I did it – I got picked for the jury! That’s why my post is so late in getting to you today. I was prepared to either not get picked or for the trial to only last a day. No on both counts. I was there, listening to a day’s worth of testimony and deliberating for five hours. From a writer’s point of view I made the following observations:
1) Court isn’t as formal as it looks on Law & Order. The judge wore tan slacks with a dress shirt and tie, but he never zipped up his robe. The attorneys wore suits, but the court official (no bailiff) wore slacks and a blazer. And potential jurors? One woman looked like she was ready for dinner at a four star restaurant while one man proudly displayed his tattoos with a t-shirt and jeans.
The “jury box” was two rows of (very comfortable) office chairs [one slightly elevated]. The “witness stand” is a padded guest chair on a riser next to the judge. Two more rows of those chairs form the “galley”.
All in all…it’s pretty unimpressive.
2) Even criminal trials can be boring. I heard a case where we had to determine two criminal counts: uttering and publishing, and larceny in a building. I thought because it was “criminal” that it would somehow engage me and everyone else. Wrong-o.
– The court reporter typed away at her little device while gazing around the room. I think I smiled at her twice. Other than that, she just looked around and punched buttons.
– The young-looking assistant prosecutor sometimes looked like a little girl playing dress-up while she leaned forward, head in her hands and her feet kicking around at the chair wheels.
– The judge, I am not joking, could barely keep his eyes open the first day. Not only did he have a stack of papers that he kept sifting through, but there were times when I thought he was going to suck those stacks right into his throat because he yawned so big.
3) Jury rooms are tiny. I think they are trying to encourage quick deliberations. There was barely enough room to walk around the table and chairs when we got in there. By the time everyone was seated it was easier to ask others to hand you this, and pass that.
Unfortunately, however, the only bathroom jurors can use is the can connected to the jury room. Fabulous. I sat on the far side of the room on the opposite side of the table from the bathroom. Two people had to stand up to let me through while four others scooted forward to let me by. And then I got into a bathroom and did my business…through a very thin door that left nothing to anyone’s imagination. Nice.
4) The general population honestly believes the justice department in a county of 100,000 people should work the same way it does on CSI. Yes, someone brought that up. I mean, let’s get serious: we were asked to decide the identity of a woman who cashed a forged check. They had video surveillance. Not good enough for some of these people. They wanted to know why the experts didn’t blow up the video and clear it up for us! Um…because I doubt the local grocery store has such high-quality video footage that we could see every pimple and chin hair on the lady.
Don’t get me wrong – I love NCIS, and I’m partial to Law & Order and SVU, but really people…that is TELEVISION! Next thing you’re going to tell me is that WWE is realy wrestling. It’s entertainment folks!! Sheesh.
5) Our judicial system is wacked. How come we only need a 2/3 vote in congress to pass HUGE spending bills that my unborn child will be paying off for their whole lives, but all twelve jurors have to agree to prosecute a woman for a $550 offense?
And how can the judge and attorneys honestly tell you: don’t let anyone pressure you into a decision. Make up your own mind and stand with it…but you all need to agree because a hung jury means a mistrial and then we have to start all over again. Does anyone else see the contradiction here?
Any, that was my experience in court. I actually enjoyed it. I got to play my part. I have done my civic duty. And I took GREAT notes and even made some sketches for use in a later novel!
Have any of you ever sat on a jury? Any cool observations from your end of it? Any questions for an ol’ pro like me? 😉