Not Just A Duty, But A Privilege

I almost forgot that I’d gotten the summons for jury duty. Luckily, I found myself looking through some paperwork on my desk at home for something else entirely, and unearthed it in time to avoid inadvertent contempt of court.

Now, I’ve gotten these summons before. Call the number the evening before, hear the clerk read off which group numbers need to report to the jury assembly room, and realize with relief that I’m in the “all other group numbers, your service is complete” category.

Not this time.

I called on Sunday night for my Monday morning summons, and got the all clear. My service was for two days, though, so I had to call again on Monday night to check on Tuesday’s potential service — my instructions were to call at 11:15am to see if I’d be needed for a 1:30pm reporting time.

To paint a picture here: it’s been nuts at work. I took a brief three-day vacation at the end of last week, and came back to all sorts of issues with my two major projects. As far as deadlines are concerned, I really couldn’t afford this half-day of jury duty, much less any additional service beyond that. I had an 11am meeting, so I didn’t get to check my status until I got back right before lunch.

Group Numbers nine through 36 were to report. I was in Group Number 34.

So. Jury duty. I scarfed down my lunch, took my unused yoga clothes and my work laptop to the parking garage and stashed them in the trunk, then walked the ten minutes to the courthouse.

Did I mention that I work downtown?

I got there early on purpose, so I walked around the courthouse and snapped some pics.

Statue of President William McKinley

I finally went inside about a half hour before my reporting time, and was greeted with a security check-in, complete with metal detector for me and x-ray for my purse. The signage claimed that I’d have to leave my cell phone with security, but it must have been old signage, because all of us who passed through security and were milling around outside the Jury Assembly room all had our phones on us.

It surprises me sometimes how little some people pay attention to instructions. When we entered the Jury Assembly room, we were given a stack of colored papers and were told to read the green one. The green one gave instructions on how to turn your summons into a Juror nametag with the plastic sleeve they provided, and said what to do with the other paperwork. No problem! Nametag assembled and attached; I’m not re-donating my juror fee back to the cause, so no paperwork there; evaluation of the process is to be filled out and returned later; appropriate papers returned to basket at desk as instructed.

I realize now that many people were just waiting until we all filed out of the Jury Assembly room later on to return their paperwork, so they wouldn’t have to get up twice, but I’m pretty sure a lot of the jury candidates just didn’t read it or didn’t read it thoroughly.

At 1:30pm, to start our afternoon, we watched an orientation video. I wish I could find it online, because it started out with what seriously looked like the witch scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but much more somberly acted. The point was that, in medieval times, people were often tried by ordeal instead of by a jury of their peers. For instance, the accused might be bound and thrown into a body of water; if they floated, they were guilty.

Unfortunately, the video then moved on to much more boring stuff, like the difference between Municipal Court and Common Pleas Court, and became a review of Senior year Government class.

After the video came roll call — all 47 of us were present and accounted for. Then we all followed the bailiff upstairs to Courtroom 7, on the fourth floor, Judge McDonald presiding.

The next three hours were spent determining which of us would stay and which would go. We learned that the trial was a murder trial, and that drugs and firearms were involved. During Round One, anyone who felt that they might have reason to be excused was given the opportunity to speak to the judge and counsel privately in the judge’s chambers. My only concern was when we’d be released each day, since I have to be home in time to tag-team Aaron for Connor-watching. I was assured that each day would end between 4:30 and 5pm. So, back to the courtroom I went. Probably a dozen jurors escaped during Round One.

Round Two involved questioning by the prosecution, then by the defense attorney. This was the more interesting part of the process for me, as it gave me an insight into what an attorney’s job might really be like, and what the judicial process really entails. Twenty-some of the potential jurors were called to sit in the jury box — I was one of the dozen or so who remained in the back of the courtroom in case a juror was dismissed during the process and they had to fill an empty spot (which did happen for three people).

We got to hear the Prosecuting Attorney explain things like circumstantial vs. direct evidence, and hear his explanation of how “beyond a reasonable doubt” does not mean “beyond the shadow of a doubt.” We got to hear all about the occupations and affiliations of this interesting cross-section of society who had been called together to try this young gentleman (and, incidentally, only one juror was of his ethnicity — not sure how that qualifies as a jury of his peers). We got to watch about a dozen potential jurors go discuss their experiences with drug and alcohol use/abuse in chambers, in private, since the case involved narcotics.

Little things that I thought were interesting: the attorney used a large 11×17 piece of paper with sticky notes to identify each potential juror. Also, since the court uses a stenographer, each person had to be identified verbally for the record, which makes for a level of formality that isn’t seen much in daily life. (Think bank teller, or church.)

There were some jurors who seemed like very interesting people. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to blab their life experiences all over my little piece of the internet, but I wish I could have gone and had lunch with a few of them: the insurance agent, the bus driver, the disabled veteran. Fascinating cross-section of society.

Finally, Round Three involved Counsel approaching the bench and muttering and pointing and removing sticky notes from the giant piece of paper one by one. That took about 20 minutes or so at the very end of the day. In the end, they had twelve jurors and one alternate; ironically enough, many of the people whom we all could tell did not want to be there got chosen to sit on the jury.

They let us out at 5:00 exactly. I wished I could have had more time to just wander around the courthouse and snap some photos and admire the architecture. I’d noticed as we were getting ready to enter Courtroom 7 that there was wiring that wasn’t inside the walls of the courthouse, but running atop the architectural elements inside the atrium areas. There were also some great Ionic columns and other architectural details I would have loved to photograph. As it was, I did get a shot of the stained glass windows and an explanation of where the name of Lucas County comes from:

Robert Lucas

Texted Aaron, hoofed it to my parking garage, and made it home just 20 minutes later than usual. And that was my half-day at jury duty.

I’d say it wasn’t a half-day wasted, either. I found the whole process really fascinating, and if I hadn’t been so uptight about getting home to Aaron and Connor in the evenings, I really wouldn’t have minded serving on the jury.

I’ll be watching the local news on Friday evening to see how this young man fares at his trial. Innocent until proven guilty, guys.

2 thoughts on Not Just A Duty, But A Privilege

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  1. sounds a lot like my jury duty except I had to stay the day and got to eat lunch with some folks. Mine was a murder trial also, a minor, and there were not a lot of his ethnicity in the final jury either. I found it vary enteresting. I was juror #24 and they stoped at # 22.