Jury duty, doing the right thing.

[Dragnet theme]
The story you are about to read is true; the names and dates have been changed to protect the innocent and the rotten.

Some day I was going to do it, still due to work and college I postponed it 2 times but then a few days were free at college so I showed for Jury duty.

The case was mundane: driving under the influence. So even if I was called, chances where that the trial was going to last one day. Still, I was thinking on some way to honestly avoid losing days at work. It was a middle class black woman charged, As I was the only minority in the pool, I figured chances are that the defense would see that I was selected, I suspected also that the defense would prefer to have a minority that (the defense expected) could be lead around easily trough the expected drubbing the science of the evidence is usually subjected in cases like this, so I figured a tongue in cheek escape plan: Show some smarts.

My chance happened when the judge, breaking the ice, began to ask for our general positions regarding alcohol, the selling of it and the basics for assuming innocence and beyond the shadow of a doubt, the judge mentioned the temperance movement that lead to the banning of alcohol in the US during the 30’s and asked if someone knew about it.

I raised my hand and did a short but concise summary of it, the judge then remarked that he really did not know much about it and had never hear it explained so well in a few words!

It did not help…

I guess the prosecution then decided to select me. :smiley:

Better luck to avoid the duty had the prospective jurors that already had their classic rotten plans to avoid jury duty ready:

Old fellow in the back:
“Well your honor, I believe in my hearth that the best liar with the most expensive lawyers is always the winner.” – After a few laughs by everyone he was dismissed.

Sickly young girl: “all my relatives are cops and all drunk drivers are guilty! Period!”

  • dismissed.

Another very old fellow:
“What did you say!!!” (Repeat after every question) – dismissed.

Another old fellow:
“What that juror said was stupid!” (Said it before his turn) (So old looking that he gets away with no contempt of court, but dismissed nevertheless)

One curious bit is than here the final jury is made of six persons, not 12.

So the trial occurred, and sure enough in more than one occasion I caught the defense using shaky logic to try to defeat the solid evidence that showed the alcohol content in the blood sample was above the limit, but the defense did a good job to show that she was never out of control of the vehicle.

And that was the biggest surprise of the trial to me: there were two charges: driving impaired and driving with an illegal level of alcohol in the blood. Luckily it was quickly found by show of hands in the jury room that we leaned for conviction in the alcohol level charge, and we leaned for acquittal in the driving impaired charge, I have to say that I was leaning to convict her for that charge too but the defense did a good job to show she never drove in a reckless way, and the defense showed that the defendant followed the police instructions promptly. I decided to go with the majority after it was pointed out the level of alcohol over the limit was too small.

Most disturbing item was to find out that when one signs for a license in this state, that you give the police the right to draw your blood!

I have to say I liked the experience, only bad thing was that it cost me more than $100 in lost work time (the “over in one day” trial actually took 2 days) to find that out. Glad is over but I have to say that people that dishonestly try to get out of their jury duty are now a peeve of mine. Remember: using rotten excuses to avoid jury duty is not something to be proud about it. Doing your jury duty is needed to help justice.

GIGObuster I’ll second your statements, “Using rotten excuses to avoid jury duty is not something to be proud about it. Doing your jury duty is needed to help justice.”

I’ve only ever had it once, almost 18 years ago and still remember it. It was a murder trial and lasted 5 days. We even took one afternoon and boarded a bus to tour the scene of the crime. I noticed that the judge took a staff off the wall and handed it to the office of the court who accompanied us on the bus. Asking him about it, I learned that the staff (carved, painted, and embossed with the state seals) was actually the official symbol designating ‘court room’. It dated back to the founding of the city (Boston) and it was the Staff, not the room, that was the courtroom. The officer carrying it with him indicated that even when we were on the bus or on the street looking at the scene, we were still legally inside the courtroom and bound by the laws and provisions as such.

It ended with us finding the defendent guilty of second degree murder even though the prosecution was going for first degree. But we didn’t think they managed to prove the premeditation part beyond a shadow of a doubt. Although it was laughable how the defence brought in ‘so called’ witnesses (obviously his friends) who tried to claim the defendant wasn’t anywhere near the scene when it happened. There were about three of them, but their stories didn’t even match with each other on most details, never mind the other 12 witnesses who all matched perfectly saying he was the one who did it. (if you and your friends are going to lie about something, at least make sure your stories are the same!)

I really enjoyed being on the jury and would welcome it were I to be called again.

I’ve never minded Jury Duty, but then again, I’ve never been called.

Two people I used to work with got called on the same day. When the judge realized they knew each other, he excused them both.

I just had my first one a couple weeks ago. What a hoot! If I could, I’d do it again (but I have to wait at least two years in Minnesota to be eligible).

The first day was teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedious. About 240 people in one large room as the jury pool. No one talked to one another. We had regular updates and as the lottery goes, we were all put into smaller pools of 24 people by our notices and some groups were called up, others were sent home, our group just stayed in that room until well after lunch. Around 3pm, we get our group called up to the courtroom. 18 names are called up to go sit in the jury box (12 in the regular box, 6 in these fold out built-in seats in the front part). I’m still in the peanut gallery. It turns out that this is a domestic abuse case that was precipitated by alcohol. The standard questions are read by the judge about ability to serve, some personal history etc. About a half an hour of questioning goes through and a couple people are excused and after the 3rd one, I’m called to go sit in the front part. I go through a quick summary of all the questions asked and then the attorney and prosecutor start asking us personal questions. It’s about 4:15 and it’s the first question I’m asked. For some reason, probably the fact that I had been quiet for so long, I answered the question and kept talking. The question was about domestic abuse laws but I found myself rambling on about consensual crime laws, tort reform, and a couple other things. The only thing that stopped me was I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the poor court reporter was recording all of my words. <blush>. I got quiet then.

After all of the questioning, another two people are given the boot because of personal issues, the DA and atty shuffle a piece of paper back and forth between them to choose the jurors. I get picked for the case which starts the next day.

The second day. We arrive and are given badges that say juror on them so we won’t be approached by either side for conversation. We go into the court room, and take our assigned seats in the box.

The quick story behind this case goes like this. This couple has been together for 13 years. They live together and have had past bouts with the law with domestic abuse. The day the incident happened was Easter, 2005. The defendant and family had dinner and around 3pm, they drive over to Wisconsin (about 20 miles) to buy a 12 pack of beer. (Can’t buy that in Minnesota on Sunday). They get home and the man drinks a couple and has some friends over who have a couple of beers too. Around 10pm, a female neighbor friend calls up the defendant. The defendant’s live-in girlfriend gets jealous and they get into a fight. She dumps out two of his beers and smacks him on the head a couple times. He slaps her and leaves a mark. They continue to bicker and he decides to call 911 to de-escalate the situation. About 10 minutes later the police arrive. Two officers get out of the car and see the defendant running out the back door. One of the officers yells “stop, police” and chases him and eventually catches him. They see the redness on her face and take him off to jail.

The first witness we get is the 911 operator. We now know his whole educational background for some reason. We then hear the 911 call played on audio cassette and he vouches that he was the operator. The call was pretty much just Cheryl screaming expletives and warning the defendant never to lay a hand on her again. . We’re all given a transcript of the call to read along with the tape but after the tape has been played, they’re taken away from us.
The attorneys have a little confab with the judge and we’re excused to go to the jury room for no given reason for about 30 minutes

Back to the trial, the next witness called is Cheryl. She’s the live-in girlfriend who got slapped. She’s a hostile witness and isn’t afraid to say that. In fact, she does. It’s a bit amusing if it weren’t so damn sad. Cheryl’s chorus is “I don’t remember”. She doesn’t want to testify against him knowing that he’ll go to jail.

Next up, the two police officers. The first one went into the house while the other followed the defendant. She explained her life history up til now and then showed us the pictures she took of the reddish mark on Cheryl’s cheek. The other officer tells about chasing after the defendant. How she had to jump over two fences and lost the defendant down an alley. As she rounded the corner, she saw him in a dumpster with his head peeking out as he slowly lowered the lid. (Hee!!!).

The third day, we hear more testimony regarding the previous incidents. One of which is a man 65 years old. He smells a bit funky and looks borderline homeless. He moved down from Canada when he was 20 and “retired about 40 years ago”. So, he pretty much “retired” at 25. I wish more questions would have been asked about that.

The fourth day we hear from the defendant. Who readily admits to slapping his girl-friend. He has pled innocent and I sit there wondering why you’d admit to something and plead innocent at the same time for slapping someone. I excitedly think ahead for a second about how his attorney is going to get out of that one. He admits to running away from the cops because he knows that he will be the one to go to jail because she’s the one with the mark.

The fifth day and closing arguments. Ahh, what I’ve been waiting for the whole time, the defense’s rationale for pleading innocent. Drum roll please…… It turns out that since Cheryl was a hostile witness, we can’t believe anything she said. Therefore, we have to insist that there’s reasonable doubt that she was hit. Ahh….what??? Ya know, if the defendant ADMITTED to it, where’s the doubt that it happened? Ugh.

The trial is over and it’s deliberation time. But wait. There apparently are 13 of us and only 12 need to serve as jurors. The person sitting next to me is declared the alternate and without fanfare, he is thanked by the judge and immediately booted out of the courtroom. Poor guy. Poor, poor guy. He had to sit through the whole trial and take notes, pay attention, and right before he can finally talk about it, they take the carrot away. Poor guy.

So, now we’re sent to the jury room and finally we can talk about the case. Now, mind you, every time prior to being sent to the room, no one talked. We can’t talk about the case we’re sitting on until deliberation anyways. Everything comes pouring out. In the first two minutes we all pretty much agree that this is an open and shut case but we decide for no other reason than we need to talk about it a little bit to wait before voting. We talk, chat, and then just start out and out joking about the case. We’re laughing and having a good ol’ time. There are some small pieces that needed to be figured out (like did he really dial 911 because it’s only her voice we hear on the phone).

Then comes a “problem”.

As we’re going through the list of things that need to be proven to render a guilty verdict, one juror mentions the word “intent”. We have to show that there was intent in the defendant’s actions to find him guilty. A couple jurors now express concern about what the definition of the word “intent” is. I explain it a couple times and give examples of what would be considered an accident and what is actually intentional. The foreman that was picked decides that we need to ask the judge what “intent” means. To do this, we have to write our question “what does intent mean in legal terms” on a piece of paper. Knock on our locked door, hand it to the bailiff who then locks the door again. The bailiff brings it to the judge who then discusses it with the attorneys. About 20 minutes later the bailiff knocks on our door. We follow him back to the courtroom where we all go to take our seats. The judge tells us we can all sit down. We sit. The judge then says that we were given paper that had the law on it and that’s all we’re going to get. We’re then immediately dismissed back to the jury room. It was quite embarrassing.

A little convincing later, we cast our vote for guilty, the foreman signs the paper and gives it to the bailiff. 20 minutes pass as we’re chatting in the room and it’s back to the courtroom. The judge reads the guilty verdict into record and now is the first time that the defendant looks at the jury box. One by one, the judge goes down the list of jurors, announcing their full names and asking if they indeed voted guilty. The defendant’s eyes looking at each and every person as they replied “yes”.

It’s over. He’s going to prison and I’m going home. It turns out that Minnesota has a domestic violence law that has 3 strikes. We had wondered why a small slap was considered a felony but were never told in court about that part of the law.

A couple weeks later I get my checks in the mail. The county I live in paid me $20 a day plus mileage from the furthest part of my home zip code to the courthouse. This is about 5 blocks that I walked everyday that I got paid $1.67 a day for automatically.

GIGObuster, the reason that you only had 6 people on your jury is because it was a misdemeanor case. You get 12 jurors with a felony. I would LOVE to serve on jury duty, but since I’m a lawyer (a Public Defender, yet) I doubt that I’ll ever get to serve. I’ve been called a few times, but never chosen.

Good for you for serving and for listening to the evidence.

I wish I would get called for Jury Duty. I’ve always wanted to serve my time. But, I am only 25 so I guess I still have plenty of time.

If you’re interested, I believe you can volunteer for jury duty. I was on jury duty around a month ago. They said over and over again how even though we are all hoping to not be picked, that you will feel differently if you serve. They were right. I enjoyed my experience and learned a lot about how court works and what is expected of us even though my case was settled after a day and a half. If I have time this weekend, I’ll share my story too.

I never got called until I was 27. Then I got called again about a year and a half later. You’ll get your turn.

I got called last year.

Served on an interesting muder trial and the defendant was found guilty and is now serving life in prison.

I was thrilled to be a part of the judicial system and see how it all worked.

I’ve been called twice, but I wasn’t needed either time. Jokingly though, I came up with a few excuses (that I would never, ever, ever have the balls to use):

And

I’m almost hoping I get called; my SO is a public defender, and there’d be a chance the case would be one of his. I bet I’d get sent home quick.

“Of course I’m biased towards the defense. I live with the lawyer!”

“Excuse me, your honor, but I think there’s a conflict of interest. I’m boning the prosecutor.”

– Said by a guy at the Queens courthouse in Jamaica. He was, indeed, married to the prosecutor and winded up in her pool by random chance. That really made my day. I never got picked, though.

My experience when called:

Sit in a room for five hours, then get sent home when the case gets settled.

I’ve been called to jury duty a total of, iirc, five times, starting in the late 1980’s. I’ve never had any desire to avoid it.

The first time was for Federal court, all the others have been for state Superior Court.

Each and every time I’ve been selected for voir dire in the Superior Court, I’ve been the first person in the panel to be dropped!

But the Federal jury duty was a different matter. The first case I was sent to was for four alleged members of a larger group. The entire group was charged with possession and conspiracy to sell marijuana; the group was being tried three or four at a time. Since it was going to be a lengthy trial, due to the number of defendants, four alternates were selected; I was seated as alternate number three.

The jury members had one moment of major confusion early on; all the jury selection proceedings had been done in one courtroom, but when we showed up for the start of trial, we looked into that courtroom and nobody was there! A few minutes later while we were milling around in the hall trying to decide what to do, one of the federal marshals walked up and told us the trial had been switched to a courtroom at the other end of the hall.

I won’t get into major details about how the trial went. The first two alternates were eventually placed on the jury when members had to drop out due to previous, unavoidable committments. Leaving me and alternate four to stay in that status for the entire trial. When the case was given to the jury, the judge told us that alternates in Federal juries do not sit in on deliberations, so we were released and sent home. The judge’s clerk promised to call and let me know the verdicts.

During the trial it had become glaringly obvious that one of the defendants had never been anywhere near where the larger group had conducted it’s marijuana related activities. His attorney presented plenty of evidence he had been living and working in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the entire time the larger group had been operating in Arizona and the San Diego area. (I’m not recalling how the government had come to identify this man as part of the larger group.)

As for the other three defendants, if I had been seated on the jury, I would have gone into deliberations leaning towards convicting all three. So, I was somewhat surprised when the judge’s clerk called me with the verdicts and said one of them had been found not guilty on all charges, while the other two were convicted on all charges.

All in all, despite not taking part in the deliberations, I found the entire process of that trial to be very interesting and rewarding.

I have only been called to jury duty once, and that was around 5 years ago. I reported in the morning, and the judge briefed us about jury duty and we were all questioned by the attorneys. One or two others were dismissed for various reasons, and then at the end I and several others were dismissed because numerically I was right at the cutoff point for the number of jurors needed for the case.

I think I would enjoy serving on a jury, but so far haven’t had the chance.

Thank you katie1341 and thanks for all the replies, keep it coming, we are learning new stuff here too!

I have been called for jury duty several times. One of the funniest times was the guy (civil trial) who was suing a large local car dealership because of a automobile accident that allegedly injured him, causing alleged permanent disability. The trial was going on and getting weirder and weirder (look beside the definition of “white trash” in the dictionary - this guy’s picture was beside it) when the plantiff on the stand burst out to the defense attorney “well, boy, we wouldn’t be here if his insurance had just paid me what I asked for!” Mistrial, jury excused - can’t mention that the defendant has insurance. I wouldn’t have given this faker a dime. Wasn’t a damn thing wrong with him except a severe case of laziness.

I have been excused as a juror because I was once a victim of a sexual assault.

I was selected for a jury pool for a child molestation case. The victim was a 5 year old boy. Right as we lined up outside the courtroom, the defendant changed his plea to guilty. I was so relieved - I didn’t want to hear what I would have heard.

Advice - if you are called to jury duty, take a good book. There is a lot of waiting around. Thanks to 9/11, you can’t take sewing scissors in the courtroom anymore, so cross-stitch is out. Pissed me off.

I served on a murder trial several years ago in Brooklyn, and I’ll admit, it had a major effect on me - I wouldn’t hesitate to serve again, but I would ask to be excused from any murder trials - my emotions just can’t handle it.

It was a month-long trial and thank God we weren’t sequestered. However, I was laid off in the middle of it, so it was quite stressful (which is probably why I get so angry when I see people trying to get out of it with flimsy excuses - sorry, but we all have our problems, do your freakin’ duty and serve).

It was a trial about two kids - 17 and 18 - but they were obviously tried as adults. It was supposedly a gang-related shooting, but we didn’t see much evidence of that. I had no doubt about one of the kids’ guilt, but I, along with one other juror, held out for the second kid - I really had reasonable doubt that he was guilty - the stories just didn’t add up.

Honestly, the other juror and I received heaps of abuse from the other jurors who ‘wanted to go home, dammit!’. It really upset me that they didn’t seem to care that we were deciding whether or not to put two kids in jail for the rest of their lives. I finally put in a guilty vote - I still felt there was reasonable doubt, but the judge told us we weren’t coming out until we had a decision, and I decided not to delay the inevitable.

I still wonder if that kid’s in jail for no reason.

E.

I was called for jury duty once. Due to the way that it was set up in my county (and due to more trials going to court that month than normal- or so we were told) I ended up on three juries, not counting the days that I listened to voir dire and ended up not being on the jury.

One of the things which shocked me was the number of prior convictions two of the three defendents had. (We found out after we had decided they were guilty. Then we had to suggest sentances for them).

The third trial ended up with a hung jury. We had a dingbat on our jury who believed that cops lie and the jails are full of innocent people. While both statements are probably true, some of the time- it didn’t mean that this young man was innocent. His behavior stated that he had something to hide. If he’d behaved like a normal person, he’d have never been arrested, let alone charged. A few more details, he was accused of attempted rape. The evening that the incident occurred, he had been walking along a street downtown when he saw a police officer and ran away. A few minutes later, the police officer recieved information about the incident and recalled seeing the guy run away. They tracked down the guy and the girl said he was the guy who’d try to rape her.

Also, by this time, being on other juries had made some of us wonder what things (besides the two public intoxication citations he’d previously committed. Fear of being arrested(again) for public intoxication and losing his driver’s license was his stated reason for running from the police officer.

but we couldn’t agree- so we got lectured by the judge and sent home.

The other trials also left me with the distinct impression that many persons put on trial are idiots. And so may be the victims of their crimes. One was a rape case involving no violence and a weird creepy guy who had a stupid girlfriend (the rape victim). Almost more time was spent trying to figure out what the “M-H” word which goes along with the “M-F” word was- especially since the “M-H” word was too offensive to be said in front of the judge.

The other funny thing happend the day of the hung jury trial. That afternoon they rounded up all the potential jurors who were not on juries. They described the case- a bank robbery. They discovered that one of the potential jurors had been a hostage during the bank robbery in question. This man had proceeded to tell the story to anyone who would listen during the course of jury duty. (I ended up hearing his story later. During the rape case jury deliberations. This story is not being told in chronological order). Plus, many potential jurors had read about the case in the paper, thus meaning they knew that this was not the only bank robbery that the robbers were accused of. Instead of picking a jury, they sent everyone home and decided to try again the next month. It was pure chance that had ended up with a hostage as a potential juror.

I’ve been called twice. The first time the notice arrived at my home in Seattle, forwarded from San Diego I had to decline.
The second time, I was happy to go. Five other nurses from my unit had been called over the past month. One was had been called for a high profile murder case, and had been sequestered for two weeks. My head nurse wanted to write a letter saying it would be too much of a hardship on the unit, against my wishes. Her supervisor sided with me and off I went on that rainy Monday morning. Unfortunately, I had developed a fever of 102?F the night before. By that morning, I was dizzy, coughing like I had TB, with no voice whatever.
Still, I started out for the court house. When I entered the room to sign in, I started coughing uncontrollably. The woman at the counter looked up, asked my name, then told me to put my card on the table across the room and GO HOME!
That’s what I did. I was very disappointed.
Funny, My boss was perfectly happy for me to come into work and care for critically ill kids, but I was too sick for jury duty. :dubious: