I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, and the busyness doesn’t promise to get a lot better anytime in the next 2 months. Wedding plans for my daughter (and bridal showers), political activism, working for a candidate, trying to help organize Paul supporters in the state, teaching two classes…the bottom line is, that I’m juggling more things than I really should be.
Then 2 weeks ago, I got a summons for jury notice. I knew I was in the potential pool, but also knew that it’s somewhat unusual for cases in the county court to actually go to trial—pleas are negotiated for most of the lesser crimes in our courts, it would seem. So, when my summons said “call the day before you are to appear to confirm that you will still be needed”, I kind of assumed I’d call, and be told “never mind.”
Nope. The response to my call was “the trial is on, we’ll need you to appear.” Hmmm.
I’ve never served on a jury before, and in spite of having a father who is an attorney (as well as a sister), my experience inside of courtrooms has been limited to the annual GOP County Convention in our county, which is often held in one of the courtrooms (not the one where the trial is being held), and a few runs at the County Spelling Contest when I was in elementary school and junior high, when the contests were held in the courtroom.
Apparently they call a goodly portion of the pool in for the trials. I reported in at 8:20 (“appear at or before 8:30 a.m.” ) and sat in a small room with about 30 of my fellow poolmates. There were another 30 or so who apparently had taken a seat in the courtroom. When the time came, we were ushered into the courtroom, and given general instructions about what was going to happen, and sworn in as part of the pool.
And then came the selection. It was really based on a lottery, and they drew 24 names out of the total pool. My name was drawn 11th. After they got the 24 selected, voir dire happened—in other words, the attorneys attempted to determine what biases the prospective jurors might have. And then, each attorney was able to “challenge” (i.e., dismiss for whatever reason they wanted) 6 jurors, taking the total down to 12.
They didn’t tell us in what order we were challenged—the list was read as a group of people who were excused, although the order that the judge read wasn’t alphabetical, so if it was in the order challenged, I was deleted from the jury somewhere around 6th or 7th. I didn’t track it well, so I’m not sure whether the prosecution or the defense challenged my seating as a juror.
The particular case that was being heard didn’t appear to me to be one that would last too long, nor was it exactly a high stakes case. But if I were an attorney—either for the prosecution or the defense—and had done a little bit of research on the prospective jurors, I suppose I might have dismissed me, as well. They knew that I taught political science (I was asked, by the defense attorney, who apparently already knew); and a simple google search of my name would show me as a Republican (“law and order”?) but also as a libertarian (civil liberties?); and my status as a political scientist could mean anything, I suppose. I’m middle aged, and well-educated. At its core, I suppose if I were an attorney, I’d be a little unsure about what Juror #11 might be thinking.
So, I missed my chance at being a juror, but I’ve got great new insight into the process that I can share with my American Government classes when we talk about the Constitution and the Judiciary in the future. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get another chance—I think I’m in the pool for the rest of the year.