Jury duty is… interesting. Obviously it would not be in anyone’s best interest for me to discuss the case but I will mention some of the things I found to be most striking. Firstly, on selection day, I found I had a very different experience being called for the AM selection as opposed to last time when my reporting time was 12:45 PM. Employees seemed a lot more polite and less disgruntled than last time. The judge who came into our waiting room to explain some of the statutory exemptions was very down to earth and kind, considering, as he pointed out, no one really wants to be called to jury duty.
I was the very first potential juror to be called out of the waiting room and therefore, also the first to enter the courtroom and be questioned. This meant I had to stand the longest because the judge elaborated on each question in between. I was the first juror chosen out of the potentials to be on the jury. I find this all very interesting because when asked how I’d handle a student who was lying about say, the lateness of a paper, I totally said I would judge him/her based on past offenses. I was reminded by the judge that in the courtroom, that would not be a factor.
And yet, I was chosen. To be honest, the seven of us picked were all upstanding folks who had no beef with anyone. They did not choose the woman whose now-deceased husband had been a drunk and an abuser. (The victim in our case had prior domestic abuse charges.) They did not pick the older man retired from the DOD. (He had specific beliefs about handguns and the two men in our case had been charged with aggravated battery with a deadly firearm.) And of course, they didn’t pick the sociologist whose specialty was in deviant behaviour or the unemployed man who had three relatives on Death Row.
We were the best of the bunch.
I reported on Tuesday and spent from 8:30 until almost 5 listening to witnesses and experts and the victim himself. I must admit that when he got a little choked up, so did I. But I had to remind myself that I could not let emotion decide the law.
Today, once we heard closing statements and were released to deliberate, I was nominated the foreperson. First again! I did take the reigns on things once in our little juror room. We had relatively little argument. We easily figured out the conviction of 2/3 of the charged and though we did waver on the third, got all verdicts decided in two hours. That includes calling everyone back so we could hear a recorded phone call again and lunch that they provided.
One thing that happened that none of us expected was when we were released to deliberate, they kept one girl. She looked scared to death when they told her to stay behind but it turns out she was just the alternate.
When we got back into the courtroom, I answered the judge’s questions to the jury and then after the verdicts were read, we were all escorted out of the courthouse and almost all the way to our cars.
I have to say, it was a very interesting experience. I found it very cool to see how they run the little operations behind the scenes of a trial and all the specific rules they have. It felt very intimidating though, especially when we messed something up and the bailiff had to correct us. I know a lot of people dread jury duty – I was one of them – but I wouldn’t be opposed to doing it again.
I hated being out of touch with my normal daily life. I missed sitting down to my desk and blogging but this was an eye-opening experience and I am really glad I got to partake in it.