Here Come da Judge

July 2007 - All rise for this tale of jury duty and how the wheels of justice turn in a manner that is very boring. Just how boring? In the words of one prospective juror, "I never wanted to go to work so badly in my life!"

My experience began promisingly on a recent Monday morning. I and the other potential jurors for the week reported to the courthouse and assembled in the jury assembly room. A judge gave us a pep talk. Not only were we performing a VERY IMPORTANT SERVICE, he said, but we were here on a VERY BUSY WEEK. It seemed, I thought, as though we'd have stuff to do. I should have realized differently when, as he was leaving, the judge said he'd be ready for a list of potential jurors in about an hour!

So, we sat and we waited. Sure enough, in about an hour, a court official read a list of people who would go upstairs for jury selection. My name was not on that list. Shortly, more people were called. Again, I was not among them.

After more sitting and more waiting, those of us remaining in the room left for lunch. When we came back, we sat and waited some more. Then, we went home.

The following morning, we returned for another round of sitting and waiting. I read. I chatted with the young man sitting next to me, a Philosophy major headed for law school in the fall. I read some more. I got a drink of water. Finally, we went to lunch.

That afternoon, the court official read the names of people who would be taken up to a courtroom for jury selection - when the judge was ready. My name was on that list! At last, I thought, some action! But, an hour later, we were told to return at 9 a.m.

Of course, this being jury duty, it was 9:30 before we were sent to a courtroom on the 3rd floor. There were 46 of us; I was juror #38. The judge explained that the case concerned a man accused of resisting arrest. Then, we met the players - the defendant, the lawyers, the witnesses for the prosecution (police officers) and the witnesses for the defense (pretty much the defendant and his wife).

After that, we were asked a series of questions. Based on our answers, some people were called to the bench for a sidebar with the judge and the attorneys. One man was quickly dismissed because he said he had difficulty hearing. The rest of us were deemed suitable for service.

Finally, the lawyers chose 12 jurors and two alternates. The process involved a court employee passing papers between the prosecution and the defense. After about 30 minutes, a list of agreed upon jurors was arrived at. I was not on it.

I and the other rejects were sent back to the jury assembly room to await further instruction, which turned out to be, "Thank you very much. You can go now." And, I did go – right to work.