I just completed one week of jury duty. Each day, after four P.M., I had to call the courthouse and listen to a recording of instructions for the following day. I only had to appear at the courthouse on one day. Since this was my first time on jury duty, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As a writer of mystery novels, I was intrigued with the whole process.
First, everyone in the jury pool had to walk through a metal detector and their bags/purses/coats had to go through a visual screening. After that, everyone checked–in at the reception desk on the third floor of the courthouse and then waited in the jury room until a marshal greeted them. We watched a video that gave the history of the district and the courthouse, and a brief explanation of the jury-selection process.
Our names were then called out, we were give number tags to pin to our clothing, and were instructed to line up in numerical order—one through seventy-nine. Then, we were escorted through the hallways and into a courtroom. The judge introduced himself, the defendant, the prosecutor, and the defense, who were all present. He told us some more history, and gave us some brief information about the criminal case. He then discussed jury-selection, expectations, and legal duties.
After that, he asked questions of the potential jurors, as a group. If someone raised his/her hand in response, the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney wrote down their numbers. Sometimes, additional questions were asked of those who raised their hands. The question and answer process, known as voir dire, was fascinating. Clearly, some people did not want to be picked for the jury.
Approximately two hours later, we were dismissed for a twenty-minute break. At the end of the break, about a dozen potential jurors were dismissed, and then the procedure was repeated. This time, however, the prosecutor and then the defense attorney asked the questions. At the end of the second round of questioning, we were again dismissed for a break. I should probably tell you that we were not allowed to leave the jury room during the whole process. We sat around reading, talking with other potential jurors, and munching on the free snacks. It was almost two P.M. and we still hadn’t been dismissed for a lunch break. Finally, after about an hour, the marshal came into the jury room and called out twelve numbers. These were the people who had been selected to sit on the jury. The rest of us were dismissed.
By then, there was a part of me that was relieved I wasn’t picked, but another part would have liked to continue the process and sit through the actual trial. The following evening, I saw a news article about the trial. The jury had found the defendant ‘not guilty’ of all charges. How fascinating it would have been to hear the evidence.