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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jury Duty

I'm not sure if I mentioned that once again I was selected for jury duty. This is my third time in about six months, but I have yet to go to the courthouse. I figured I'd be called off again the night before having to appear, which is what happened in October and February.

Because of that I just kind of forgot about checking to see if I needed to go. I didn't remember until 8:15 a.m. that morning, so I quickly called to verify that I had been called off. Guess what -- I hadn't! So I checked the letter to see when I needed to be there ... 8:30. Dang-o!

I called Hilary and she said she'd be over as quickly as possible. (THANK YOU, Hil!) I brushed my hair, got dressed, grabbed a fiber bar (which I ate in the courtroom against rules -- mostly b/c I saw the court reporter eating something, too), and ran out to her car. I got there by 8:45, which impressed me -- especially since I couldn't find a parking place and had to park across the street and run in. (Fortunately I didn't park in the next door parking, because I saw a lady putting a ticket on the last car as I left the courthouse! Mind you, I had Hilary's car, but I don't think she would appreciate that. :)

After going through security and verifying that my phone didn't have a camera, I went up to the fourth floor where I was directed. Nobody was there. The doors were all locked. I was afraid I'd missed my chance and didn't want to face the fine I'd have to pay for missing jury duty ...

Fortunately just as I was wondering what to do a bailiff came out to see if anyone else had arrived. He took me through a room and down a floor to the court room, where the rest of the potential jurors were watching a video about jury service. Once I was there and realized I could relax, I was actually intrigued by the whole process and how we'd be selected.

After the movie we were randomly assigned to seats in and in front of the jury box. I was seat #7, which was one of the comfy swivel seats in the jury box. I've never seen seats THAT comfy on a TV courtroom ... but I've also never watched real court on TV.

When the defendant walked in I was surprised to find it was a man probably in his 60s. I thought, "What kind of trouble would this guy get into at this age?" I sat there and wondered what kinds of questions we would get to see if we were biased about the elderly. I thought about how horrible it would be to be in a trial, because once you walk in as the defendant, all of us are looking at you to see if you LOOK guilty. (I better never be on trial, because I look ornery and guilty all the time! :)

Anyway, the judge entered, thanked us for our service, and proceeded to find out who was missing. Another lady named Denise wasn't there -- glad it wasn't me, because he told us those people will be fined and possibly jailed (which I doubt ... but I don't even want a pointless fine!). The judge had us sworn in, then put up a list of questions he had us answer, like where we live, education level, what we do for a living, if we are married, what our spouse does for a living, if we have children - how many and their ages, if we belong to any clubs or organizations, any magazines we read regularly, favorite movie, favorite book, etc.

Going through 30-something jurors took a bit of time, but it was interesting to see what kind of variety we got. The judge then asked the attorneys to introduce themselves and their clients, as well as any lawyers in their firm to make sure there was no prior association of any of the jurors in any way. Then he explained this was a case dealing with a car accident and the plaintiff was seeking damages from the defendant.

So, on he went with car accident questions, which applied to you, any of your relatives or close friends: Have any of you been to the chiropractor? Anyone had a negative experience with a chiropractor? Anyone been injured in a car accident? Anyone sued someone else for damages due to a car accident? Anyone been sued for damages in a car accident? Anyone feel it is wrong for someone to seek damages after an accident?

Whenever someone raised their hand, they were asked for further clarification. I mentioned that Paul and I had been to the chiropractor due to being rear-ended. I also mentioned that Paul had been in a serious accident as a teen, had more than 20 surgeries and has permanent damage. I also had to mention that Paul was sued by someone for damages for aforementioned accident. When the judge asked what the results were, I had to confess that I didn't even remember! (Turns out the statute of limitations ran out before the lawsuit was started or something like that ...)

Anyway, then the attorneys and the judge left the room to discuss the jurors, and they called out a few here and there for clarification. Then they came back in, thanked us again, and said who would remain on the jury. I noticed that a few of the people who were selected hadn't even said a word after their introduction. Interesting how they based it all off of knowing a few things like their education level, favorite media and family status!

Although it would have been interesting to sit through a trial and watch the whole process in action, I was grateful to be released after only two hours since it was a two-day trial. It's interesting to think, though, why did they pick who they picked? Needless to say, it was a first for me to be sworn into a court of law.

I wouldn't mind if that's my last experience in a courtroom. And if I do go back, I sure hope it's as a juror and not a plaintiff or defendant!

Oh, I forgot to say that as I rushed out on the kids I tried to explain that I was going to be one of the people who could say, "Guilty" or "Not guilty." Apparently my description wasn't exactly clear. When I got home, Zachary excitedly asked, "Mom, did they say you were guilty?"

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