I spent two and a half days on a hard bench surrounded by strangers this week, listening to 99 questions asked 4 different ways by two different attorneys. Yes, my friends, my first experience with Jury Duty. I didn’t get chosen for either of the two cases for which I called.
The first was a high profile murder case. The mother and family of both the victim and the accused were in the courtroom. While I may have liked being on a high profile case in theory; in reality, I would not have wanted to be deciding the fate of that young man, a task even more difficult because the families presence.
The second case was a DUI, a felony charge, I believe. I really didn’t want to be on the case, for no other reason than I was very tired of being at the courthouse listening to attorneys and judges…no matter how attractive one of those judges are!
I was surrounded by some characters this week. Mr. A was a sight! A very opinionated man, unintentionally cracking people up with his antics and tales of experiences only vaguely relating to the questions asked. There was Ms. C, who for some reason had a flirtation connection with Mr A, who must have been 30 years her senior. Mr. K, a jury veteran, felt it his duty to inform the DA and the defense attorneys what, exactly, their jobs were. Mr. W analyzed every question until he confused himself. Ms. L knew, or was a relative of, every other person involved in the murder case, as was another gentleman…many of his cousins were somehow involved.
Another lady had close ties to the family and stated up front she could not be impartial. She was there as long as I was…after we were finally released, she headed back to the courtroom to sit with the family of the accused.
Every time a question was asked, invariably people stood up to relate knowing some of the witnesses from elementary school…40 years ago! “No sir, I haven’t seen him since 4th grade, and no, it won’t affect my ability to be impartial.” And Mr. A had so many outrageous comments that after a while, he became more of a nuisance and less of a comedic diversion. I thought the handsome judge was going to throw him out. That would have been a livened things up a bit!
What I noticed in both cases was that the people who were picked didn’t answer any questions and had no law enforcement ties or special training. The man whose many cousins were somehow involved in the first case, made no comments in the second case, and was chosen for duty. I don’t know who Juror No. 11 was…but he/she was not allowed by the judge to be struck by the defense for the DUI case.
It is my expert opinion (“expert” by way of the initiation I served on the hard bench and the sometimes cramped quarters of the cold courtrooms) that the silent are the chosen from the venire, and having a good excuse to not serve may not always get you a reprieve.
And someone really needs to tell a certain defense attorney to wear slacks.