UNITED STATES—If the first column you learned about the process of being summoned for jury duty, the next process if you are chosen is what they call that random lottery. You are escorted out of the jury waiting room and lead to the courtroom where this case will be presided upon. You cannot talk, you cannot chat, you have to be quiet and just wait. Anything the waiting game is frustrating. After a few minutes, the bailiff comes out and informs the jury they are about to enter the courtroom to take off a hat if you have one and sit in the back two rows.
The judge then begins to speak once all the jurors are seated. The judge gives his explanation of what is about to transpire. He gives a bit of a background about the case. The first thing I wanted to know was rather this would be a civil or criminal case. Why? Civil cases don’t take as long, whereas criminal cases could be days or weeks. I have served on both, and you just don’t know. As a juror, I learned it was a criminal case. My heart dropped because I knew this would at least be a week or two weeks bare minimum. The judge let us know that the case should be completed within a week.
That was a slight relief, but as always there could be delays or the case could spill over for other reasons people. The judge starts to explain the legal system and the jury process and then we get into the stage of Voir Dire. What does that mean? Voir Dire means the oath to tell the truth. The jurors are asked a series of questions first by the judge and then by the prosecutor and defense attorney in the case.
This is a process that I have always found frustrating because you are asked to tell the truth, but you know the jurors are lying when they are asked the four staple questions by the judge before getting a bit of background information. The background information is simple, where do you live, what do you do for work and what is your highest level of education. I noticed for some reason when I informed the courtroom that I was a journalist I heard whispers from the prosecuting team, almost like it was a good thing.
After that small Q/A, the judge goes into more details asking questions about rather you know anyone who is in the legal profession, if you have a family member or friend who is in the police force or authority figure, have you been a victim of a crime and have you had a family member convicted or the victim of a crime. My answer to all those questions was YES! I had to further elaborate on having cousins who are lawyers, an uncle who was a retired state trooper, being the victim of an armed robbery with a gun and my brother being convicted of criminal charges and my sister being a victim of domestic violence.
You would think this being a case about regarding a felony assault with a weapon to easily get me dismissed from the case. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. After the initial 12 jurors were asked all these questions, around 5 to 6 jurors were dismissed on the basis of “For Cause” determined by the judge. They were replaced by random draw with the remaining jurors sitting in the courtroom.
Then you have peremptory challenges that the prosecutor and defense attorney can determine which jurors to be removed for a number of reasons. Each attorney is given a select number of peremptory challenges, and let me tell you every single one was used. This is the first time in years and I mean years since serving jury duty that this process took more than 2 hours to complete, and a second batch of jurors had to be brought to the courtroom to continue the process.
It felt like it would be never-ending. All the jurors that kept getting replaced were being dismissed. People were being dismissed because they knew too many people in law enforcement or the legal profession, some complained about starting a new job or missing work, one person claimed to have to travel to care for an elderly parent, one person had a family member murdered, one person was just a complete ass and didn’t want to be there and made that clear to the judge and the courtroom. Guess what dude? None of us what to be here, but it is what it is!
This process was so tedious and frustrating that you could tell it was taxing on the attorneys in the case, the defendant, the plaintiff, the witnesses, the bailiffs, the person who records everything in the courtroom, the person who handles the administrative duties in the courtroom and the jurors who had already been selected and it became apparent we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
I knew in my gut so many people were lying about certain things just to get out of having to serve as a juror, but what they failed to realize is just because you were dismissed from this case didn’t mean your time for jury duty was over. It meant you had to head back down to that waiting room where you could be called for another case. I really didn’t want to have to deal with that back and forth to be honest. Either I get dismissed or let me serve on a jury so I can be over with this process people. As we near almost 12 p.m. after sitting in a courtroom for more than 2 hours trying to select a jury of 14 (because you have 2 alternates), we reach the feat. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
However, it was now time to go to lunch which means another delay in the case before the actual trial would begin with opening statements from both parties and now as a jury we couldn’t speak about the case to anyone or even discuss it amongst ourselves. Oh, let the fun begin (FYI that was sarcasm people)!