So I've been on jury duty this week. I went in on Monday (12-08-2008) fully intending to get "out of" getting on a jury. Well it didn't work...I'm on a jury.
I can't talk about any of whats going on right now, but we should be getting the case for deliberation tomorrow and then once we reach a verdict I can tell you more about it. I can say it's a criminal case and so far it's been pretty interesting.
Our legal system is what is amazing to me. I mean we all watch Law and Order and shows like that so we think we know what goes on in courtrooms, but it's really not like that. There's not as much drama and the attorney's aren't as glamorous and beautiful. But real life is better because even though it's much more slow paced it's an amazing system to be tried by our peers. And they really are our peers. In the panel I was on we had several teachers and a few college professors, business owners, unemployed people, truck drivers, attorneys, wives of attorneys, retired telephone and oilfield company people, students and peace officers/correctional officers. It was very varied.
Before you head over to the courtroom though, you have to sit in that jury services room with 230 others which is how many people they called in for Monday morning. The highlight of the whole thing was our hostess. I thought she was incredibly funny and made the reading of jury rules and regulations very amusing. For instance, one of the rules was to only ask jury services personnel if you have questions; as she put it "Don't ask your neighbor because he doesn't like you, he doesn't want to give you the right answer and mainly, he probably doesn't know any more than you do." She had a really droll way of saying that that cracked me up.
Then when a bailiff comes in the computer randomly selects however many jurors the court has asked for. Everyone sits there holding their breath hoping and praying that their name won't be called, it's so comforting to know that you're in a room full of strangers all thinking the same thing you are, "Please don't call me, please don't call me!"
As a side note...why would anyone come to jury duty without a book or newspaper? I mean I know you may say, well they do have tv's there, but some of these people don't even watch the tv. We had several in the "quiet reading area" just sitting there staring into space! Whats with these people?
Anyway, so your name gets called and you follow the bailiff into the courtroom and you sit outside til they call you in. Talk about a power kick, the jury is the most important thing in that courtroom (other than the judge). When the bailiff leads you in, both of the attorneys and the defendant stand up and they do it every single time you leave or come into the court room. I felt like a queen :-)
So you sit in the gallery and then the judge comes in and he has the court reporter run a list on the computer which randomly selects 12 people to sit in the jury box and 8 others to sit in the alternate juror chairs. Then commences the sort of boring part. The judge asks questions of you, then he has the prosecutor ask questions of you, then the defendants lawyers asks questions of you.
The questions the judge asked were: Whats is your occupation? Are you married? If you were married he asked your spouses occupation. Do you have children? Where do you live? (What area of Kern County). Have you ever served on a jury before? If you served on a jury before he wanted to know...without telling him the verdict, did that jury reach a verdict? So he asks this of 20 people. This is kind of interesting because you get to hear all the different occupations and where they live.
Then the prosecutor usually follows up with more in depth questions about the questions you've already answered like for instance one guy said he was a business owner, she wanted to know exactly what kind of business he owned. Then she asked a few generic questions and asked random people for their response. Then the defendants attorney gets to do the same.
Then they get to excuse those jurors they don't want without having to state any reason. The judge tells you right from the get go to not take it personally. So when they excuse one person in the juror box one alternate moves up into the juror box. I believe each attorney has 10 people each they can excuse. The bad part is once they have dismissed a few and they have run out of people they call 8 more alternates from the gallery and the whole process is repeated on those people. It took a long time!