I got my summons in December 2016, and it said to call the night before the reporting date listed there to see if I would be required to report. I know people who’ve called and found out their number hadn’t been selected, so their obligation ended. It would be several weeks before I knew the extent of my obligation, or if I didn’t even need to report. There was a questionnaire in with the summons that had to be returned within ten days. It had some questions such as if I knew any lawyers, or if I or anyone I know has ever been arrested. I filled it in and returned it.
I called after work the night before the reporting date, and heard the message that all jurors were required to report the next day. I had never been called to jury duty, so I didn’t know what to expect. I had been in the courthouse before, so I knew there is a security check similar to what they have at airports. But there were other things I knew nothing about. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who was curious about the process, so I decided to write about it so others will have the information before they go for the first time.
The date to report was in early January. I grabbed my things, got into the car, and headed for the courthouse. They have a free parking garage just for jurors at our courthouse. After I found a spot and parked, I headed to the courthouse. They had all of us there in one big room called the jury assembly room. The lady next to me figured out there were approximately 240 of us. We were handed clipboards on the way in, but we were instructed to wait to fill out any of the forms.
I actually didn’t mind being there, but I’m sure many others felt otherwise about the whole thing. The judge who talked us through the forms said that he doubted any of us were excited when we got the summons for jury duty. He said he doesn’t think any of us called up a best friend and acted like we won the lottery.
The first form asked if we wanted to donate our checks for that day to any of the organizations listed on one of the papers. My supervisor had mentioned having to give her the check (I guess the state requires it), so I had to decline donating it. It’s a good idea to check with your employer before your reporting date about whether or not you are required to hand your check over to them.
We were all given “juror” buttons and told to wear them both in and out of the courthouse so if anyone involved in a hearing saw us, they’d know not to discuss any cases around us. I understand the reason behind that, but think it’s a bit strange that anyone involved in a case might have a discussion in public anyway.
Then the judge in the front of the room had us fill out each section of the questionnaire. We put in information about ourselves and our families. Things like where we worked were required on the top of the page. Underneath was another list of questions about how we felt about certain topics. It also asked questions about things such as whether or not we had any close friends or family members who worked in law enforcement, and if we would always side with police because they are police. Then we just had to wait to see if we got called. All of the potential jurors were basically “on call” in case someone requested a jury.
I didn’t get called for the first group. I was happy I had taken some magazines to read, although they had some there. I wish I had read those first, since I later ran out of reading material when I was in a different area where there were no magazines to borrow.
I was getting over the flu at that time, so I kept coughing. A lady nearby kindly offered me a cough drop, but I already had one in my mouth. It just wasn’t working very well. I later tried chewing mint gum, and it actually worked better than the cough drop! I still coughed sometimes, but not constantly like I did at first. Well, at least not as often.
They have what they call the “quiet room” there. There are chairs, some tables, and wi-fi. I went there for lunch break, and ate my lunch and read my magazines. After lunch, I decided to stay there because I could hear when they called another group. I didn’t get called for that one, either. Nothing was going on, so I texted my husband. At one point I even called him from the hallway, because they requested that people not make calls on their phones in the jury assembly room.
Another group was called in the early afternoon, and this time I heard my name. I went up, handed over my paperwork, and was given a number. We all stood in line, in numerical order, as they continued to call numbers. We waited until we were all there. Then we went to the court room and were seated, again in numerical order. I was seated in the jury box, which meant two things. One, I was more comfortable because we had cushioned chairs instead of hard wooden benches. Two, I was more likely to be picked, because I had a low number (only the first 12 were seated in the jury box).
The judge explained some of the process, including “voir dire”. It’s a French term which basically means speaking the truth. The judge asked us questions, and anyone who would answer “yes” would stand up. He started by asking if any of us knew the attorneys who were seated there for the trial, the defendant, or any of the anticipated witnesses. Then it went on to the other questions they needed to ask to determine if we were suitable for the current trial.
Spoiler alert – I’m not going to give any information about the case. We’re prohibited from doing so. Besides, I want to write about the process, not the specific trial.
After all of the questions were asked of the group, the judge put on some static background noise. Then he and the two attorneys went into the corner where the rest of us couldn’t hear them although we could see them. Most of the potential jurors were called up, one at a time, and asked more specific questions. I believe the more specific questions were about any time they stood up during the group voir dire. But again, we couldn’t hear them. I can only speculate because I was not called up.
A side note about the nature of people. I am sad to report that not all of the potential jurors, all adults (and according to the judge, average age is around 50), were able to follow basic instructions. I also noticed that some were unable to conduct themselves properly. A young guy next to me was actually better behaved than some of the older people! I’m not just saying that because he was nice enough to show me how to shut off my phone when we were instructed to do so, either. There were people around my age who were using their phones in the court room, eating snacks, and talking when we were supposed to be quiet. All of those things were against the rules. All through the day, I heard people making rude comments. Yes, the process was kind of monotonous, especially when I ran out of things to read. But acting rude and breaking rules didn’t help things.
The individual voir dire didn’t end until about 5:00. Then the attorneys were allowed to each eliminate four people. At the end, they had us leave the jury box and stand on the other side of the court room. They called us by our numbers, starting with the lowest numbers, and told us our new numbers. I was one of the fourteen chosen. They pick 12 jurors, and two alternates.
I’ll admit I was happy to leave – it was a long day. We were required to report at 8:30, and we didn’t leave until almost 6. The judge said we had to finish the jury selection process, though, or else we’d all have to report again the next day to finish. The ones who didn’t get picked surely appreciated not having to return the following day just to find out if they would have to stay.
The judge said he anticipates the trial will take the rest of the week. I’ll see how it goes!