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Yep, I've been summoned for Federal Jury Duty. I'm in the jury pool for November and December and while that's not an ideal time framework for a man of the cloth, I'm kinda looking forward to it.

I've always been a civics nerd in my own way. Most people I've talked to who have served on a jury have found the experience to be a positive one, overall.

So, anyone want to disabuse me of my delusion? Anyone have any jury stories to tell? Good, bad, or ugly, I'd like to hear them.


I've been called twice since moving to Cincinnati--both times I dutifully informed the authorities that I was a nursing mother and was excused. However, I think I more than did my duty some twenty years ago, when I spent almost a month sequestered on a murder trial...LOTS of stories there, good, bad, AND ugly. More than I could tell here and now.

Tip: If you *don't* want to be on a murder trial, make sure you listen/read to the news thoroughly every day from now until you're called, and/or be sure to form strong opinions about accused criminals.

For the trial I was on, selection itself was pretty interesting. It was a two step process, in which something like 150 people were called up each day, weeded out first by the judge, and then again by the attorneys. It took nearly a week just to get 12 jurors and alternates. Your first shock, being the reponsible citizen that you are, may be watching the lengths that some people will go to just to get out of jury duty. Now, it was probably worse in this case, because I believe we were warned that it might be a lengthy trial, but we weren't given much detail other than that. The most memorable incident involved a woman who insisted that she couldn't possibly serve, because her husband needed her to remind him to take his medicines. She went on and on, until the judge finally stopped and asked if her husband was an invalid? No... Was he mental incapacitated? No...
Retired? No... Well, what was his occupation? He was a licensed, practicing physician!! I kid you not. The judge hung his head for a minute, shook it sadly, and then excused her.

On the other hand, to this day, I don't think that my then-husband has forgiven me for answering honestly and NOT finding a way to be excused. Overall, it was a defining moment in my young adulthood and I'm glad I did it...but I'm not sure I'd be thrilled about doing it again. Not too likely that I will, though, at least until the kiddos are older.

Ya want more stories? I've got 'em...

I remember babysitting for my younger siblings when my mom was called for jury duty. The trial lasted three days and was apparently very easy, as the defendant had many many witnesses to his crime (robbery).

I have always wondered what it would be like to be on a jury, but I would rather be spared until my kids are older, as child care would be an unreal dilemma right now! Brett figures he would get out of it, at least in a long trial, since he has a week of call and one week of 2nd call every month, but I've heard that they are getting stricter about forcing physicians to serve. I also figure that, given J's old position, and the fact that several of my siblings have been on the wrong side of the law, no one would want me, anyway.

Oh, and as far as the woman wanting to be excused so she could get her husband to take his medicine.....Brett is the absolute worst about his own health. I have to continually remind him to take meds when he needs them, and getting him to go to the dr when he is ill--HA! Even when he had a kidney stone, he waited until he was actually writhing with pain before I could convince him to let me take him to the ER.


LOL! Okay, Leah... I'll cede that perhaps some doctors *are* the worst patients, but really if you'd heard this woman...she was painting a picture of a man who was totally, utterly disfunctional and incompetent without her, and I really don't think even the judge was expecting her to say that her husband was a practicing *anything*, let alone a doctor.

I've read some of the comments over at PDD, and yes, part of jury duty is a lot more boring than it looks on tv. And I can say that having been on a trial that involved murder, kidnapping, travelling to crime scenes, and an evacuation of the courthouse because of a bomb threat (later determined to have been phoned in BY the defendent FROM the jail!). You may get shuffled in and out of the courtroom while judge and lawyers discuss issues you're not allowed to see and hear. In general, there was a lot more "sitting around and waiting for something to happen" and paper shuffling than I ever expected. Think of a day of C-SPAN, and not Law and Order.

As for dress, business to business casual should be fine. Look good, but also think of comfort, because you'll be sitting for a long time probably in less than ideal seating and trying your best to stay informed and alert. That's my advice!

So, Celia--what was it like being sequestered? And how were you able to keep track of all the information thrown at you? Did they let you take notes? I have always wondered about that, since I can only remember detailed things, and make sense of them, if I can write them down.

Being a news junkie won't necessarily get you booted from the case for a couple of reasons... what they're really interested in is whether or not you've formed any strong opinions about the case, or are likely to have strong opinions about the subject matter of the case. They want to know how open-minded you are, and a little questioning ought to bring that out to everyone's satisfaction. If you get past the judge, each side will get to question you and decide if they want to keep you or pass on you, and you can't always predict what the lawyers are looking for. In the trial I was called for, part of the defense's case hinged on the defendant allegedly having been born with half a brain and how that affected his development and interactions in his youth. One of my fellow jurors was a young mother with a child who was indeed born with only half a brain. On the surface, I'm not sure I would have thought of her as an ideal juror for that case. On the other hand, as someone who sat and deliberated with her, I can't say that her circumstances swayed her thinking one way or the other. I know for a fact, though, that people were getting the boot for having extreme views either way on the death penalty--and yes, it did come to that in the end.

If you do get excused from a case, remember that you may get called up more than once during that 2 month period, so you may well have another shot on a different case.

You know, Leah, I don't remember taking notes, and I'm not sure if it would be allowed or not. Jury members are forbidden to discuss anything to do with the case with ANYONE, including (and probably especially) each other until the sentencing phase. If you wrote a question to yourself in a notebook and another juror glanced over and saw your question, that might potentially put a doubt in his mind that hadn't been there before. And if you're writing things down, you might be missing something else being presented.

Being sequestered is definitely life as normal. You don't have a lot of personal time, except when you're sleeping. Most everything else is done as a group, and there are several baliffs with the group at all times, monitoring your interactions and activities, and also doing what they can to try to protect the group and make things as pleasant as they can. Your phone calls are limited and monitored, and even your mail is checked, both incoming and outgoing. Even your tv viewing is monitored, because it is so important that the jury remain unprejudiced and make the judgement solely on the information allowed in court. News blurbs can pop up at any time of day, on just about any channel. Even just flipping through channels can be "dangerous". We did catch a very brief glimpse of a mention of our case on CNN one day as one of the baliffs was channel surfing! Not enough to be contaminated--no details, but we were all shocked to hear that our case was being mentioned on a national level.

I suppose it is a bit like being in a very, very lax minimum security prison, if you want to see it that way. I'd say it was more like a minumum security spa. We had a whole floor of a nice hotel to ourselves, and they fed us *extremely* well (I think everyone gained a few pounds!) We even got to go out to a few restaurants where we were the only ones in the place, and we were generally allowed to order whatever we wanted off of the menus presented to us.

Yes, in the evenings when you're our of court, the case can be a bit like the elephant in the room, especially when something particularly unusual or dramatic has happened--but most of the time, you're a bit happy to get away from it for even a short time. We played frisbee and golf in the hotel hallways, watched tv and movies together in a suite on the floor that was sort of our home base. As a group, we got along very well, and for a number of years I kept in touch with some of my fellow jurors.

It wasn't all fun, though, by any means. The case itself was brutal and horrible, and I can point to one particular instant when I can say that I saw a glipse of the face of pure evil. I saw and heard things I had never dreamed of, even in my nightmares. Another time, after visiting a crime scene, the entire jury wound up having to strip and shower down after we realized that we'd been thorougly infested with fleas! Ugh! From the knees down, I had a solid mass of fleas crawling everywhere--we all did. It was, in all, an experience.

Uh, make that "life NOT as normal" up there... why can't you edit these things?

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