Or Jury Service is finished for at least four years
The first summons received last summer filled me with the usual, “Oh NO! I can’t do this now.” I put it off as long as I could…something was going on in life, and I just couldn’t do it. The second summons came around and I’d just gotten a new job and I couldn’t do it then…so when the third summons came around I had to go in for jury service. Grrr. It’s not convenient, but it was necessary. And it happened this week. YAY, so now I’m finished for a while.
The first one and a half days were spent in the jury pool for criminal court. My name was pulled to voir dire for a jury. I was excused with good reason. I’m looking for a full-time job right now and a two to three week trial would really hinder that.
Just before lunch on the second day a group of about 50 from the pool were called. It was a little odd that there were no details (trial part/judges name). I thought, hey we’re done here and can go home. Nope, not the case. We 50 were headed to Civil court in another building entirely. Part of the group was sent to voir dire for a trial. The rest of us were told to come back by a certain time the next morning (today). Because the parties involved agreed to summary judgement – meaning that after the proceedings the parties agreed to accept our decision – this was it: the jury would be selected from our group, we would hear the case, receive instructions on the law from the judge, make a decision, and be finished maybe before noon, but certainly by the end of the day. Our juror ballots were put into a tumbling mixer-upper and our names were called, thirteen to begin with another 10 or 12 waiting in case the need existed. This particular case needed 7 jurors total – 6 on the panel and an alternate.
In a trial like this each of the lawyers are given a defined time to:
make opening statements
present their witness
cross examine the opposing witness
make closing statments
and in this particular case parts of this were limited to ten minutes (opening/closing).
The instruction from the judge was clear: here is the law, here are your options – with some if/then statements- does everyone understand.
During the proceedings there were a couple of objections, and the judge gave us instructions clarifying a pertinent point. From each lawyer we were given a packet with the information they prepared for us to make an informed decision. And I’ll tell you as jurors we all listened to the evidence.
We deliberated, we made a decision, we made sure that we filled out the paperwork correctly, and then went back to the court officer that we were ready. A little while later we were called back into the courtroom, our foreman was asked to confirm what we’d decided for public record. The judge, and both attorneys thanked us for our time. Done.
Now, I’ve not been particularly thrilled with the possibility of serving on a jury. Making a decision for others like this is not easy, and it could be life changing not necessarily in a positive way. I do think we need to be held accountable for our actions, no doubt about that. When it comes down to it I’d have to say I didn’t trust my own judgement in that regard. While I doubt I’d be thrilled to receive another jury summons, and would put it off as long as possible I no longer hold that doubt. Just wait ten days I’m sure it’ll resurface.
This system is a partnership, judges, lawyers, plaintiffs, defendants, and jurors work together to make sure that this works. While laws seem impartial, the system as it is works. Does that make everyone happy? No. I’m sure one person today was disappointed, and the other was relieved. Is it always fair? Certainly not. Have their been abuses, misuses, and down right wrong that has happened. YES! Because people. And people sometimes get stuff so very wrong. That said, I’d rather work within this to make things better.
And a side note, I’m still not in love with mass transit it took nearly 90 minutes to get to from where I reside to the courthouse. Driving isn’t a whole lot better, because with traffic ya never know.
PS stay tuned for the Quilted Block of the Month!