Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Well, it seems I agonized unnecessarily about the jury duty thing. Except my arms ached for days afterward from the 200-mile round trip. I've noticed they do that these days. Not enough exercise? It couldn't be that.
I arrived about quarter after eight o'clock at the county courthouse and put all my belongings into a tray to pass through the x-ray machine. Then I stepped through the detection tunnel and emerged unscathed.
I found the room where I was to check in, then filled out a three-page list of questions that reminded me repeatedly to put my name on each sheet, contrary to the verbal instructions I was given as the clerk handed me the form. It included a question about our former service on any jury. I turned that in, and only had to wait a few minutes until we were all given instructions to proceed to the vicinity of the courtroom to await our fates. That was probably the only procedure of the day that happened at the scheduled time.
I took the elevator up one story to the third floor. (Yes, the courthouse is built on a slope. The rear entrance, though, is no longer accessible to the public--except when you leave after hours.) Here I found myself in the smallish waiting room with clerks busy behind plate glass at one end and a guard desk and hallways leading to the courtrooms at the other. Opposite a bank of bolted-down seats was the elevator, the door leading to the stairs, and a table with urns of coffee, accompaniments, and several boxes of doughnuts. I resisted the doughnuts and found a seat in one of the halls.
Around 9:30, we were told we could go into the courtroom. Then we waited a while before the judge came in and we did the "All arise" thing. Once we had been seated again, stuff began. Prospective juror's names were called, and people were instructed to sit in the jury box. I was called to do so, and sat in the front row of the box itself, although more people were directed to sit in chairs below the box. I believe we were twenty-four or -six in all for that initial call.
The judge then introduced all the court officials, the opposing attorneys, and the defendant, and read the formal charges against him. The judge read a list of criteria, such as would references to private bodily parts be disturbing to us, yes or no. After each one, those of us who answered "yes" by a show of hands were questioned by the judge. One could ask for a private questioning, and several took that opportunity throughout the morning. That involved the judge rolling his chair off to the corridor side of his platform, the attorneys moving into the hallway, and the court reporter unhooking her machine and following them.
We took a short break in the morning.
The criteria also served to weed out those whose self, relatives, or friends had various connections to the case, via jobs, friendships, work associates, and the like. As the judge dismissed people after each item on the criteria list had been read (if I recall correctly, although he might have done so all at once toward the end of the session), others were called to replace them.
This process took a long time. We were released at about noon for an hour and a half lunch break.
When we reconvened, there was a lengthy pause while the court reporter dealt with a technical issue with her machine. Then TV screens and a roll-down screen and projector were put to use to display another list for us to answer. This consisted of personal data, such as our name, place of residence (town, not street), employment facts, number of minor children in the home--stuff like that. Then about the same for our spouse, if we had one. More questioning took place, from both the judge and the attorneys. The judge asked those of us who had served on juries what kind of case it was (civil or criminal), and if we had served as foreperson.
We took a 30-minute afternoon break at 3 p.m. that lasted for 55 minutes. Then we were sent out of the courtroom again for another break, which lasted quite a while. After we were rounded up again and admitted back in the courtroom, we were sent out for the third time.
I'm saying we went in, sat down, and the judge asked us again to leave. I'm not kidding!
Each time we had been asked to leave, he requested that a handful of people, different each time, stay behind for questions beyond those for which we'd given answers all morning and from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m.
When we went back in for the final time, we'd been instructed to sit in the gallery instead of the jury box, so we did. At that time, the court clerk called the names of those who were selected for the jury.
By this time, it was past the promised 5:30 ending time. The names were called in the order in which we had been sitting all day in the jury box and the extra chairs in front of it. The names of the first two people on my row were called. I waited to hear my name, but the next name was that of the fellow at the other end of the row.
I had been rejected!
The defense attorney had questioned me about my having served on the Grand Jury several years ago, and asked if I had happened to follow any of the cases I had dealt with later when they came to trial. I had noticed one in the newspaper, and we discussed details. He asked if I remembered the disposition of the case. I wasn't sure, and suggested "Guilty?" He busied himself with paperwork, then mentioned that he had defended the accused person, and would I be surprised to know that the results came in "Not guilty"? I said, "Probably not. I hear you're very good."
I can only suppose the prosecutor turned me down for that remark.
Because of the late hour, the clerks had all gone home, so we were not handed our vouchers for mileage reimbursement (they did follow us home to our mailboxes, though) or mileage and per diem, in the case of those who were selected as jurors.
Also because of the late hour, the front entrance had been locked, so we were escorted downstairs to the first floor rear entrance, accompanied by a guard who unlocked the gate so we could disperse to our vehicles. All in all, it was an exhausting, but educational, day.
And I hope I don't get called again for a long while.