I’ve always wanted to be called for jury duty, so when I got the summons in the mail a few weeks ago, I was excited. I did have one fear, which was that I’d end up on a jury where I was the only one who believed the person was innocent (or guilty), and I’d have 11 people ganging up on me. I wouldn’t want to betray my conscience, and I don’t think I would, but holding out would be pretty unpleasant.
My term of service began on Monday, March 28. I got up in the morning and my husband drove me to the courthouse. I had my laptop and some reading material, as I knew that at least the first day would likely consist of a lot of waiting around, and I wanted to get some work and reading done. I arrived in the jury waiting room and checked in, and received the Jury Handbook. The room was pretty full – there were probably 100 or so people there. I had hoped there’d be coffee in the waiting room, but there was not.
I sat down to read through the Jury Handbook, and after a while, someone named Beth came and gave us a little orientation about how the week would go. A group of about 25 people would be called by name, and would be escorted to the courtroom for jury selection. This is called a jury panel. Then you go through the process of jury selection, or Voir Dire, which consists of first the judge asking questions to the whole group, and then each individual (in the presence of the whole group), and then each attorney doing the same. During the jury selection process, both attorneys and the defendant (and plaintiff, if it’s a civil case) are present as well. If it seems that anyone would not be able to be a fair and impartial juror, that person is dismissed. Once everyone is satisfied that the remaining potential jurors could all be fair and impartial, each attorney “passes the jury.” From the people left, 13 people (12 jurors and an alternate) are agreed upon by both attorneys and the rest are excused. You don’t know who the alternate is until it is time for deliberation to begin. At that time, the trial ensues, and when both sides have rested their cases, the jury goes to deliberate.