|jury duty experience
||[Oct. 2nd, 2016 * 01:48 am]
This was my 3rd time being called in for jury duty, but the first time I was actually picked to sit on a jury. The experience was very interesting.
It was a lawsuit; I was glad it wasn't a criminal case. The trial took 3 days. We went home in the evenings. The first day, we were allowed to leave the courthouse for lunch. The next 2 days, lunch was ordered for us and we weren't allowed out.
I noticed very quickly that the demeanor and style of one of the lawyers appealed to me, and that of the other lawyer was off-putting. I did my best to ignore both feelings, and to pay unbiased attention to the proceedings. The judge seemed laid back and slightly amused, as if he'd been through thousands of similar cases. The lawyers were all obviously trying to do a good job for their clients, and I felt a bit sorry that one side or another would have to lose.
There were 12 jurors and 2 alternates. Of the total, only 2 were men.
We were instructed not to discuss the case with anyone, not even the other jurors, until all the testimony was finished. There was a jury room where we gathered in the mornings, and where we had to go each time the lawyers wanted to discuss/dispute something with the judge during the trial. We'd go into the court room, sit down, listen for a while, then have to get up, go to the jury room to wait, then return to the court room and sit down again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I didn't count how many times.
At one point, the "cool" lawyer did a nifty thing with his glasses. He had pushed them up on his forehead while shuffling through papers, and then did a quick head movement that snapped the glasses down in place again. I'm not sure if it happened by accident, or if it was a practiced skill.
During the closing arguments, the lawyer who didn't appeal to me made religious references 3 times. First, he picked up the bible which had been used to swear in the witnesses, and talked about some particular moral story in there. I raised my eyebrow at that. Really? Later he mentioned a preacher. At the end, he picked up the bible again, and reminded us of that story again. When the other lawyer gave his rebuttal, he basically said that he didn't care about some story from 2000 years ago (that surprised me too), that we should consider the facts of this case.
I didn't realize it at the time, but a feeling of camaraderie was growing in me in regards to the other jurors and even the court officials. During those many trips to the jury room, as we weren't allowed to discuss the case, the other jurors would chat. One lady especially, told several entertaining stories about her life. When we were finally allowed to debate the case, it was an amicable process, even though voices got loud as opinions were shared. Our decision had to be unanimous, and we eventually came to one.
Back in the courtroom, the foreman handed off our written decision to the judge. The judge flipped through the pages and stared at the last page for a long time. I began to worry that we'd done something wrong; that the judge would declare a mistrial. But he finally handed the sheets to the clerk, who read out the decision, and then it was over.
At the end, I realized that I'd likely never see these people again, and even if I did, I'd probably not recognize them or remember where I knew them from. It made me feel slightly sad. People with whom you've shared a special experience as well as minor hardships. Having to report for duty each day, with the threat of officers coming after you, if you didn't make it there on time. Having to spend time in a small room together. Having to sit quietly in court, paying close attention to everything. Having to tuck* my shirt tail in.
In the hours and days afterward, I wondered if we'd made the right decision. It seemed like we had, based on what was presented to us. But what about the things that hadn't been presented? What about the things we were sent out of the court room, not to hear? The trial being over, I finally did some internet searches to find more information on the case. I found a little, but not much. (Actually, it surprised me that the judge never told us not to do any internet searches before the trial was over - unless he did and I somehow missed it. But I assumed that we shouldn't, and therefore didn't.)
*The first morning, as I was following other potential jurors into the courtroom, a bailiff waved a few guys including me to the side, telling us to tuck our shirt tails in. At first I didn't understand what he had said, but he was also pointing to a sign on the wall which said the same thing. My first reaction was to frown in annoyance, but I went ahead and did it. Maybe the bailiff mistook me for a man, but if the other guys had to do it, it seemed reasonable for me to have to do so as well. Every day after that, I was careful to remember to tuck my shirt in, in the morning. This entailed choosing a shirt which would actually look good tucked in, of which I only have a few. The others are wider and billow at my waist and look ridiculous to me when I tuck them in. But I've just now found this page, which explains the "military tuck" which I'll have to try out.
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