A behind the scenes look at jury duty

I felt judged when family, friends, and my probation officer objected to me serving on jury duty advising me to get a fabricated excuse. I say fabricated because I am physically healthy, had no prepaid summer vacation plans, and none of my mental conditions have been diagnosed. Yet.

Jury Duty word cloud concept

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Despite their pleas, I felt superior as I drove to the judicial center on my appointed date. I was well prepared having memorized my instructions and my number: 109.

I understood the parking rules, that cell phones were forbidden in the courtroom, and I searched my purse frantically before going through security to make sure I wasn’t sequestering a Glock.

I admit I was nervous when I entered room 204 and faced a roomful of disparate souls all identified by number. I could pick out the extroverts immediately, laughing and forming bonds. I could identify the cagey ones who had brought a book, a crossword puzzle and a flask.

My instructions didn’t address how to handle boredom, but luckily the State bailed us out by supplying a Thomas Kinkade 1000 piece puzzle depicting a Victorian Christmas. When I tired of finding pieces to an ideal holiday, I escaped into the world of celebrity lives reading People Magazine, circa 2012.

When at last the court officer interrupted our reverie and announced it was time to file into the courtroom, we began the arduous process of jury selection.

In my expert opinion, while criminals and attorneys steal the spotlight, jury members are the true foundation of due process. These civic-minded individuals don’t earn sentences, but I believe their dedication warrants some well-deserved awards.

FINAL SUMMATION

Photo courtesy: Depositphotos_Copyright_everett225_edits by author

Most popular: #95. How can one guy know the defendants and witnesses on both sides of every case?

Most likely to need his own jury someday: #43. After repeated warnings about cellphones, he defied authority sitting in the front row checking Facebook.

Most annoying: #89. We get it. You have a sinus condition. But may I make an appeal that decongestants could help all of us get through this without any damages?

Most relaxed: #27. You may wonder if this claim is hearsay, but for the record, even the court reporter was distracted by his snoring.

Most likely to solicit giggles when announcing his number: #69

Most proud of his number: #69

Most likely to be eliminated as a juror: #38. The judge instructed us to answer questions directly with one word when possible. When asked if her relationship with a potential witness was personal or professional she quipped: “He was my fifth-grade teacher, gave me detention and I never got over it.” Pshaw! Everyone knows they won’t choose you if they know you completed fifth grade.

Most likely to be chosen as a juror: #54. I’m not sure if it was his body art or his nose ring that made him captivating.

Most likely to be arrested during jury selection: #109. When the judge didn’t release us until 2PM for lunch, I assaulted a diabetic and stole her glucose tablets. In my defense, I was temporarily insane due to hypoglycemia.

Final summation: My number was randomly chosen a couple of times, giving me hope I’d earn a seat in the jury box, but alas I didn’t make the final cut. I suppose it is just as well, since I’m busy completing my community service.

What’s the verdict? Have you ever been on jury duty? What was your experience?

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37 thoughts on “A behind the scenes look at jury duty

  1. I guess that UK and US jury duties are different in some ways but I can certainly identify with the boredom and having to make up stories about your fellow jurors “real” lives in order to entertain yourself. I was juror on a 5 week trial back in 2012 which alarmingly wrapped up only 2 days before I was due to fly out on holiday to celebrate my parent;s ruby wedding anniversary. It was a tense couple of days in the jury room whilst I waited for the other 11 to thrash out their verdict…

    • That sounds pretty stressful. I had just started a new job when I was called to jury duty so that was a bit of a strain, too. It would have been rough on everyone if I had been tied up with a lengthy trial. The boredom was valuable – I was writing notes like crazy in a notebook gathering material for my essay. It was a fun one to write. Thanks for stopping by on #SundayBlogShare.

  2. OMG. I loved this post! Brought back fond memories of my own jury duty service, which has been completed, um, 3 or 4 times? here in New York City. And trust me, if you haven’t reported for jury duty here in the Big A, then you haven’t lived, jury-wise. I actually LOVE jury duty; I even volunteered to serve in my husband’s stead, since he is a doctor in private practice and has to close his office, disappointing his patients and his bank account, every time he’s called. But no cigar. Anyway. Loved your post and your analysis of the potential jurors. Now I’m gonna go rewatch ‘Twelve Angry Men’ xoxo

    • Wow! Jury duty in NYC would be a trip indeed. I can’t believe they wouldn’t let you serve in place of your husband. They are so particular. Someday I hope I’m called again and actually serve on a jury. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing a laugh with me in #SundayBlogShare.

  3. Very funny! I did jury duty once and what I found most different was that the courtroom was basically empty. On every TV show the courtrooms are full of people there just to watch the trial.

    • Alas, I never had the chance to fulfill the full jury duty experience, since I was shunned during the selection process. I did find the people on trial rather sad and didn’t know if I could convict anyone if I had been chosen. I’m shocked to learn it’s not like TV, Phil!

  4. I would LOVE to have jury duty!! I got the informational survey in the mail once, and eagerly filled it out. Still haven’t been called. 🙁
    Were you really on probation??

    • Oh-Oh, I fear I may have made my post a little too realistic if you need to ask if I was on probation. I have been called to jury duty twice and both times had to sit through hours of jury selection, only to be turned away. Maybe next time!

  5. Haha – that’s hilarious! The US system of jury selection, like many aspects of the US justice system if I’m honest, is largely bizarre & inexplicable to the rest of the world! From my days in law, I have many amusing jury stories that I love. There was a complex fraud case – the kind that go on for months – that had to be abandoned & restarted just before it reached its end due to the jury being discharged. One of the lawyers noticed something odd about how they were writing their notes (vertically) & queried it. Turned out they had not been taking notes. They were doing sudoku. There was a case where the jury in a murder trial based their verdict on claiming they had contacted the victim with a ouija board & asked her. The concerning thing is that, alone, that would not have made their verdict unsafe – you can’t challenge a jury’s reasoning. But they didn’t do it in the deliberation room. They did it in the hotel, where they were not allowed to discuss the case, so that made it unsafe! & there was supposedly a case, though I don’t know if it’s urban myth, where part way into a trial a juror admitted to being deaf & having no idea what was going on, followed by another who admitted to not understanding English well, and finally a third who was both deaf & did not speak English, finally leading to the whole jury being dismissed.

    • I can see from your stories that you have as many law stories as nurses have healthcare stories. I can’t believe they were doing sudoku. I must say the ouija board was thinking outside the jury box, if only they hadn’t made the mistake of doing this in the hotel. It’s not like the judge doesn’t repeatedly tell people what the expectations are. But then again there were repeated warnings about the cellphone and despite my stretching the truth a bit, there really was a guy checking Facebook in the front row of the courtroom. You just can’t make some of the stuff up, right?

  6. I detest jury duty! This was hilarious to read! As a government employee of both the State of California and the City, I get called every 18 months 🙁 Mostly I just get standby service, Thank goodness! The one time I sat in the court room while the defendants (who murdered two cops–yeah–ugly!), I was excused because I had been a victim of a robbery.

    • I would hate to be called in every 18 months, Terri, so I can see why you don’t like it. I’ve been called twice in 30+ years so guess I can live with those odds. Glad you stopped by for a laugh in the courtroom despite your unpleasant experiences there.

  7. I was only called twice (when we lived in California) but wasn’t chosen. It didn’t bother me in the least. But they made the process so appealing for you (That jigsaw puzzle! The magazines! The interesting people! ) that I can understand why you were so disappointed to not spend more time at the judicial center. Maybe next time?

    • Yes, Roxanne, they did make it appealing to me and I may also be appealing my sentence of community service. I believe I did what anyone low on blood sugar would have done, don’t you?

  8. This was hilarious! I think they must all have the same puzzle with missing pieces in every jury room. I’ve been called for jury duty but have never been chosen to be on a trial. And yes I take that personally!

    • I have been on jury duty twice in my lifetime (so far) and was never chosen even once. It is hard not to take it personally but I’m working things out with my court appointed counselor and feeling much better now. 🙂

  9. LOL oh man!! The last time that I actually had to go to a courthouse for jury summons was a little over 6 years ago! It was a high profile case. We weren’t told what the case was while they were doing jury selection, but I figured it out while filling out this huge packet they gave us to help narrow down the full court room of potential jurors. I’ve been excited about jury duty ever since i found out what it was and this time I actually got to sit in the jury box! I felt for sure I was gonna get picked, and was so excited to be a part of it! We broke for lunch and during lunch break, a teenager rear-ended my car, completely smashing the trunk and hurting my leg and back. I went back into that court room with a police report and handed it to the bailiff to give to the judge. The judge said he’d never heard of someone getting into a car accident to get out of jury duty! I started crying right there in front of everybody!! I was excused and headed to the ER to have my leg and wrist checked out since they had started to hurt pretty bad. Since then, all my jury summons have been dismissed the night before. I’ve kinda lost my zeal for doing it lol.

    • Oh man! I’m so disappointed for you that you didn’t get to participate. I was actually disappointed too as I have been called to jury duty twice in my lifetime and have never been chosen as a juror. Glad you ended up okay but what a traumatic experience.

  10. Haha! I love it. Especially the use of the word “pshaw” – a word that is wildly under-utilized in my opinion. I’ve never been called for jury duty but now I have hope that maybe…some day….

    • I am so happy you appreciate the word ‘pshaw’ Amber. I wrote it and then had to look it up to be sure it was a real word and that I spelled it right. Then I felt the same way you did, that this word definitely needs more exposure. I hope you get the same chance I had to view the world from inside a jury panel. 🙂

    • I agree with you Carol. I felt like it was a privilege and I was disappointed that I was passed over as a juror. Next time I’m packing my own glucose tablets, so I might have a shot at it.

  11. Thanks for making me laugh Molly I needed that! I’ve never been called for jury duty and wish I would be. Most people don’t want to do it but aside from the fact that we have a justice system in place, I would rather enjoy the whole experience. My husband was called and actually made it through only to have the defendant take a plea. I loved your take on the experience. Great job! Sue from Sizzling Towards Sixty stopping by from BSL FB

    • Thanks Sue. I did enjoy it overall except for the long stretches of boredom and repetition. I was truly disappointed that I didn’t get chosen for a jury. This is my second call to serve and it is a privilege. I had fun adding a little zest to the experience based loosely on fabricated facts. 🙂

  12. I haven’t as yet – I was called up years ago but I had just given birth and was at the breastfeeding stage of near enough on the hour every hour – so luckily I was excused. I really don’t want to do it – I’m scared I’ll get a panic attack and embarass myself – it is the thought more than anything because I’d probably be fine once I got there!

  13. I served on jury duty in January after being called three times previously and not having to go because I had just given birth. I mean, what are the chances when you have three children over the course of 14 years that each time you get home from the hospital to find the summons?

    This time, I brought a bag with a variety of reading materials in hopes of having hours of pleasurable reading while I waited. But alas, it was not to be. My number was called within ten minutes of my arrival, and I was chosen for a jury by the end of the morning. The case lasted for four days. I was pleasantly surprised that I learned a great deal and found the whole thing quite interesting. It was not as bad as I thought it would be. That said, it was difficult to sit for long periods of time and be dependent upon the judge to give the jury breaks. There’s no freedom to just get up, eat, or visit the restroom whenever you want to.

    • I envy you Crystal. Not the part about being called after giving birth, but the part about being chosen as a juror. I practically jumped out of my chair with my arm raised asking them to ‘pick me, pick me!’ But it didn’t work. Always a jury panel member, never a juror seems to be my fate.

  14. Too funny and totally accurate — I have convicted one man myself and let a drunk driver back on the roads due to another crazy lady juror who broke the rules….

    Loved it.

    • Wow, Mary, you have the full experience didn’t you? I wish I could have served. I thought it would be cool to sit in the jury box and examine exhibit A while slick lawyers made their cases. I did feel kind of sorry for the defendants though. I might not have been a good juror after all. But I did have fun as a part of the jury panel. Glad you stopped by for a visit and left a comment.

  15. I’ve gotten the dreaded jury duty letter, but I just ignored it. I know, I know, I am a terrible human. But as a freelance writer/editor, I just could not swing it. They say there’s a stiff penalty for not showing up, but perhaps I got lucky. Or maybe they heard I’d be trouble and assault a diabetic as you did. Ha ha!

    • Wow Rica. You have guts. I would never dare to ignore the summons. Now that I know how easy it is to get out of it, I’ll consider that strategy if I have another chance to serve. Somehow I think I might have been banned, however……

  16. I haven’t had to do it yet, but it’s only a matter of time. At least now I’ll be a little wiser and make sure I pack my flask and People magazine 🙂

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