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2012-04-06 6:28 PM
The only real problem with the scheduling of my jury service was that it happened during the only three hours of the day that I'm awake and productive. It could have been much worse, though. They could have asked me to come in the mornings instead of the afternoons. The week before the first time I was supposed to call in and find out when to report, I was sick from thinking about being in court at 9:00 on a Monday morning. That wasn't going to go well.
In the end, I didn't have to go in the first morning, or the first afternoon, or the second morning. After endlessly refreshing the jury reporting page on the court website, I was finally called for Tuesday afternoon at 12:30. Once we got into the courtroom we learned that court would be in session three hours a day, from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm. And that we would get a twenty-minute break every day at 3 pm. And that Friday was a court holiday.
You can believe that there was some grumbling amongst the troops when we learned of the disjointed scheduling. (On the other hand, we got a whopping $14.00 a day just for showing up.)
Since I'd postponed once before, I had a fairly low juror number, so I mentally prepared myself to be called, even while I was watching their patriotic video for the umpteenth time. On most of those other occasions I've been grilled and excused, but the only jury I'd actually been allowed to sit on was for a civil case, way back in the previous century.
Once I got in the jury box on Tuesday afternoon, I tried to keep a low profile so the questions would go to someone else. It was easy because I was sitting in the back row, behind a woman with big hair. I didn't have to hide, because the judge and lawyers couldn't see me very well anyway. Unlike in my previous experiences, I didn't get the hard questions that I had to answer out loud. Only two questions were directed at me.
Have you served on a jury before, and if so, did you reach a verdict? The answer to that was yes, and yes, although since it wasn't a criminal case, the verdict didn't have to be unanimous. It was close to twenty years ago, so I don't remember much about the details.
What I do remember is that we awarded an absurd sum of money to the victim of an accident, based on what experts told us he had lost in lifetime earnings. Since the verdict was a number, and not a yes or no answer, it was easy to negotiate and come to a figure all the members could live with. I suspect it was thrown out on appeal, but I could never find any information about it afterward, so I'll never know.
If someone gave testimony and you didn't believe some of what they said but did believe other things they said, would you be able to disregard the one and reach a verdict based on the other? Yes. That's all I had to say in answer to that one. I didn't add, "Duh." If I believe someone, even if it's only part of their testimony, I'm going to rely on what I believe to come to a conclusion.
There were other questions. Many, many other questions, of a general nature posed to the whole panel. The judge read a list of witnesses and asked if we recognized any names. Would we be more likely to believe a policeman than a civilian? Would we be swayed one way or another if we saw the judge taking notes during a witness statement? If you were on trial, would you want you on your jury? (Depends on whether or not I'm guilty, I guess.) The judge accepted general nodding and head-shaking in lieu of individual answers to these questions.
Eventually all the people who knew too much or too little were weeded out. The fellow who had a son on the police force was excused. The woman with a degree in criminal justice and very strong and informed opinions about just about everything was let go. The victim's rights advocate will probably never serve on a jury in her life. For once, though, I was for some reason considered acceptable, and at the end of Wednesday, my second day of jury duty, I was sworn in with eleven other people who weren't too smart or too stupid for the judge and the lawyers.
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