Thursday, February 22, 2024

Jury Duty

 So I recently was successfully called for the second time ever to do jury duty. I think I was summoned back when I was in college out of state and my mom responded for me to say nope she's far away, and last year I was summoned right before my baby was due so I said nope I'm indisposed and to that they said ok but you're back on the list next year and what do you know, I was summoned right when that time was up. 

My first successful summons was about four years ago and was super nice - I showed up in the morning, we got called back to the courtroom in a very timely manner, and the jury was selected before noon. I wasn't selected, so I went out to lunch and had the rest of the day off because where I worked gave me three days to use for jury duty and I was using one. The case involved a dentist and my sister works for a dentist so I was pretty sure they wouldn't select me. 

My most recent summons was not ideal. So I showed up at 8:30 like they said and I thought we'd be done by noon like last time but definitely by 4:30 since that's what the summons said BUT NOPE I was there until 6. Right off the bat there were delays because there were two juries being selected and I was not in the group for the first one, so we didn't get called back til like 10:30. Then the selection just took forever. We broke for lunch and they gave us an hour which I thought was plenty of time because there was a Wendy's in walking distance from the courthouse but wow, it was actually cutting it close because the staff was not great there and getting my nuggets took way longer than anticipated. And then the selection was just very long. So they ask like ten questions and you raise your hand if the question applies to you (i.e. do you, your family, or a close friend work for a dentist?). That part doesn't take very long. BUT THEN the judge goes back and for every question, everyone that said yes has to go up one at a time to say why they said yes. This part can take a very long time because you have to go up individually for every question that you said yes to (the bailiff keeps track of who said yes to what because wow your brain turns to mush after being in a courtroom for hours) and in this instance, there were 99 potential jurors in the room so multiply that by about 10 (then divide in half because some people say no to all but most say yes to a few) and you see why this takes a long time. BUT THEN the lawyers have time to think through all the answers and figure out who they want on their jury so now the selection can begin.

The selection can take a very long time because the judge calls up groups of potential jurors and goes through them one by one asking if both sides are content with this potential juror being in the jury. If either side doesn't want a person, they say "please thank and excuse juror #" and that person is released from the courtroom because there's nothing further for them to do. Let me tell you, I was potential juror 75 and I thought with a jury of twelve with three alternates, clearly I'm in the clear BUT I WAS NEARLY INCORRECT because they called up people in the sixties before the jury was filled and both sides content. So how it worked this time was they filled the twelve seats (probably before juror 30 was called) but then the judge asks if both sides agree to this jury and that's when each side can further "thank and excuse" people and open up seats there. AND THEN once the twelve are locked in, they still have to select the three alternates! It was rather tedious but it was for a big crime so I get why they were so selective. I was fairly sure I wouldn't be selected because part of the case involved a housefire and my sister had a housefire but there were 99 people there with lots of reason why they might not be the best for that jury.

OH there were suppose to be 99 potential jurors BUT there were at least two missing. So the first step is signing in once you arrive, but that's just the first time they check that you're there! Before heading to the courtroom, they give out the juror numbers (so in the courtroom they can say "Juror 5" instead of giving everyone your name) and if you don't come up and get your juror number, they know you're not there. Once you're in the courtroom, they take rollcall again to ensure everyone (all the numbers) made it to the correct courtroom so they'll know if you're not there. And when you get back from lunch break, they take rollcall again. I feel like they did another check at some point too but I'm not remembering when it happened. Basically don't think that you can duck out early and nobody will notice. They will know. I believe they can send an officer after you. Don't do it. There are legal ways to get out of being summoned, due to all sorts of reasons like being in college out of state or having a medical procedure or many other reasons, so go the proper way and get yourself excused. 

Here are some takeaways from my time served civically: 

  • Bring drinks and snacks because you do get a lunch break but you can be in the courtroom for hours - have pre- and post-lunch snacks and a refillable water bottle
  • Bring non-electronic time fillers - can't use phone/computer in the courtroom but you can read books, sketch, crochet, solve puzzle books, etc.
  • You can use electronics in the waiting room, so ensure your headphones connect to your device if you need an adapter or something if you'd like to use them
  • Look up lunch places beforehand so no anxiety over getting food in a timely manner
  • They might really pack the courtroom so dress in layers as it might get rather warm
  • They might have a metal detector on entry so leave the pocket knife and whatnot in the car
  • Take the stairs if able because you're gonna do a lot of sitting
  • Use the restroom when you can because there are times during the selection that you can't leave the courtroom
  • You could be done before lunch but also this could take all day so keep that in mind

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