Friday, March 7, 2008

Jury Duty

About a month ago I received my notice for jury duty. At that time I had hoped that it would mean a wasted day in the courthouse where you just sit around the entire day and then learn that you weren't selected for any trials. I don't mind it at all really because it is usually a whole day of uninterrupted reading, which is like heaven for me. Now don't get me wrong, I think jury duty is really an important civic responsibility, like voting and truly should be taken seriously because it IS serious when taking away someone's liberty.

After arriving at the courthouse, I and the rest of the summoned people were herded into a room, where a pleasant jury administrator gave us an orientation and played an educational video about the jury process. She mentioned that most of us would not be picked for a case and that would satisfy the obligation, meaning that those people were off the potential juror list for one year. (Yeah we're busy here in California!)

No such luck for me, I was indeed summoned up stairs to the court room. There was probably less than 100 of us that filed into the court room and waited for the next step which was to meet with the lawyers and the defendent. It was very interesting to listen to everyone's story. Some thought that perhaps they'd play up their prejudices and get booted really quick. Not a chance! The judge and the lawyers spent a lot of time asking you to explain your biases and prejudices and I think I figured out why. It opens the door for other people to raise their hand because they feel the same way too but are maybe afraid to say something on their own. And because they want you to air all this information out now and not in the deliberation room when it's time to make your decision of guilty or not guilty. What was even more amazing to me was how on the bathroom breaks, I could over hear people sharing their opinions in the hallway (stupid, stupid, stupid!!!) and in the end, I don't think it went unnoticed to the staff milling around among us because those people were not selected.

The questions were rather general, like what is your job, how do you feel about lawsuit awards, and have you ever been injured or have a close relative or friend who had such experiences. They also included a couple of fairly private, but not overly prying questions like marital status and children's ages, and whether you are happy to perform jury duty. I answered them honestly and apparently they must have liked my answers (I have had nearly 15 years of experience in being objective to the facts presented), since 3 days later while still in the jury selection process I was informed that I was indeed selected.

Up to this point what we did in court bore little resemblance to my limited theatric knowledge of the justice system as shown on TV. All I can say for now is that the "Judge is having a great hair day", so when it's all over I will write more about the experience.

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