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Monday, November 18, 2013

jury duty

Last week I had the privilege to perform my civic duty, and headed up to the Lake County Court house for jury duty.

Some people loathe jury duty. For some reason trying to get out of it seems the cool thing to do. Like it is some sort of torture.

I for one , while inconvenienced with trying to plan my week and daycare, was kind of excited about it. I had no idea what to expect. All I did know, was that I had been warned that there would be an awful lot of waiting. So I prepared my ADD self like I was going on a long flight, with a bag of tricks. My bag included my Kindle, a for real book, my laptop and all possible plug ins for all things, including my phone.

While I generally love people watching, I wasn't sure how much excitement would happen while "sitting", and I was right, nothing happened. And there was a lot of sitting and waiting.

What I found fascinating was when the "jury lady"...the person in charge of the jury and jury quarters, came up to talk to the group and explain the process and why it was important that we were there. And what to expect if our number did get called. (And you do get assigned a number)

I thought I would share some of what she said...

First, in my county, only about 4% of all cases go to trial. So when they pool a jury, they prepare for enough jurors to cover 4% of all the possible cases that might go to trail docketed for that week. Obviously it never really gets to that 4% which is why so many people sit and wait. She explained that the very fact that we were there waiting makes a difference to those who are in the courts. Most people want some control over the outcome of their case. So they tend to plea down or settle or come to some compromise. Even at the very last minute. Putting a case in the hands of a jury, complete strangers, puts your fate completely out of your control. knowing we, the jury. are there and ready to go at any minute, puts most people into the position to settle.

So if we were to be called to a case, our number would be randomly called. If that was the case, you would be sent "upstairs", given a small schpiel on the case and then interviewed. Demographic questions, some silly questions like your favorite book , your criminal history or whatever they feel like asking or pertains to the case. If you were "accepted" as a juror, you get to sit a trail. It is also possible that an attorney would dismiss you for some reason or another. A few people's numbers were called. Mine wasn't for a trial. And I don't know what happened with those.

I was secretly hoping I would be called upstairs to interview for a trial. I mean, I was there, why not. However I was also realistic that if interviewed, I would probably not be chosen based on what I do for a living, and the criminal population I used to work with. I would be too "biased" But you never know.

Day 1, no such call happened. I did however  do some reading and caught up on Parenthood episodes for the season. By the end of day 1, they said that we were free to go home. Only if you were numbers 1-101 did you have to come back the next day. I was number 74

Day 2 I returned to continue with my emails an Parenthood and reading. it was weird to look around and see a whole lot less than 100 people. The "jury lady" explained that not all jurors come for various reasons. You are assigned your number before you verify if you can come. Lots of people move out of the county or are excused for some reason. Out of 101, there were 38 of us on day 2. Odds looked pretty good that I might be called to interview. Alas, again I was not. in fact 0 numbers were called upstairs on day 2 and we were sent home, as they knew that there were no other cases that would possibly go to trail left that week.

And thus ended my stint as a juror.

Other little facts and perks to being a juror.
1. i will be getting a check for $5 a day plus mileage. So it will be like $15-$20. maybe a dinner at Chipotle for the trouble?
2. They do give you $5 a day on your juror number to use at the courthouse coffee shop. Good for a latte and a scone(for me, not sure what anyone else chose). I'll take it!

They say the average number of years between getting called to jury duty is 30 years. So I guess I will be back after I retire. And Ben is married.

See, its not so bad.

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