I’ve been on jury duty this week, and it wasn’t a typical week. A typical week would mean two days of service in the jury pool, and unless you were actually picked to sit on a jury, you would usually be sent home mid-afternoon of the second day. Then another large pool of people comes in the next day to do the same thing. This week – with the Monday holiday – turned out to be a strange week. There was only one pool, and because of the holiday, the number of people that were summoned and actually showed up was pretty small. So we had to supply all the required jury pools for the week. Our numbers would be called, we’d sit through the jury selection process, and the majority of us would not be selected to sit on that particular jury – so we’d go back to the pool and get called up ten minutes later for another panel. I sat on three panels this week. The first was for a murder trial and the voire dire took over seven hours across two days. Then I sat on a civil trial panel, and again was not selected. Ten minutes after returning to the pool again I was called for a third panel – a criminal trial. That panel extended through the majority of the third day, and then I was selected. The trial started mid-afternoon, and went on into the evening, past dinner. We deliberated after dinner and returned a verdict just before eight.
I missed three days of work and several important meetings yesterday. We had a family funeral out of state that M attended – taking the girls with him because the control of my schedule was out of my hands. The daughter of close friends ended up in the hospital, and I was finding out news in bits and pieces of texts whenever we were on break. It’s a weird thing to be in this system. I like to control my own calendar, and you really have to surrender a lot of that.
In the end, I think the process is important, and after last night, I think the jury system (in general) does work. It can be a frustrating process to turn over control to someone else for several days, and it can be an uncomfortable process having to stand in front of others and answer very personal questions. Sometimes it can be a heartbreaking process when you hear the stories of other jurors or listen to the preliminary elements of case.
Once you are sequestered away for deliberations, if one person leaves the room – to go to the bathroom or to smoke – then you cannot discuss the case until they return. It is an interesting process to have twelve completely different people sitting in the room, working towards consensus. And then someone would leave, and the conversation would revert back to pizza. It was dusk when we were led out of the building by the sheriff to a waiting shuttle. We all climbed on and headed back to a now-empty garage where our cars were sitting. We parted ways on the main floor, scattering to our various vehicles around the space, calling out good nights to complete strangers that we only knew by numbers.