Have you been called to serve yet? I received my jury duty summons about 6 weeks ago and showed up to the courthouse with just a handful of items. Tuesdays at the courthouse take longer to get in because of all the citizens showing up for jury duty. It’s a bit like going through the airport security without having to take your shoes off. And I also did not get patted down. I also did not have to empty my water bottle. Ok, maybe it was a bit different.
Once I entered the large room with seating enough for about 125 people, I was entertained by a slide show telling me all the reasons I was in the room. We all wore masks and kept our distance from one another and held back our hope to either 1) be dismissed for one reason or another or 2) have a one day trial instead of a three day trial or 3) get selected and be able to be a juror from a John Grisham novel.
The slide show also explained that I was there for Jury Service. Hmm. Not a duty but a service. Something tells me that a marketing company was paid BIG BUCKS to come up with that phrase. I felt better already.
What surprised me was how long it took to select a jury for this DUI related case. I was one of 22 people asked to sit in the jury box while the prosecutor and defense attorney asked their voir dire questions that often began like this … “Would you be able to …” or “What do you think…” or “What if …” type of questions.
Voir dire is a French term that means “to speak the truth.” The initial questions asked are open-ended and meant to elicit a story from the juror. The story often gives clues as to what type of person you are and whether or not you might be a good selection for the jury.
What surprised me was the amount of time it took to pick a jury. In my city, jurors are asked to serve one day or one trial. Most people arrived thinking they would be there for one day. Once in the courtroom we were told it was an alcohol-related trial and our time commitment would be for a total of 3 days.
The judge was pretty strict about who was dismissed. A young mother with a 16-month-old baby at home cobbled day care for one day and she asked to be released since getting daycare help was so difficult. A dentist in a solo practice cleared his calendar for one day but was unaware it was for 3 days. A man who needed to pick up his nephew after school was also not aware he was expected to serve 3 days. All these people were told it was a difficulty but not a hardship. At least the judge was even and fair in her determination as to who stayed and who was released. Throughout the day, jurors were dismissed for one reason or another.
At 3:30 pm six more jurors were dismissed (I was one of them) and six more from the back of the room took our seats. The 22 jurors still had to be culled down to 18? 12? I’m not sure how many they actually needed for the trial but they still had a long way to go to get the jury picked. If a jury selection was going to happen that day then there was still a ton of work that had to be done.
It was interesting, then boring, then tiring, then just annoying. The questions, the answers, the one-on-one conferences when a juror wanted to answer privately took up so much time. I am certain they knew what they were doing but it was pretty slow for the rest of us. I don’t know how the trial turned out since I was dismissed (see paragraph 2 above.)
And thus, according to the law I have completed my jury service for the year.
Have you served lately? If so, I’d love to hear more.