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.

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