Jury Duty: A Unique Experience

It Happens Every Two Years…

Today was the day of my summons to serve as a prospective juror. It’s been more than two years since I was last called. About a hundred of us showed up for voir dire, where the attorneys ask questions of an assembled panel (chosen randomly from voter registration files), and select their juror picks. Today’s jury selection was for a criminal trial at the district level with felony charges of burglary, stalking and aggravated assault leveled against a young, male defendant.

I’m not allowed to discuss the case but the voir dire lasted all day. I was not chosen (and neither were about 80 others) but because the courts are so far behind in bringing cases to trial due to COVID, those of us who didn’t get out of duty with an excuse or didn’t get picked today are called back tomorrow for another, larger and projected-to-be longer criminal case. The lawyers for tomorrow’s case were in attendance this morning but left after a meeting in-chambers with the Judge.

Tomorrow’s defense attorneys are visibly older, better dressed and there were six of them to today’s nervous and not very confident Lone Ranger defense attorney, which my hall mates and I decided was pro bono (meaning the defendant can’t afford a lawyer and was assigned one by the court). One of my prospective fellow jurors is a retired Federal Investigator for the Treasury, another is a retired Family Physician and two others are female Business Owners. So I’m definitely in good company. We’ll see each other in the morning.

Although I feel a bit taxed at the end of the day today from the prolonged bench-warming, horrific fluorescent lighting, (someone seriously needs to educate the admins about that) zero art/music or even plants as a sign of life and the boredom of waiting, I actually don’t mind jury duty because I consider it a privilege to be part of the justice system. It’s the voir dire process that’s not fun for prospective jurors. I served on a criminal jury in Malibu, California and encourage people of good conscience to willingly and enthusiastically participate. The jury is at the heart of our democracy. Think twice about dodging out.

Outside of those sensory deprived conditions, the legal proceedings and its unique and specific language are fascinating. I memorized the quiet, measured atmosphere, the premeditated process and the subtle theatre of the courtroom like a sponge. Anyone wanting to write effectively about this environment must study/experience it. One of my favorite writers of this genre is Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, West Wing, The Social Network and The Trial of the Chicago Seven to name a few).

In-between long segments of silence and boredom, I made some new casual acquaintances, so we did have some fun hanging out in one of several times we were sent into the hall while the judge and lawyers discussed confidential business. None of us really wanted to be there but there we were anyway. There was something worth savoring in just that fact. It’s in these moments of seemingly unimportant limbo that I submit much of life occurs. Wouldn’t you agree?

Anyway, back for more voir dire in the morning. If I’m chosen this time I’ll likely miss the first two days my 3rd Tony Robbins’ Unleash The Power Within, which starts this Thursday morning. Most, if not all of next week will be consumed by the court as well. So I apologize in advance if I don’t answer my phone or post very much for a little while.

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