Adventures in Jury Duty

The time had come. My number had been called. I’d heard about jury duty over the years, but I’d never been actually drawn as a participant. That changed a few weeks ago, when I got a letter in the mail informing me I needed to report for jury duty. The big day? Yesterday. So I traipsed into court yesterday morning, armed with a book and a good general demeanor, uncertain of exactly what was in store for me.

People asked me ahead of time what I thought. My standard answer? “As long as it’s not some child sex abuse case or something, I think it’ll be interesting to be on a jury.”

The first jury that was being called? For a child sex abuse case.

Ugh. My stomach sunk. I had jinxed myself.

For those of you who haven’t done jury duty (or at least, jury duty in Maine), allow me to inform you of the joy that awaits. You and 125 or so of your peers are called into the courtroom. It looks about how you’d think it would look for a rural courthouse. All it’s missing is Matlock or Perry Mason, but we can’t all be perfect. You’re pick a seat, and you settle in to wait. They show you a movie about the jury process, and then you wait some more. The judge comes in and explains most of what was in the movie, and then in come the lawyers and the defendant.

The judge explains what the general case is–what the charges are–in broad strokes. She then goes through a list of all the people who are going to be involved in the trial. The lawyers, witnesses, defendant. And for each of them, she asks if anyone in the jury pool knows the person in question. If so, how (personally or professionally). Also, would that relationship bias your ability to make what should be an unbiased decision on the facts presented.

This can take a lot of time to go through.

Oh–and you’re asked if you know anyone else in the pool or are related to anyone else in the pool.

Once that’s all done, the lawyers and judge confer. In this particular case, we had to fill out questionnaires about our history of sexual abuse or domestic violence–again, to see if we would be biased for or against a particular case. They then would call up particular potential jurors and ask some more specific questions.

I knew no one, worked with no one, and was never asked a specific question.

I got a lot of reading done.

Then comes the terrifying part: drawing the numbers of the jurors. I’d somehow thought there’d be specific “We want juror #2” requests from the defense or prosecution. I was wrong. They draw about 20-30 numbers, and then go through them in order (at sidebar) to see who neither side has a problem with. Then the ones who were selected are told, and they’re informed when to report for trial.

I was very very very pleased to not be picked for that particular trial. I wasn’t picked for any trial, actually. And since the whole process to get two juries seated took the whole day, I’m kind of relieved I don’t have to go to trial at all. Though it *would* be interesting to actually see a trial first person.

In any case, I’m glad to have done it once, and also glad that I finally finished reading The Shining. I’m officially swearing off horror books for the rest of the winter–until I don’t have to go out to the woodshed at night anymore. Because yikes!

2 Comments

  • By Matt, February 5, 2014 @ 4:33 pm

    The Shining. I wonder sometimes if Stephen King actually wrote it. It is so vastly superior to the other books by him that I have read, that it seems far fetched that they could have come from the same mind.

  • By Bryce Moore, February 6, 2014 @ 12:17 pm

    Tough call. I’m a Stephen King fan, in general. I think he writes compelling characters particularly well, and I love 3/4s of his plots. His endings are usually where it all goes horrifically wrong for me, and The Shining was a nice exception to that–it felt strong all the way through. Then again, I also wonder how much the Kubrik movie influenced my reading of the book . . .

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