Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jury Duty

I was summoned as a stand by juror for a May 10 appearance at county court.

This was my first jury duty. Even though google map showed that it took about 25 minutes to get there, I was on the way to the court at 8am for a 8:45am appearance.

When I got there around 8:30am, going through airport like security check point, the central jury room was almost full. Most people sat there quietly, reading novels, navigate Internet via iPhone etc. I intended to bring a technical paper to read, but left it in the car. So I watched CNN on TV and looked around to observe people from time to time. The room has 11 rows of chairs, each row has 18 chairs - so the room can accommodate 198 people. The jury pool was diversified - old and young, man and woman, blond hair and black air, people of different origins - Caucasian, Asian, Arabian, east European .....

About 9am, the jury clerk, a lady, turned off the TVs, and started talking to us. First disqualifications - under 18, non citizen, non county resident, criminal conviction, can not read or understand English. Nobody disqualified themselves. Then she asked if anyone wanted to seek exemption. Quite a few persons, mostly women seek child care exemption - apparently these women did not go online to submit their juror questionnaires - otherwise they could claim exemption online saving time and gasoline. A gentleman asked;" I take weekend college class. Can I count it as college student exemption or not?" Jury clerk said; "Nice try. NO". The whole room erupted into laughing.

About 10 minutes later, an officer went to the lectern, "I will call 25 names, those who are called, please line up behind me". The lineup was as diversified as it could be. The officer led the 25 potential jurors to the designated court. After a few minutes, he came back with his name list: "Karen Wagner?" - a lady stood up, explaining herself: " I thought you called Teri last time". The whole room laughed.

Another officer called another batch of names. All officers had hard time to pronounce Arabian and Indian names. Then it is a female officer's turn to call names - she apologized in advance for possible miss pronouncing people's name. When she called out Ravi tentatively "ra vee ..?", an Indian guy stood up, mumbled "you can not even pronounce a 4 letter word?" The whole room erupted again!

As the fourth batch of names was called, I was hoping that my name would be called - I wanted to have the experience being a juror - but it was not. The clerk declared, hearings at two courts were cancelled, so you served your duty by just showing up, have a good day. The whole room cheered - most of the remaining people would get a day off for showing up in the court for 2 hours in the morning

I was a little bit disappointed that I was not called upon, I understood, however, the need of a larger pool of potential jurors. As I waited to exit, I saw a guy talking to the jury clerk. She said something to the effect that our county has the best juror pool in the whole state/country - people show up upon summon and willing to serve. I think that it is related to the educational level of the county population, and that the populace believes in the jury based legal process and wants to be part of it. I am glad to be a part of it, and look forward to the time to serve as a juror on a real case.

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