Thursday, April 23, 2009

Observations of a Would-Be Juror

Jury It arrived in the mail a few days ago, a summons for jury service. In my state, jurors are selected for a four-month term during which they are obligated to serve in the venire as many as ten times. That is a good thing, as I cannot imagine that many lawyers will want to seat a law professor on the jury, no matter how interesting the law professor in question may think the experience will be.

I report for juror orientation, along with a couple of hundred other good citizens. We fill out juror questionnaires, revealing our occupations, marital and parental status, and even our past experiences in suing or being sued. This is a criminal court, trying everything from DWI to capital murder, although the judge tells us he has no capital cases "presently" on his docket. And as felons are disqualified from jury service, he asks for anyone in that category to raise his hand and be identified. No one does.

The judge tries to be upbeat and entertaining: "If you or a loved one were a defendant in this court, wouldn't you want someone like you to be on the jury?" I am thinking, "You bet, and I would be struck for cause in a heartbeat."

And we are told that although there are no reserved parking spaces for jurors, we should feel free to park at any "legally metered" spot near the courthouse. Literally . . . free, as in "put no money in the meter." If we get a ticket, we're told to bring it to the judge's bailiff, who will see that it's taken care of, even if that may take a few tries.

This is going to be interesting, I think. I'll post periodic observations from each venire I participate in--and who knows, maybe even from an actual jury, although should that happen, I'll wait until the trial concludes to share my thoughts.

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