The Verdict on Jury Duty

by Kay Lynn

A week ago my jury service ended when our group of 12 citizens delivered verdicts to the court and all involved.  It had been a full and interesting three days.

It’s in my nature to reflect upon new experiences and came up with this list of observations.

Courtroom

It’s a Small World

After years of watching Law & Order, I expected a large, grand courtroom.  Although the courthouse is fairly new and in great shape, the room itself is pretty small.

There was room for only 40 observers and the witness box is about 4-5 feet from the closest juror.  Even worse, the court reporter’s box was right in the front of the witness box.

The building holds about 30 courtrooms so it is a better use of space and more efficient than using a large room for every three day trial.

Jury Demographics

Most of the people reporting for jury service were college students, retirees or middle-aged.  We probably had way more college students than normal because it was still the break.

My jury panel was comprised of 6 people in their 20s, 5 in their 50s/60s and 1 in her 30s.  That last group probably can’t serve as often due to family obligations.

The only thing we all had in common is residence in the same county.

Age Adds Perspective

I noted during the votes and deliberations that took place the older group (including myself) seemed to believe that nothing is clear cut when it comes to people.  Just because the defendant made mistakes doesn’t automatically mean he/she was guilty of the charges.

The youngsters didn’t seem to see the greys in life; it was black and white to them.  I found this very interesting and I hope they did as well.

The Process Works

The group of 12 strangers heard testimony, saw evidence and came to a consensus on three separate counts.  It wasn’t without several hours of deliberation and many re-votes.

The jury instructions were extremely helpful in guiding us on how to interpret the law.  They laid out what conditions must have been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” in order to find the defendant guilty.

In California, I’m now excused from service for three years.  Many people try to avoid jury service, but it is a great way to give back to the community.  Even Axl Rose served last week!

Every citizen should experience the process once.  It will restore or strengthen your faith in the system.  If you have served on a jury, what do you think of the experience?

photo by uberzombie

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle January 16, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I’ve only been called for jury duty once. I sat in the room all day and was sent home early.

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Michelle January 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm

I’ve never been called for jury duty, but I have friends who have been called more than 10 times, I don’t know how that works

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Edward Antrobus January 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I’ve never been called for jury duty, although I know a couple people who have.
Growing up, my mother would be called for jury duty by the wrong county every year!

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Dr Dean January 17, 2012 at 3:21 am

I have been called many times but never served on a jury. Seems I delivered too many babies here (know too many of those on both side of the law). My wife has also been called many times and served twice. She reports it is always interesting, just being called and sitting through the process. We both agree it is an important duty for citizens. Good post KL.

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Emily Hunter January 17, 2012 at 3:58 am

I’ve only done the jury duty thing once, and my experience was much like MoneyBeagle’s. I sat around in a room for a few days before I was sent home – though I have someone distributing bibles to make the wait a little less onerous. As a side note, bibles make great pillows for the bored. 🙂

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JT January 17, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I was called this year and really, really wanted to do it. Unfortunately, I had to pass. If I were chosen for the actual jury, the responsibilities could have lasted anywhere from one to many months.

It’s one of those things where want was displaced by a need (school.) Maybe next year!

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Jen January 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I’m 47 years old and have been called for jury duty four times. I’ve served on two juries. It is a great way to see how the system works-from the jury pool to screening (interviewing) possible jurors to serving on a jury. You are right that the instructions to the jury are helpful. What surprises me is that after hours, and sometimes days, of deliberation and delivering the verdict, the court thanks you and you walk out-it is an abrupt end-no debriefing. Also, having served, I can identify with the jurors who serve on high-profile cases and what they are going through.

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YoungAndThrifty January 18, 2012 at 10:13 am

Jury duty promotes community participation and awareness but it can become so tedious when people bring personal feelings into interpreting the law. It’s the hardest thing to argue against “well this shouldn’t be legal”. Glad you had a great experience 🙂

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101 Centavos January 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm

I was called to jury duty last year for the first time. I understand the civic duty aspect, but the process was so tedious and incompetently run that it made me wonder of better ways to run that railroad.

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Ashley January 30, 2012 at 10:16 am

I’ve never done jury duty. Probably because I haven’t registered to vote ever. My mom was recently called for jury duty. She was thrilled she wasn’t selected to be on the jury! haha

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