I couldn’t miss three weeks of my last four weeks of school. And easy as that, I was dismissed for the day, but still had to return the next day.
The next day, I was selected for another case. It was a criminal case, where the defendant was charged with 2nd degree domestic abuse. My number was 7, so I got to sit in the jury box in the judge’s courtroom, while the remaining people were in the rows.
The jury selection is a looooong process! There are so many questions asked: any travel plans or appointments for the duration of the trial, examples of events that happened to you or somebody you know that may prevent you from being impartial, etc. Not only the judge was asking, but the two lawyers from both sides. After two days of jury selection, the lawyers were finally satisfied with the jury box and the extra people got sent home.
Finally the trial began. Both sides gave their opening statements.
One of the witnesses came up after that. Intense questioning began. It is fascinating to observe the certain way a question must be formulated, or else the opposing side will stand up and yell “OBJECTION! Due to leading question!” or something to that effect, and the judge would either allow or not allow that question.
The next few witnesses were admitted within the next two days.
As one of the jurors, here is my first-hand experience of the process: arrive in the morning to the special hallway. Enter the juror deliberation room. Sit for a while until the bailiff calls you into the courtroom. Listen to judge/lawyers/witnesses/evidence. As soon as a controversial topic is approached by the lawyers, jurors get sent back to juror room. Sit some more. Go back to courtroom. Listen to judge/lawyers/witnesses/evidence. Break time! Go back to juror room. Sit some more. Look at each other (it’s more interesting than those few magazines). Go back to courtroom. Listen to judge/lawyers/witnesses/evidence. Get dismissed for lunch. This was the real break, because you were allowed to actually leave the room AND the building, but still cannot talk about the case. Return from lunch and repeat above-mentioned steps. Go home. Repeat for several days.
So while the whole process was very exciting to observe, I realized it’s incredibly inefficient and slow. After the closing statements were made, the jurors were finally able to meet in the deliberation room to DELIBERATE. One of the jurors volunteered to be the main deliberator. We voted and quickly agreed on a verdict that the defendant was not guilty!
So although I missed a week and a half of college classes, I would not trade this experience. Yes, I have to make up lots of work, but being able to participate in our country’s judicial system was completely worthwhile!