Twelve Pack

So, the trial on which I was a juror completed yesterday.  I’m not going to go into the specifics of the case except that it involved illegal immigration.  After we were empanelled as the jury on Monday, the judge told us that the trial would probably be a fairly short one – a couple of days of testimony and a day (perhaps more) for closing arguments, instructions, and deliberation.  He was pretty much right on the money.

I have to say, that I don’t see why people grouch so much about jury duty*.  Everyone that I met from the courthouse was friendly and respectful.  The other jurors seemed to feel the same way and it was interesting to observe our progression throughout the trial.

Early on, there was some good-natured griping (“Can you believe we got picked?”) and rationalization (“Well, at least it looks like it won’t be too long…”).   Soon after, we settled in and became more comfortable – we’d occasionally introduce ourselves, but the names seemed to wash off pretty quickly.  To me, there was Guy Who Loves To Hear His Own Voice, Artsy Lady, Engineer-Triathlete Guy, Retired Navy Grandmom, Guy Who Looks Like Biden, Woman That Never Says Anything and so on…

Initially, we were all very curious – figuring out who got to say what when and marveling at the deliberateness of the proceedings (let’s just say that Law&Order moves a bit faster…), but we quickly grew accustomed to the pace of the trial and soon found ourselves waiting to hear instructions.

I have to say that the judge did a great job of instructing us in the law and what the requirements were for the government to have proven its case and we each had a copy of the instructions for referral.

The jury room was small.  And not that comfortable.  I don’t think this is an accident (though it did have one of those Keurig single shot coffee machines, that was pretty cool. Thanks tax dollars.). I was selected as foreperson – practically by default, everyone sort of looked at their feet when the decision was before us, so I volunteered figuring that I’d run a lot of project team meetings where data was presented, examined and evaluated.

We conversed for nearly two hours – going over the facts, the instruction of the law and in the end, we came to a consensus.  Any of the jocularity we’d had at the beginning of the week was gone as everyone took their responsibility to the case – to the defendant, to the government – very seriously.  To a person we’d agreed that we’d done the best we could, left nothing un-discussed and that we all felt that we’d come to the right decision.  We went out, I read the charges and verdict aloud, and we were discharged back to our “regular” lives.  All-in-all, it was a good experience and well worth our time and attention.

So, the next time that envelope comes in the mail, don’t curse it.  This is your government.  Participate!


*perhaps I would feel differently if the trial went five months, but I get the sense the vast majority of trials are over within a week, give or take a couple of days.



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23 thoughts on “Twelve Pack

  1. Wow, fascinating to read your account of jury duty. We don't have a jury system here anymore, and I honestly can't imagine why someone wouldn't be interested in being picked as juror. Sounds like an edifying experience to me. PS – Love your description of the others, lol.

  2. Wow, fascinating to read your account of jury duty. We don't have a jury system here anymore, and I honestly can't imagine why someone wouldn't be interested in being picked as juror. Sounds like an edifying experience to me. PS – Love your description of the others, lol.

  3. The case I sat on was drug charges. It was quite an education. Though we all felt he was guilty, I felt sad about convicting him when he had a young child. Then, I read a month later in the paper that he was sentenced to probation so wondered what I was so worried about!

  4. I served on a Grand Jury many, many moons ago, and I think once you do that, they kind of lose your name in the lottery system, because I've never been called since. It was inconvenient, troubling and fascinating all at the same time. I think I'd welcome the chance to serve again. However, with 12 years service in a law firm, and a sister who is now an attorney I don't know if I'd qualify anymore.And I second John … thanks for serving. It's part of what makes our judicial system the best in the world.

  5. LC — India doesn't have a jury system anymore? When did the country abandon it and why? You hear a lot of cranky people here talk about how there should be "professional" jurors or some other more convenient (to them) system and I think it's a terrible idea.

  6. John — I'd try to think of a play on "Twelve Angry Men" for the title of this post. But we really weren't angry at all. There were differences of opinion and they were discussed and hashed out — without condescension, name-calling or raised voices. It was like everyone in the room was an adult.

  7. Emmi — there were certainly people that were more forthcoming with their opinions than others, but everyone was asked independently if they had any questions, doubts, comments etc before we agreed that we were in consensus.

  8. katie — I wonder if pre-scheduling would work or whether people would just try other ways to "get out" of it? We were an interesting bunch –some of us you could imagine hanging out with and others would be "no way".

  9. jacolily — it was really hard during the trial not to come home and look up the case or whether I could find anything about it online. I will say that I've done that since… :)

  10. BBL — I'll be curious. I've been called a few times in the last several years, but have never gotten on a case (so you only get a year's reprieve). They claim that the reprieve now is 2 years — so I guess I'll find out in 2012 — you know if the Mayan Apocalypse hasn't destroyed everything.

  11. Jury trials were abandoned after this case – I think you'll find it quite interesting. Personally I think we are better off without, there are a number of reasons why a jury system here would be the perfect breeding ground for corruption and nepotism. From what I can gather it's worked quite successfully in the US, though, and that's heartening.

  12. I have been on a jury twice and I would do it again if called. I found it interesting. I remember thinking one lawyer was trying to act like lawyers on TV, it really did seem that way. Like you, I'm sure I would feel differently if I had be stuck on a long drawn out trial and worse yet if sequestered.

  13. LC — wow, I'd never heard of that case or its aftermath. There has been a problem with juries in high-profile cases in the US in recent years, I think. Too many jurors are looking for to tell their own "story" and that is dangerous for the system. Fortunately, that seems pretty rare, though.

  14. Great recap Steve! I had jury duty in 1993 on an insurance case in Georgia. Our experiences were very similar. It's unique privilege to sit on a jury, and I think it's a great learning experience for those of us who don't interact with the judicial system on a daily basis….

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