April 25, 2024

Jury Duty

 I was subpoenaed for jury duty today. As I sat during the jury selection process, I was composing an essay in my mind about my experience as a juror. As it happened, I was not chosen for the jury, and I’m unsure whether to be happy or disappointed about that. I was not happy that I had to rise earlier than usual to be in court by 8 am. However, I was able to leave for home by about 10:30.

When I arrived at the courthouse, I filled out a form requiring mostly demographic information. (This was somewhat difficult for me, as I had mistakenly left my reading glasses at home.) Potential jurors were shown a brief film about implicit bias, and the judge gave a lecture about being a juror. He also told us that the trial involved the sexual abuse of a minor and would likely last two days. Then a dozen of us—there were about 30 subpoenaed folks in the room—were seated separately to be questioned by a prosecutor and the defense attorney. Many of the questions we were asked were probing our ability to be objective. We learned during this process that several of the women had been molested as children, that one man had a religious objection to judging anybody under any circumstances, and that one man wearing a brace after knee surgery had difficulty sitting for long periods. Some of the questions by the defense attorney involved the credibility of teenagers. Apparently, one of the prosecution witnesses was to be a teenage girl. Oddly, I noticed that the defendant was better dressed than his attorney. Perhaps the lawyer was trying to look folksy.

When the questioning was over, the dozen potential jurors were given a break while the principals left to consult about who of our number would be on the jury. We had been told that the charges were only misdemeanor charges—felony charges are adjudicated in county, not municipal, courts—and the jury would consist of six regular jurors and one alternate. I thought it likely that the jury, or most of it, would be chosen from our group. I was wrong. Only three were selected; the rest were dismissed.

I was surprised by the courtroom procedure. From fictional dramas and actual trials I’d seen on television, I expected that those in the jury pool would be questioned individually by the prosecution and defense, after which they would immediately be selected for service or not. That procedure is surely more stressful for potential jurors than what I experienced today. Of course, I cannot know what transpired among judge, prosecutors—there were two—defense attorney, and defendant while they were out of the courtroom.

This was the third time I’ve been called for jury duty. The first time, I was excused because I was about to travel to a computer conference. The second time, I was asked many specific questions and made an initial cut, but not the final one. I suspect that our group today was selected based on the questions we answered on paper, so I likely made the first cut again.

I would like to know why I have never been selected. I may never serve on a jury, though I have always thought I would make a good juror because I am used to doing logical analysis. It was clear today, though, that the only evidence in the trial would be witness testimony, and jurors would need to evaluate the credibility of those witnesses. I’m not sure how good I am at that task.

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