I can't legally discuss the details of the case until it's over, but I can describe the process of being selected.
Why would I do that?
Well, I was greatly surprised by how it differed from what I have heard about it most of my life. This was the first time I actually witnessed the selection process.
The last time I was summoned it was over 20 years ago. The thought was that when you registered to vote, you were also registered for Jury Duty. I was a Sales Secretary at the time, and also filling in temporarily for the admin to President of the United States Hot Rod Association. Being a rich white republican, he assumed the laws of man don't apply to him so he wrote me a letter saying I could not possibly participate, and I got out of it.
Apparently having to explain administrative duties, including his many personal preferences, eccentricities and pet peeves to a temp is a hardship for the president of a company. I wasn't called again to appear until sometime this summer, though I was registered to vote and did such the entire time.
This last letter I received in June stated that since I hadn't replied to my previous summons (we do not remember seeing any such letter) that if I failed to appear, I would be held in contempt of court.
Most people make it sound easy to get out of jury duty, and while it may be easier than beating a prison wrap or avoiding paying income taxes, it's not as easy as it's made out to be.
I assumed when I received my summons, it would be similar to my husband's recent experience. He was called to report to the Jury Commission, where he waited until about 3:30 in the afternoon and was let go.
He could read, there were televisions and free WiFi, he pretty much had a boring day until he was released. I really just wanted to be bored. I have 3 children, 2 of them toddlers, and I watch extra small children, a moment of boredom, just that feeling, is all I ever want. I had forgotten that feeling.
I haven't been bored since, well since I learned to read. I've heard my Father In Law say that only boring people get bored. I would like to add also people who just haven't found the right book(s). When I thought about an entire day to just read, whatever I wanted, with no children tugging at me I felt like Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone episode, "Time Enough At Last."
You know the one, Futurama even alluded to it. He's finally left alone by his awful wife and the world and allowed to read all he can, for as long as can. Only to almost immediately break his telescope-like glasses so now he can't read.
I had not much more time than Burgess. Not even 90 minutes into my my 'time enough at last' I was called up to a courtroom, with I think 36 other potential jurors to select an appropriate jury for a specific case. Each case picks 12 jurors, and 2 alternates.
Once in the courtroom, potential jurors are called up to be questioned by the judge, 4 at a time. We were thanked for coming, reminded that jury duty is our civic responsibility and we are required to be part of the judicial system in this way despite the inconvenience to our lives.
He said if we felt participating, most trials are 1-3 days, would be a hardship we were to speak up and explain.
The judge looks at the questions you've answered on your summons. Those questions ask spouse/children, and whether you or your family have been convicted of a crime, and then whether your or your family have been the victim of a crime. Also if you have any lawyers or such in the family.
If you answered "Yes" to any of the questions, you are put on sort of a mini trial to explain the situation. The judge needs to be sure there would be no prejudice or sympathy either way related to the case. If you feel there may be, you have to prove specifically why or why not.
You might think this is where you would pretend to be racist, or have a family member who went through some similar situation or something like that to "get out of jury duty," but this particular judge was having none of those shenanigans.
When I spoke to a friend of mine from the city, she said she had a similar experience. There were a couple men called up with me who had family members that were affected by a specific element of this case, and they claimed they could not be objective because of this.
The judge explained that we all have strong feelings about things like this, but it is our duty to TRY to focus on the facts of the case, and set these feelings aside. He explained he's well aware you cannot do that entirely, but this is all part of the jury system we have in place.
We will hear the evidence presented, and be given a specific law. All we have to do is consider whether the Prosecution proved that the Defendant in this case broke this particular law beyond a reasonable doubt, through the evidence presented. This is what trial by jury entails.
A few people mentioned they would not be able to take the time away from work, they were very busy. The judge told us that everyone's business is busy, because when businesses aren't busy they aren't in business any longer. He had also explained to a woman who stayed home with her children, that having to find care for her children during the trial is not considered a hardship.
When I was up, I did mention a family member of mine from years ago who was a victim of a specific element of this case, but he did not think that would impair by ability to review evidence and apply it to the law. When I saw he did not dismiss the man who lost his own son, I knew I would not be dismissed.
I cannot get into detail here at this time, but I will say that I cannot imagine this man's struggle to listen to the details of the case with his experience. It has to be incredibly painful for him.
I will say, when I heard the details of the case, I was interested in the outcome. It involves elements I don't know much about. What I didn't expect is the excruciating amount of actual time needed to present even one hour's worth of evidence.
They don't show you the entire process on television, and thankfully so because it is incredibly boring. The level of detail presented with every aspect of the case, even for someone who is interested in these methods, is exhausting. The qualifications of the experts alone sometimes takes half an hour. Then the cross examination, sometimes this is done just for our benefit, so we hear a certain detail enough to remember it.
We are marched in and out of the courtroom several times a day. There are elements that the jury cannot hear, though we don't know why or what they are. I can assume from years of watching Law and Order (dun DUN) that either the evidence was obtained illegally, or perhaps it would sway the jury in some unfair way. I'm also assuming this is why parts of the story don't make sense to us.
I hope to write about it after the experience is over, but with my life and my memory I'll be lucky to provide a Reader's Digest Condensed Version. We are allowed to take notes in the courtroom, but we have to leave our notebooks in our juror chairs when we leave. We're told we will be allowed to review our notes during deliberation, but we can't share our notes with other jurors, and they will be destroyed after the case is over.
There goes all my comparisons of the players involved to celebrities. We aren't allowed to take anything into the room where we wait, except for purses. Of course people have sneaked in their phones because OF COURSE THEY HAVE, but we were reminded that we aren't supposed to have phones in the jury room.
I really wish we were allowed to bring in books. We spend a lot of time sitting around waiting, and we're not allowed to talk about the case yet. It's almost impossible not to, but we think our room may be recorded, because some people did bring up elements of the case and they were called out individually and reminded we aren't to talk abut the case yet.
That's about all I can say about the case at this time. Except that on the jury with me is Juror #90, an adorable octogenarian who used to work for the gas company. He's been retired for "20 or 30 years," in his words.
The judge asked him several questions about his job there, but never explained why. Juror #90 thinks he was asked these questions just to see if he could pay attention, follow along and answer appropriately. He could.
He naturally has many wonderful, amazing stories about his life and the things he has seen. The first day I asked him so many questions that he quickly assumed the role of Story Teller. Anytime a silence would fall over the room, he would just start another story.
You're welcome, jury of my peers.
He has told us stories of old mean judges, who people called "hanging" judges, and wooden courthouses, and the only hanging ever to happen in a particular county. The judge sentenced a man to hanging, had the bailiff walk him over to stand atop a horsecart. The idea was the horse would walk forward and the man would hang. This judge was apparently inexperienced in these matters, as the convicted man simply loosened the noose with hands and easily escaped. They never had another hanging at this courthouse, according to 90.
He also explained Military Justice, including a Navy story that took place in a submarine. A fellow seaman forged a permission slip for a furlow weekend. When he was caught the captain of the ship interviewed him, and immediately gave his punishment.
He and another lovable lady of about the same age, have charmed us with stories of rubber guns, jacks, Perry Mason and how low-budget it was, and the time he bought cigarettes when he was 4 years old.
They were for his aunt, but the thought of a 4 year old going down the block by himself and buying cigarettes is still low-key fascinating to me. It was a very different America. My grandmother used to work in their family bar when she was younger, she told me about serving drinks when she was a young child like it was no big whoop.
These types of nostalgic memories are no longer available to me as I lost my only grandparent several years ago. They are my favorite part of jury duty so far.
My least favorite part is having to find care for my children with almost no notice. We have no way of knowing how long the trial will run. Monday is Day 3 with no end in sight. Had I had more notice I could have visited different daycare centers, or in-home daycares.
I guess in life you should always have these things at the ready:
Funeral clothes that fit
Daycare for your children
There are other things I can't think of right now, but I'm sure something will come up when I need these things and don't have them.
I both apologize and make no apologies for the rambling, unedited and unfunny nature of this post. It's been a busy week and topped off with a funeral yesterday. Next week's post will be more interesting, can't promise about the rambling. As you know. Thanks for trudging though.