My Day in Court…Almost

I went through the whole process of selection and was narrowed down to a list of potential jurors. Both the prosecution and the defense asked me point blank questions. I guess I didn’t sound too stupid because I was the very first person chosen.

I was ambivalent about serving. On the one hand, I felt it my civic duty. On the other hand, I desperately despise wasting time. There was a lot of waiting involved. It was hot and crowded too.

When our group was narrowed down, we were finally allowed inside the courtroom where it was much cooler. There the judge and lawyers began to preach about how important this was and why we were such good citizens for coming in. At this point I wondered how often they had recited those speeches.

The one thing that surprised me was that not only did the judge introduce everyone in her court, but even the defendant was introduced.

They warned us not to read the paper or Google the defendant. Truth be told, his name was uttered so rapidly I couldn’t tell you who he was, let alone Google his name.

The defendant was on trial for assaulting a police officer. Considering how charged our climate has been about assaults on the police, especially after the incident last year in Dallas, I imagine it was hard for them to select an impartial jury.

What really divided us was whether we were comfortable (without yet hearing the evidence) to sentence this man from probation to 10 years in jail. Quite a few people voiced opposition to sentencing. They were okay with hearing the trial, but not with doling punishment.

In the end though, we never got the chance to hear the case. They settled on a lesser charge that resulted in a misdemeanor rather than the felony we would’ve had to hear. If we had wanted to, the judge said we were welcome to come into court to watch the rest of the proceedings. Not a single one of us stayed.

We were all rather chatty while we were isolated though. We talked about where we lived and what we did for a living. There was lots of talk of fishing and raising livestock.

Other than the waiting, it was kind of nice to see how the justice system operated. It’s not nearly as tense or dramatic as they show on tv. The judge was quite friendly yet professional. She also made sure we had plenty of snacks.

The only time she wasn’t quite so friendly was on the first day when we were dismissed for lunch and asked to come back later that day. Six people didn’t come back and deputies were sent out to arrest them.

They found four of the six, and they sat in the back of the court during the entire proceeding. After we were dismissed for the day, the four were required to have a little talk with the judge. I doubt it was a pleasant conversation.

My day in court was over, but I’m anxiously waiting to hear if Greg is going to be picked for a jury. That very same week, he received a letter for Federal Court! I’ve never known anyone on a federal jury. I kind of hope he gets picked just so I can hear about his experience.

Time will tell.

If you’ve been on a jury, was your experience similar to mine? Have you ever been on a federal jury?






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  1. Stacy McKitrick

    Sitting around and waiting, I remember that part very much (I remember having a book with me, though). The trial I was jury on was about a man accused of stealing the aluminum siding from a house. Two people took the stand: the defendant and a witness (that old woman seemed the type that knew everything that went on in that neighborhood). We all said the guy was guilty and that the value of the siding was more than $500 (if it were less, the defendant would have gotten lesser charges).

    Frankly, the defendant was an idiot. I don’t know what he hoped to get with a trial. Still, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and if I ever get called again, it won’t bother me as much.

  2. I never get picked. I think I have two things against me in answering the survey they give everyone at the start. One is that I have family members with drug addictions and alcoholism, and who have been arrested or spent time in prison because of those things. So I don’t get picked if drugs are involved. The other reason is that I tend to be fairly tough on crime. Despite my liberal leanings, I always feel that people can learn to make better choices and have responsibility for their actions. Actually, these days, I think I’ve learned more about addiction and poverty, and have a better understanding of the lack of resources most people have. However, I have no patience for violent acts unless they are in self-defense. Anyway, most often, the defense attorney dismisses me.

    I’d like to serve though – I think it would be interesting. Someday, maybe.

    • Marlene: The one thing I liked about the Defense and Prosecution is that they told us it was all right if we felt bias. They weren’t judging us. Sometimes certain cases are not for you. This one, although I felt strongly about the offense, I also know there are two sides to every story.

      Now had it been a case about animal abuse, I’m pretty sure I would’ve buried the defendant under the jail.

    • Jenny: I heard one person say he misunderstood the judge and thought she had excused him. I suppose it’s possible, but she was pretty specific about us returning after lunch.

      They all looked pretty upset when they were hauled in.

  3. I got to do a civil trial once. It was interesting but we had to find in favor of the scumbags who had found and exploited a loophole in their contract that obviously wasn’t meant to be used that way. No satisfaction. (And you’re right about turning the phone to get the Post button. )

    • Linda: That’s the thing I dislike about the justice system. There’s always a loophole. It just takes the right person to find it–for good or bad.

      re: commenting from a cell phone
      That’s great! I wondered if it worked for you. Like I said, I found it accidentally.

  4. When I served on the jury, the hardest thing for me was not to google Google about anything related to the case but afterward I searched out everything I could. Good that you served. I know when we served in various places, they promised you wouldn’t be called for a certain period of time. Did they do the same for you?


    • Betty: The judge told us we wouldn’t have to serve again for six months. There was a woman in our group though who said she gets called up twice a year, every year for the last eight years. The computer must have a thing for her name. I hope I’m not that lucky. 🙂

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