So I had Jury Duty a couple of weeks ago and I was absolutely dreading it. The last time I had jury duty, they had me there for three days. I watched as other people were called and then dismissed. And finally on the third day, I was called and then dismissed. I was not looking forward to sitting around for another few days and doing nothing. Because you can’t have your phone on while in the courtroom, you know, and you can’t type away at your computer. But this was also in California.
In Florida, you’re called for just one day. It may take more than one day if you’re actually on a jury. I was afraid that we were going to be part of the Casey Anthony trial, but a quick Google search revealed that it had been postponed until October. So I was not going to be on a jury for months at a time.
So in Florida, at least in Orange County, you’re called for othe one day. If you’re called into panel and then rejected, you have to return to the jury waiting room to see if you’re called again. The jury waiting room had internet, magazines and also a tv. There were also vending machines that were run by the Association for the Blind. All proceeds went to help blind people find jobs.
While I waited to be called, I critiqued a novel for Emily. Finally figured out internet around noon and did some work. I was told that if you weren’t called by 2pm, 3pm if a judge asked for an extension, you were allowed to go home and you wouldn’t be called for another 12 months.
So about 1:30pm, I thought I was free. Except that I was called at 1:45pm. There were people left over, but they got called to the next panel, so nobody escaped being questioned that day.
We followed the bailiff to the courtroom, sat down on the hardest benches I had ever felt and began the questioning. This was a simple theft trial. There was no hard evidence. All of it was witness testimony. So the very clever prosecutor asked us if we would convict on witness testimony alone. Everyone but a few of us said yes. I said no because people mistake me for someone else all the time. I must have at least three dopplegangers according to these strangers. So then my name got written down on her sheet.
The prosecutor was very clear. She used everyday terms and I totally understood where she was coming from.
Now the defense attorney wasn’t so lucky. He was trying to make the point that this was a criminal trial, that we needed beyond reasonable doubt to convict. This was not a civil trial in which only the preponderance of the evidence was needed.
I stared at him blankly.
Pre-what? What about evidence?
I was tired and my nose was running. I must admit, I wasn’t paying attention to him because he was droning on and on and on about something. He was worse than my political science professor. And also he mentioned that there were only six jurors in a civil trial which confused a bunch of us. We always thought there were always twelve.
Why was he talking about that? Why didn’t he ask about whether or not we’d ever been mistaken for someone else? Could we pick out the receptionist at the front door in a line up? How can you pick out someone you only saw for five minutes? I think he was just out of law school. He had that newbie sheen to him.
In any case, they were done questioning us and we were sent outside so that they could decide which one of the twenty-four was lucky enough to particpate.
Let me also interject here and add something I found interesting. Out of the twenty-four potential jurors, we were asked how many of us have been arrested or knew someone who was arrested. Half of us raised our hands. Only one of us was actually arrested (it wasn’t me). So then the judge proceeded to ask us if it effected us in any way and most of us said no. One person who said that it did said that his brother was arrested for being under the influence of a drug (Ambien). Before this guy’s arrest, there was no sleep driving warning on the label. The potential juror said that this experience tainted his view of the police and couldn’t be fair.
So the judge said, this trial has nothing to do with Ambien and nothing to do with drug companies. Did he think that he could be fair concerning that? And he said yes.
Huh. What I learned from this was that if you ask the right questions of people, you can get them to change their answers. And it makes it sound like they are the one’s who’ve made this decision rather than you. I must learn this technique!
Anyway, so we were waiting for the lawyers to decide who was going to be on the jury when the doors busted open and (presumably), the victim said, “You get to go home!”
Turned out since 95% of us were willing to convict on witness ID alone, the defendant pled out. It was about 4pm at that point. But I got to go home and I only lost one day of work. Also, I won’t have to worry about being called to jury duty for another year. Go me! My civic duty is done!