Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Civic responsibility

I won the lottery! Actually I won that occasional lottery whose prize consists of you reporting in to jury duty service. The US Constitution guarantees a Trial by Jury. This jury is intended to be a jury of peers or common citizens.  The result is that citizens are occasionally chosen to fill the role of a juror.

I have been called into jury duty 4 times in my life.  The first, 18 years ago, resulted in me sitting on a 3.5 week murder trial where we found the defendant guilty of his crime.  On the other two occasions I was called in but released that day.  On both occasions I was released as they had chosen a jury before my number was called.

This week my number came up again. I was not called in on Tuesday, but was called to report Wednesday morning. There were just short of 100 people reporting in and my number was 76. The jury would consist of 13 people.  The final deliberation will only be twelve, but they include an alternate in case an emergency occurs for some individual prior to final deliberation. With a number that high I was sure that I would not be placed on the jury.

After our training we entered the courtroom where the judge asked a series of question of the jurors. Jurors started being excused for knowing people involved in the case, having critical work dependencies, scheduled weddings or funerals, or some bias that could affect their participation. A remarkably large number of people were excused. It appeared that many more people were asking to be excused due to bias once they realized the judge was not denying requests.  When this process was done, I was number 39 on the list. Still not likely to be chosen.

We then proceeded into the attorney questioning portion.  Each attorney received 1 hour to question the prospective jurors. When this was done, they each could make a number of eliminations. I was reasonably sure the defense attorney would eliminate me based on my prior experience in returning a guilty verdict. When all was done, I was the 13 and last juror chosen.  The defense attorney was probably out of challenges by that point. The next few days will find me fulfilling one of my constitutional duties for our country.

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