Remember when I was an alternate on the jury of a criminal trial? GUESS WHAT?
Okay, I haven’t actually been picked yet but I am in the box. So far, the judge has read us instructions and both he and the prosecuting attorney have asked questions. Jury selection continues Wednesday, where the defense attorney gets his turn to ask questions. I suspect I will be excused by the defense attorney for reasons I am forbidden to tell you just yet, but we shall see.
All I can tell you right now is it is a criminal trial and should be over by Friday, so nothing terribly exciting.
Oh, and I’m annoyed. Let me tell you why:
- Jury duty is not madatory. No one told me you can totally ignore your civic duty of jury service and nothing will happen to you. The court website says you can be fined, imprisoned, or “other legal consequences” but I have never heard of that happening. In fact, I know one person who says he hasn’t responded to his service request for a couple of decades and has never been penalized. The way the clerk upstairs and the judge in the courtroom profusely and repeatedly thanked us for showing up was another clue.
I AM NOT ADVOCATING YOU SKIP JURY DUTY. It is your civic duty, after all. Also, it can be quite interesting. I’m just annoyed the Powers That Be say there will be consequences if you do not comply yet fail to enforce them. Another sign our legal system is overwhelmed, with no time to enforce the “little” crimes. As long as enough people show up so they can fill the jury box, they are happy.
- I feel so dumb for being honest. Once 80 of us were crammed into the courtroom, the judge asked those who felt they should be excused due to a hardship to raise their hands. One third of the room raised their hands. ONE THIRD! (Maybe more, actually.) The judge had a sidebar with the lawyers and – this is where the feeling dumb part comes in – dismissed all of them without checking their stories. (!!)
Deep down, I know that it would have taken an inordinate amount of time to vet all of their stories, at which point: 1) most of them would have a legitimate excuse and be excused, and 2) the rest would turn out to be liars whom you don’t want on a jury anyway, but still…
Let’s see if I’m still on the jury by the end of the day.