Monday, January 18, 2010

Civic Duty

A few weeks ago, I got a summons to appear for jury duty. The date came last week and I had to be there a minimum of two days. The DH dropped me off at the King County Courthouse on Wednesday morning and I reported for duty. Most of the morning was spent sitting in the jury room with my laptop. They have free wifi and a bunch of tables and chairs, so it was pretty comfortable and I was able to get caught up on some work.

A bit before noon, they called 75 of us to be the jury pool for one trial. We had to fill out a questionnaire that asked if we had any experience with drug abuse, sexual abuse, or mental illness. It also stated that the trial would require approximately three weeks of service. It was our opportunity to write either why we couldn't serve for three weeks or if we didn't want to talk in the court room in front of everyone about any of the three topics listed.

After lunch, we were taken to the courtroom and introduced to the honorable judge Susan Craighead. (One funny thing is that the woman in the jury room who announced everything had a bit of an accent and every time she said the judges name, it sounded like crackhead instead of Craighead.) The judge explained to us how the jury selection process works and then we met the plaintiff, defendant, and attorneys. The case was brought by the county, so there was no actual plaintiff, just the attorney. The defendant was there with an attorney and paralegal. We were then told that the defendant was charged with murder in the second degree. At that, I felt horrible. No matter how much CSI I watch, I didn't want to hear details of a real murder. I'm pretty good at separating fiction from reality, but reality can be horrid and I didn't want to know any more.

After being instructed in the courtroom process, the attorneys each took 20 minutes to ask questions. Because there were so many of us, we each had numbers assigned and would simply hold up our number if our answer was "no" to any of the questions. Sometimes they would ask anyone who said no to elaborate and sometimes they just took down the numbers. I was number 67. We took an afternoon recess and then had one more round of questions. At 3:00, they let everyone go except for the people who had asked to only talk about their answers in private. I took the bus home and got caught up on work that I didn't get done in the two hours of actual court room time that day.

On Thursday, we all reported to the jury assembly room again and waited to be called to the court room. We went up around 9:30 and saw that another half dozen people had been excused from that trial after talking to the judge and attorneys. That morning, the attorneys continued asking questions, we held up our numbers if the answer was no, and some of us got to clarify our answers. We had a morning recess and lunch recess, and after each recess a couple more would be dismissed for one reason or another. The final round of questions was after lunch and then the attorneys had the time during our afternoon recess to determine who else they wanted to kick off and we went back to the court room for the final process.

During the final process, there are 14 jurors in the jury box (12 angry men and two alternates) and the rest of us were in the benches at the back of the room. Each attorney had six opportunities to dismiss another juror. They would review the answers they'd heard from the 14 in the box and then select one person to dismiss. Each attorney would dismiss one juror and then the other attorney would do the same until they had each dismissed six. Once they did that, there were still four people in front of me on the benches and three behind me, so the eight of us were dismissed because they had their group. It was all done by 3:30 that afternoon.

When I got home, I was no longer under orders to stay impartial, so I did an internet search on the defendant and got to find out what he was accused of. I found out that he had actually confessed to committing the crime, so I was left to assume that his defense had something to do with claiming that he had mental illness that impaired his ability to control his actions.

Having had this experience, I think I would really like to be selected as a juror, but on something non-violent and short. I met some really nice people while waiting around and the judge and attorneys were so nice and were genuinely grateful that we were there. I do know that I won't dread the summons if I get selected for jury duty again.

4 comments:

Rager said...

Having been selected for a jury, I can say that it is interesting to see how a trial works. In my case it was two days of listening with a little deliberation thrown in for good measure. I came out of my experience not thinking too highly of any of the lawyers involved in the case.

Sam said...

I've done three rounds of jury duty, two on actual juries. It is interesting, and I was happy to have non-violent cases.

Duchess said...

Neither Link or I have ever been called to Jury Duty. Link would love it. He would volunteer if they would let him. I think I'm with you, I'd be OK with it if it were a non-violent case.

Holly said...

Wow, I would feel the same as you if asked to be on a murder case. When I was called to jury duty one case was for armed robbery which I was dismissed from the next case in my two days was a child rape which freaked me out. I ended up being dismissed from that too thankfully. But I agree, I would like to participate in a jury at some point, but on something a little less graphic.