Monday, June 15, 2009

Jury Duty II

As I thought it would be the jury parking lot was full so I had to park in one of the city lots. I didn’t have a clue whether I would be reimbursed or not. Anyway I was on time to the fifth floor, department 40. The hall was packed with the other jurors in the pool. We waited and waited and finally had to be cleared away from the pass through because a prisoner was going to be taken from the secure area across our waiting area to another secure area. He was finally brought through (in chains). Shortly thereafter we watched one juror after another go into the court room and then come out (for private meetings with the judge we were not told). After this went on for the better part of an hour we went into the room and 12 of the pool were seated in the jury “box.”

The judge asked the defense counsel to begin his questioning. Each of the jurors in the box was asked about the questionnaire we completed on Wednesday last. The sticking points to the defense was whether jurors could bypass relatives who were in law enforcement, jobs that they had wanted that were in law enforcement or any other activity that would predispose them to lean toward the prosecution.

After an hour and a half we got a ten minute break (bladder nearly bursting) and when we came back the same routine was started again. With each juror’s dismissal (excused was the word used) a new juror was asked by the judge whether he or she understood all the questions and comments that had been made during the previous juror’s interrogation. With positive answers the questions began again. At the end of each juror’s interrogation they were asked whether there was anything over the weekend that they wanted to mention.

Just before the lunch break the judge asked whether any in the audience had anything they wanted to bring up based on a weekend’s reflection. He was flabbergasted at the number of jurors he had to excuse based on their inability to set aside various prejudices (against murder, against violence, etc.) commenting on whether he should have even asked the audience that question.

We got an hour and a half for lunch (coffee and a power bar with my son Thomas). After lunch the final jurors were accepted as were two alternates. After that the judge excused the rest of us and we went back to the jury pool to get our day in court recorded so that we wouldn’t be called for another year. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jury Duty

The summons arrives in the mail along with an explanation of the judicial process and the necessity of juries. On the summons is a parking pass, juror badge and an explanation of the parking arrangements and a phone number to call to find out whether I have to make the trip to the county courthouse.

Day number one and my group is not picked; call back after 5:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Day number two and my group is told to report to the county courthouse at 8:00 a.m.

The parking lot on the appointed day is relatively empty at 7:45 a.m. However, there is a line into the hall from the reception area in the jury waiting room. The line moves quickly and I pick up a holder for my juror badge and a four-part questionnaire. The four-parter asks for a variety of personal information but I do have the option to mark a question “P” for private, meaning that the other jurors will not hear my answer but it will be recorded for the public at large to peruse.

The first panel is not called until sometime after 9:00. My name isn’t on the list. I wait listening to numerous cell phone conversations, griping about the process, chit-chat about numerous mundane things and then it’s time for lunch (from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.).

Back in the jury assembly room the second panel is called and my name is not heard among the “here” responses. More waiting with the same kind of aural activity as the morning.

The P.A. system directs me back to the jury assembly room and for the third panel I hear my name called along with the designated court room.

Arriving at the court room I find that the hall outside the room is as packed as the bleachers at a closely contested sports game. The panel before mine is told to take a questionnaire and complete it before they leave to get a parking pass for their return on Monday.

In a few minutes the large black man who is attending to the jury panel announces that my group will take seats in the court room. He admonishes hat wearers to remove their lids and for all electronic gadgets to go dark.

Inside the court room a clerk reads the indictment of the defendant (a non death penalty murder charge)and the judge introduces himself and provides a brief glimpse into the principle that the accused is “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Then it’s time to find out whether there are any “hardships” in the potential juror group. Numerous indications are given but few are excused.

After the hardships are discussed we file out of the court room and take the voluminous questionnaires and complete them before leaving the original questionnaire with the new one in a box outside the court room.

We go back to the jury assembly room and get parking passes for our return engagement on Monday at 9:30 a.m.