Thursday, May 17, 2018

Doing My Civic Duty – Part Two

I received a reprieve from civic duty this week. A call from the county court house informed me there were no scheduled cases. I need not report for ‘work’.

I can honestly say jury duty is work because I am paid - $5.00 per day. My first paycheck arrived in the mail this week.

My experience as a grand jurist has been an interesting one. I serve one day a week until the end of June, assuming cases are scheduled on my reporting day. 

the jury
The 23 members of the grand jury file into the courtroom, many bearing drinks - non-alcoholic of course. We are allowed to bring beverages and snacks into court, a more informal situation than trial courtroom practices. Actually it is inaccurate to state 23 members enter the room. Each week three or four do not appear. On the first day we were informed that it is OK if necessary to take a week or two off. Twelve jurors constitute a quorum and are required to vote on whether or not to indict an individual, meaning send the case to trial, or not. 

My fellow jurors are supposed to represent the county’s demographics, and to an extent they do. Folks range in age (I am guessing; did not take a survey) from 30ish to 70ish. Blue and white-collar workers, unemployed and retirees, black, white, Hispanic, and undetermined (not sure of everyone’s background – did not ask). Insufficient factual knowledge (except speculation) about education, economic circumstances, family situation. 

the witness
the prosecutor
The jury remains silent as court proceedings progress and are recorded. A witness is sworn in, the prosecutor asks questions, dismisses the witness and reads the indictment. The jury asks questions based on the case’s facts and point of law. Then the recording stops, and the jury discusses the case. Sometimes there are questions and debate, sometimes not. Occasionally the witness returns to the room for follow-up queries. Once discussion concludes, the jury votes.

the perpetrator
 We have heard a variety of criminal cases involving drugs, domestic abuse incidents, burglaries, robberies, thefts and other offenses. First-time offenders as well as habitual law breakers find their way into criminal court.

The experience opens a window into a world not a part of my everyday routine. I encountered women in domestic abuse situations when I taught at a business school, and the school witnessed a varied cast of characters, a few of whom probably ended up in criminal court.

 A few weeks to go, and so far cases have not risen to a level of national prominence in magnitude or interest. I wonder if one of Trump’s secret liaisons lived or worked in my county and the case lands in court, or one of his fix-it lawyers happens to live in town, or a Russian oligarch patronized a penthouse suite in an upscale hotel and participated in – or was the victim of – hanky panky. That would be fascinating courtroom drama.

I think I am the victim of too much detective TV, having grown up watching Perry Mason, Columbo, The Rockford Files, Matlock… 


  1. Thank you for letting me see how these are run. It's been an education for me, too. :-)

  2. I've been on jury duty but never a trial. It's interesting learning how the grand jury works.