I believe in justice for all. I believe that everyone has the right to a jury if they are convicted of a crime. I believe that we should do our civic duty and be that juror if we are called up to serve as such. I do however, find myself resentful of the timing that these things always take. Time that is so precious since I work from home. Time that is so precious since I am preparing to be gone from home for 3 weeks total.
It never fails, when you’re busy planning life, somewhere in your county a crime is being committed and someone is going to have to take time out of their day and become a juror in your case. The someone that has to take time out of their life isn’t always going to be willing so the Superior Court has devised a system whereby anyone that has a drivers license, state ID, or is a registered voter can be called up to be your juror. I was one of those people called up recently, here is how my day went.
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to work today”, I told my boss in my email. When my boss called to inquire as to more details I simply say, “I have jury duty”. My boss is sorry and my mystery shop is not able to be rescheduled. I am out about $147 for the day. Jury duty only pays $10 per day plus .50 per mile. I am not happy about being out my money and paid a lot less.
To begin with, this is a really super busy week for me. I am angry that I have to go in and sit in court all day when I should be at home getting ready to go and see our newest grandson in a state over 3000 miles away from where I live. To add to that, the day I get back from seeing our newest grandson, my husband and I and one of our other daughters have plans to go to the coast for 2 weeks. I have a lot to do and I am finding myself very resentful of the person I am to be a juror over. I will be gone 3 weeks in all and I have much to do to ready my sons that will be remaining at home during this 3 weeks.
Upon my arrival at the courthouse I am met with a few dilemmas. The first and a major one being there is almost no parking anywhere within a 3 block radius of the courthouse. I have to be signed in by 9:00 am so I’m a little nervous as I circle the courthouse for a third time. Thankfully the jury summons came with a parking voucher to put on the dashboard of my car so that I won’t get a ticket. I finally find a spot in front of the local post office. It’s as good as any and just across the street from the courthouse so I take it.
Upon arrival at the courthouse I am met with a long line of other prospective jurors. “Give me your name and mileage and sign here” a bailiff states as each prospective juror steps up to the small table in front of a long hallway. After stating my name, my mileage and signing in I’m handed a brochure and a tag that reads “juror” and told to wait in the room down the hall.
The room is nearly full and the line is still way down the hall for more prospective jurors. I find a seat by an elderly lady and a pregnant lady and begin my wait.
After about a ten minute wait we are taken into another room that is slightly larger and has a few more chairs. In front is a large television and a lady telling everyone that “if you saw this video last week you do not have to watch it again”. Half the room empties and the lady tells the rest of us, “Their exit is by no means telling you that this is a lousy video”. She lied in my opinion. It was a long boring video on finding parking (I was already parked) signing in (I was also signed in) and a pseudo court proceeding that was ridiculous. I stifled a yawn and patiently waited.
After the 20 minute video we had a short 10 minute break. It’s a good thing it was a 10 minute break because the bathroom only had 2 stalls and over half of the prospective jurors were women including 2 pregnant women.
After the short break we were told that pre trial motions were still going on and we had to wait, and wait, and wait. After about 45 minutes we were finally taken into the court room where we were filed in by a number sign we each held. I felt like I was holding an auction number as I sat between two nice ladies.
The judges information
It is now 10:40 am and my stomach is growling. So is the lady’s next to me and we stifle our giggles. Once seated in the court room the judge enters and we all rise. We are given an oath to tell the truth and we must either agree, affirm or confirm the oath. I chose to affirm (I like to be different).
The judge then tells us what the case is about and lists a very long list of potential witnesses and we must raise our number each time a name is said that we recognize. Amazingly I only recognize one name.
We are also asked if we have any prior commitments that would keep us from a 3 to 5+ day trial. I raise my number and state that I have tickets to another state that is 3000 miles away for early next week. Two others state they are in the middle of harvest and one lady has a doctors appointment that she can’t break.
Now the prosecution states that he is going to be asking a series of questions and we are to again raise our number if we have a “yes” answer to any question he asks. There are 52 prospective jurors so this takes a while each time someone has a yes answer as the prosecution and the defense want to write down the numbers (they have a list of our names that correspond to the numbers we raise).
Some of the questions seem very personal. They ask if you’ve ever been a victim of various crimes, if anyone in your family suffers from mental illnesses, if you’ve ever taken martial arts classes, if you know any of the potential witnesses, if you know any of the victims or the person they are defending etc. The questions seem interminable and we are all getting restless.
After the prosecutor asks all of the above questions (and more) the defense gets a turn to ask for more information. Much of the information is the same but some of it is different. If you raised your number for any previous question the defense will call your name, verify your number and ask you more detailed information about your experience. It is now nearly noon and everyone is getting restless.
The prosecution again
After the defense has finished asking questions the prosecution again has an opportunity to ask more questions. It is now 12:40 and no one in the court room is very comfortable.
At this point three prospective jurors are dismissed. Two can’t hear very well, and one states he can’t be objective.
The defense again
Lastly the defense again asks questions. Everyone feels restless and the poor pregnant women are beside themselves with the need to use the restroom not to mention being achy from sitting so long on uncomfortable benches.
The judge again
Lastly the judge gives us the charge that everything said in the court room remains there and gives us a 10 minute recess while the attorney’s decide on whom they will choose for jurors.
A mass exodus occurs when the judge releases us and out of respect the pregnant women are put at the front of the line for restrooms. We discover there are 2 restrooms with 2 stalls at the end of one hall, 2 restrooms with one stall in the juror room and 2 restrooms with 2 stalls in the basement, we divide up quickly and wait our turns.
After about 20 minutes we return to the court room where they are still debating on which ones of us to choose for jury duty. It is now 1:05 and I know I’ve missed lunch with my husband. I’m saddened by that because we don’t get to sneak out to lunch a lot on work days.
Prosecution has a few more questions for a few of us. He wants to know where we work. I am not one of them and I am grateful. I am tired of questions and hungry. The poor pregnant woman is exhausted and the other one is almost asleep as well.
At last they begin to read the jurors names. The lady next to me is first, then the lady in front of me goes up, then the pregnant lady and the prosecution assures here the juror chairs are a lot more comfortable. After 14 names are read (12 jurors and 2 alternates) I am relieved, I wasn’t chosen.
I call my husband and am able to spend about 5 minutes with him before his 1:30 meeting. We are both appalled at the treatment of the pregnant women. They should have been allowed an extra restroom break and a more comfortable seating arrangement.
I feel sorry for two of the ladies I was near. I know they had a lot going on as well as myself. The trial is scheduled to last for anywhere from 3 to 5 days but they kept changing that number so I have to wonder how long it will truly last.
According to my friend that was called up earlier in the month this is how they selected that jury as well. It’s time consuming and boring unless of course you enjoy that sort of thing.
Take a good book and be prepared to do a lot of “hurry up and wait” activities while you’re in processing and court.