Jury Duty: Judgment Day (well, almost)

Posted on 08 Mar 2011 at 4:51pm

PART ONE

I get called for jury duty a lot. Like, way too much. The last time was about a year ago. I get called at least once every two years. I know tons of people who have never been called. I am not opposed to serving on a jury, though there never seems to be a good time to get involved in a long trial. That’s why I have some advice I give to people: If you can, go to criminal court for trials instead of civil. Criminal cases tend to be shorter. They tend to settle more often when there is a threat of a jury trial. And they can very well be more interesting.

On Monday, I had to report for jury duty. You can always choose to simply show up to a different court than you are called for (if you are called to civil, you can just go to criminal — it still counts), but I was called for criminal courts. Crowley building. Right next to Lew Sterrett.

I will tell you, the ugliest people in the world — and this is true everywhere — are at a courthouse. I swear, pick and 10 people at random, and you probably couldn’t count 100 teeth among them. And I am not talking just about the defendants — not at all. The jurors are ugly. The witnesses are ugly. The victims. The lawyers and court staff and bailiffs… it’s like a convention of the undateable. All the time. Criminal or civil. It’s the main reason why I stopped practicing law.

But this was gonna be OK, low beauty quotient aside.

It’s hard to have a plan when you are up for jury duty, but there are some factors that can often help you predict how your day will go: Criminal over civil is one. Having a high juror number is never a bad thing (they take jurors up to courts in order), although it’s far better to be a high number within a group — jurors are seated in order, too, so if you are on the low end of the field you have a better chance of getting reached. But even that’s not set in stone.

Still, I was relieved as I listened Monday morning to the groupings: 1 through 236. 244 through 455. 471 through 1201. My group: 1220 through 1604. Awesome: My number was 1580. That means I was near the end of the pool — I’d be sitting in the back row.

My prediction proved correct. Of the 70 jurors that fit within that group, I was no. 66. No chance they’d ever get to me. I mean, even with both sides getting ten strikes (where they can bump jurors for any reason or for no reason at all, just a “feeling”), they’d only reach the back row if there were a lot of strikes for cause. And why would there be many strikes for cause? I mean, what kind of case was this gonna be anyway? Assault? Theft by check? Big whoop.

Only it was a capital murder case. And that changed everything.

Part Two tomorrow.

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