My Day on the Jury || Everything You Ever Wanted To Know
Two things about me: I’m very patriotic and love this country, and I love crime shows and books. Put that together and you’ll not find this girl upset over getting her jury summons! In November I got my jury summons and was really excited! I’ve been called before but never had to go in, and seeing as how I love to find out how things work, I was hoping to be called again. I even wanted to end up on a jury if possible. However, when I left the school I was teaching at and started nannying, my situation changed a bit. I had to postpone my court dates until February and I was really nervous about leaving for an extended period of time for a jury and what would happen to the kiddo I watch. Well, it all ended up working out well, and if you’d like to find out how my experience went and how I ended up not serving on a jury despite really wanting to, read on!
So the way it works here in Tennessee is that when you are selected for jury duty, you go into the court house and choose a period of two weeks when you must be available to call in every night and see whether you are needed to appear the next day. In Colorado when I got my summons, it was only one day I had to call in, so the chance of me not being needed seemed much higher. With two weeks, I had little hope that I wouldn’t be called (and again, I wanted to do jury duty, but I didn’t want to leave my family out in the cold). Sure enough, I was summoned last Tuesday to appear in court on Wednesday, and that was when the fun began!
I researched whether Kindles were allowed inside, and they are not, along with cell phones. I guess they don’t want you to try to find out information about the case (which, by the way, I have tried. Even knowing the name of the defendant and the date the alleged crime was committed it’s still nowhere on the Internet! Uhg). So I brought Anne of Green Gables and showed up! The court room was small and there were lots of prospective jurors, so seeing no available chairs, I plopped down on the floor in the outer court area with my blanket and started reading. I got a few chuckles at that one, but there was no way I was going to stand for that long! Turns out I didn’t need to, because after the judge came in and greeted us (he was extremely nice!), explained that we would be selected for an attempted murder trial (I was a little scandalized), and told us where to sit if our names were drawn, I was the eighth person called out of twenty. There were at least thirty more people that were never called, but had to sit there the whole time.
I was excited! It was strange to go sit in the jury box and see everyone observing me. I was very interested in the man speaking very quietly into what looked like a surgical mask with a hose attached. Wild thoughts crossed my mind that he was a part of the jury selection crew like in the movie Runaway Jury, but turns out he was just the court reporter because nowadays they don’t type, they just speak and the computer types for them. Kind of neat I thought. The court clerks were eyeing us all rather suspiciously, and I rather callously wondered why they bothered, since I’m sure they had nothing to do with the actual selection. One of them looked very self-important, so I think that’s why I had a bad first impression of them. In any case, he made up for it later with a very non-politically correct comment that I loved, since I just hate politically correct silliness.
Anyway, once the twelve jurors and the eight backups were called, the prosecuting lawyer, a very colloquial, sweet, 7-month pregnant young lady, started speaking to us. She stood behind a podium with a list, and after we raised out right hands and swore to tell the truth, she opened up rather laid back discussion. I expected rapid-fire questions designed to throw people off from lying and getting out of jury duty, but it was actually very calm and interesting. She asked us as a group about our thoughts on whether premeditation was a time frame or a frame of mind, and we answered them like we were in a college class discussion. There were those who were more vocal, like myself, another tough-cookie looking women who was disagreeing with everything she possibly could, and a few other women who seemed interested in the proceedings, and several men who said nothing unless spoken directly to. We were asked about possible scheduling conflicts for the next couple of days when the trial would be (that was another surprise, I had no idea that juries were selected and then immediately went into trial), whether we would have prejudices based on various things, and several other discussion-like questions, like whether we thought we could set aside personal feelings regardless of what we thought of the witnesses, victims, or perpetrators, and come to a fair verdict. We were also asked weeding out type questions, and I’m pretty sure that’s when it was decided that I wouldn’t be on the jury.
The state prosecutor asked whether anyone had relatives or friends who had been in a similar situation to the victim, or had been killed or attacked. One woman mentioned that her husband had been a victim (who survived) of a plane hijacking, but that she was “extremely confidant” that she could be unbiased in her decision making. She was not excused from the jury. When I raised my hand in answer to the question, I didn’t expect to get choked up. Jason’s mom was killed when we were still engaged and I was on the road traveling with Living Proof. He called me one terrible night and we cried and prayed and talked, and it was really painful. His mom was absolutely wonderful with him when he was a child, and though she had made terrible choices and moved away and they were not very close anymore, he still speaks very highly of her because of how she was when he was younger. Jason rarely brings it up, and when he does it’s usually just the good memories, and so my pain in that night and anytime it comes up is purely for him. She was supposed to come to our wedding, which would have been when I was going to meet her, but she died a few months before we got married. I don’t have any memories of her, so I didn’t expect to be very sad. When the prosecutor asked me what happened, I answered “My mother-in-law and one other man was murdered by her druggie boyfriend” and I left it at that because I was suddenly very overcome and was trying hard not to cry in front of all those people. The prosecutor very gently asked me about what happened to the man who killed her and whether I thought it would affect me being able to be fair in this trial (because it was one family member attempting to kill his nephew). I answered that I didn’t think it would sway me, and that I hadn’t been involved in the trial at all, but that he was in jail. I never mentioned that I had never met her, and I suppose that since I became upset when telling them, and because it happened fairly recently, they assumed that it would be a pretty big factor for me. So, I think that’s when Juror #8 (me) was crossed off the defendants’ list.
After a few more discussions, including a lesson from the defending lawyer, who was a very nice, funny, charming middle-aged man, about what the differences were between 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter, we were done. The judge explained to us that the two lawyers would now be discussing with their clients which jurors to keep and which to excuse, and that it might take awhile. I promptly got out my book and continued reading. Two minutes later, I observed the defending lawyer hand a yellow piece of paper to the judge, who then called my name and explained that I was excused. I was pretty surprised, although in hindsight considering my breakdown and a couple of pretty conservative answers, I guess I wasn’t the best juror for a seemingly black and white attempted murder case. Even though I really don’t want to admit it, I was pretty convinced of the guy’s guilt when I first saw him looking red-faced and staring at the ground when we first got in. So really, probably a fair thing that I was excused.
So that’s it! I was the only person excused from the defending lawyer, and I got a couple of high-five looks from all the jurors and thirty more prospective jurors waiting who probably assumed that I had hoped to go home all along. I hadn’t. I was relieved for the family I work for, but sincerely sad that I wouldn’t get to see how things played out.I wish I could find the information online!
All in all it was a terrific experience. The judge was very considerate of everyone’s time and carefully explained jargon in layman’s terms. The lawyers were both very funny and we were all very entertained, and I learned a lot. I would do it again, but not for awhile. Being responsible for the daily care of an adorable two-and-a-half year old makes me want to ensure that I can be available to him when he needs me to be! Also makes me wonder whether I’d ever want to be a lawyer…hmm….