Disclaimer: I realize this is a really long post, and I'm honestly not sure it's even that good. There's just so much to say about jury duty! I will make up for it by sending a much shorter post with mainly pictures, for those of you who do not read long blog entries. (Becky.)
Last week I got a letter in the mail announcing that I had been summoned to be a possible juror for a trial that was to take place in six days. So, I showed up to the courthouse on Thursday. One of the first things I noticed was that everyone in the room seemed to be either in their twenties (i.e., students at the university) or in their eighties. There really weren't many people in between. This says something about my current city.
We started with about fifty possible jurors. After watching a really great video about the judicial system in South Dakota, the fifty of us got randomly narrowed down to thirty-two. Several of these thirty-two got replaced with members of the remaining eighteen for various reasons. For example, when one older gentleman got called, he didn't move. The people around him must have known who he was because they kept calling his name. "Joe! That's you!" Finally, after four or five times of practically yelling his name across the room, he realized what was happening and made his way over to join the rest of us who had been called. When the defendant's attorney began asking questions to see who would be able to serve on the jury, he started with this gentleman.
"I noticed that when your name was called, it took a while for you to hear what was happening. Do you have a hearing impairment that would keep you from hearing what's going on here today?"
Thinking he would take this chance not to have to stay there all day, I was shocked to hear his response.
"Well, I mean, as long as the person projects loudly, like you do, I'm just fine."
I had to hold in my laughter at this point, because saying that the attorney "projected loudly" was putting it mildly. Personally, I would call it yelling, but to each his own. Long story short, the older gentleman was dismissed and a new person was called to keep the magic thirty-two. This process went on for some time, ensuring that we had thirty-two possible jurors who did not admit to having any biases or any physical or emotional issues that would keep them from being able to participate. (Apparently, having a test in Media Ethics later that day is an emotional issue that can prevent you from being able to concentrate and consequently being dismissed from duty, to which my first response was, "What kind of classes can one get college credit for these days?" But I digress...) In any case, I was under the impression that the new group of thirty-two could all hear perfectly well. This was an incorrect assumption.
The war then began between the two attorneys as to who the final twelve would be. Maybe it's all the legal thrillers I've watched, maybe it was my competitive side coming out, but I found myself really wanting to be selected. By this time, we had been there for almost two hours, and I figured that if I had spent this much time there already, I may as well stay all day and make the fifty bucks as opposed to just getting the ten.
Much to my happiness, I was the second juror called.
The case was a criminal one. An individual v. the state. I could tell none of us on the jury wanted to bring harm to the defendant, but there was just no case for the guy. Even though none of the witnesses' stories lined up very well at all, putting all the pieces together, it was clear that the defendant was guilty, which for a compassionate person like me, was kind of difficult to swallow.
I don't want to take away from the seriousness of the case; however, one of the jurors was just too entertaining not to write about.
I don't know the name of this juror. We'll call him Bob. Bob is eighty-two. That much I do know. My first introduction to Bob was when we all entered the jury room. Another of the jurors must have known him because she struck up a conversation.
"So, how's Helen doing?"
"Oh! She's fine. She has a birthday on Sunday. I've been married sixty years."
The last comment seemed somewhat out of place, but I gathered that Helen must be Bob's wife. I also gathered that Bob probably shouldn't have been in that room.
The trial ended up lasting quite a bit longer than the judge had said it would, so we got to order dinner. The bailiff came in with menus and pieces of paper, asking if we would please write down what we would want on the paper. She went into quite a bit of detail, telling us to make sure to specify what dressing we want if we get a salad and to order drinks from the list she had made on a post-it. After she left, Bob's response was, "So! Are we supposed to write "Guilty" or "Not Guilty" on those cards?"
There were several other comments Bob made that made me question whether he should have been there. Either he couldn't hear half the witnesses or he had fallen asleep for half the trial. Either one seemed to be a problem.
Anyway, as I said, the trial went on for quite some time. At one point the judge asked us if we would rather stay and get it done that night or come back refreshed in the morning. He sent us to the jury room to deliberate this. What was Bob's response?
"Well, if I get home late, I can save some money and not have to take my Viagra!"
So we stayed another couple hours and finished that night.