*This is a bit more of a personal post and it is longer than usual. Grab a late lunch, sit back, relax, and enjoy. ♡
When you turned eighteen was the first thought in your head, “Now I am eligible for jury duty”? No? Me either.
Little did I know that not too long after I would get a form to fill out from the court.
Little did I know that after that form was sent back in, that I would receive a little yellow paper summoning me for jury duty.
I laughed about it, everyone told me, “Oh they never call your number. You probably won’t even have to go in.”
Friday night I called. I was in the clear, I did not need to show up Monday.
Monday night, I made a mistake.
My mom and I spent the night in her salon creating this wonderful mermaid hair I now have. I said I wanted it subtle and pastel but hey… it is quite the conversation starter!
Okay, back to the point. I completely forgot to call to see if I needed to come in the next morning!
Tuesday morning I had my alarm set for class. I turned it off and decided, “I don’t need to go, I think I’ll just sleep in.” Tahlya woke me up not much later (so much for sleeping in), and we went about our routine. We went upstairs and I got her yogurt ready while she got the dog out of the kennel. We let him out and headed back down, yogurt and sippy cup in hand.
Right after I turned on cartoons and got Tahlya situated, I remembered. I had not called yet. It was 7:50 am.
I grabbed that little yellow paper, called the number, and chose option one. My number was among those called. I had to have heard that wrong. I listen as the automated woman repeated herself. Yup, my number was still in there. It was now less than ten minutes until 8:00 am. I needed to be all the way downtown in less than ten minutes and I had not even brushed my teeth. I looked that little yellow paper over again, I could be fined or go to jail if I did not show up. Does tardiness count?
Panic set in. I rushed upstairs, and yelled to my husband who was just getting ready to shower. Like the automated women on the phone, I had to repeat myself.
Next I ran downstairs (how I did not fall at some point I do not know). I brushed my teeth, brushed my hair, and threw on a dress. Luis was given duty to drop Tahlya off, I figured makeup could be half ass-ed in the car.
I hit traffic and called my mom sobbing, “Am I going to go to jail?” She talked me off of a panic attack there.
FINALLY I arrived just in time for them to call my name. Everyone was sitting in desks, raising their hand when their name was called. It felt like high school.
I had a little time to calm down. I made it in time to avoid the possibility of jail! *phew*
A tacky video was shown to the room of about one hundred of us. Previous jurors interviewed even admitted that jury duty was not on the top of their list of things they wanted to do. I had to laugh a bit at their, “We probably can’t convince you that you’ll love this so we will show you this video of people who are in the same boat as you because you really do not have much of a choice about being here” tactic.
To quote the women instructing us said, “The waiting game now begins”. The mass of us now had to wait for a bailiff (cop) to call us into their group, if we even got called at all.
I was in the second group called so I am not sure if anyone was left behind at that point, free to go home only a couple hours later.
The bailiff was a nice guy, he did not talk too much with any thirty five of us. I figure that his logic was that the majority of us would be sent home soon enough.
We were escorted into a court room with attorneys sitting at their table and the judge at his. We had to sit in a specific order so that they could keep track of who we were. I was placed on the second row, juror number seventeen.
We were told that this was a criminal case with the charges of aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping.
One by one all thirty five of us read off a paper and filled in the blanks for what fit us personally.
It went something along the lines of,
“My name is ____, I work at ____. I have completed ___ amount of schooling. My husband works at ___. My hobbies include ___. I have ___ many children and (if applicable) their occupations are ___. I do/do not subscribe to any magazines, newspapers, and/or periodicals. (if applicable) Those include ___.”
Am I missing anything? Maybe.
Anyways, after the judge asked things such as “Would you believe more/less from a testimony of a police officer?” “Have you or someone close to you been in a trial with these charges?” etc.
The attorneys then had the chance to ask any questions they had.
At this point we were excused and the attorneys spoke about us. I know the video explained exactly what they were doing but I honestly was not paying a ton of attention to the video. It did not exactly receive five stars.
We were invited back in and shortly after the judge began to read off the list. Four or five people in I heard, “Juror number seventeen”. I did not yet know that was my number but my name came immediately after. I stood up, feeling a little dizzy. Was it because I had not yet eaten or because I was suddenly in charge of decided if a man was guilty of a crime or not?
The last names were called. The eight of us were lead through a new door and the other twenty seven people were excused to go back to their normal lives. I am sure that they were relieved to be through with this and excused for the next two years. I could not decide if I was envious of those people or excited for what was about to happen.
Through the door we walked down a hallway and into the juror’s room. We sat in silence. The girl sitting across from me made a few feeble attempts at jokes. We were complete strangers feeling a bit awkward.
Finally we were brought in and a few instructions were read. The prosecutor and defendant went back and forth a couple times until we were all excused for lunch. At this point my mind was racing and I was unsure of who to believe. I walked all the way to the parking lot I paid four dollars for that morning (only to later find out that there was parking under the courthouse where I would not have to pay), and went to find some lunch. We did not have long so I found a sonic and ordered in a bit of a daze. I was brought back to reality when the girl bringing my food complimented my hair. (yay for mermaid hair)
Lunch time was just about up, I parked in the right parking garage this time and headed to our meeting point. The bailiff picked us up and walked us back to the juror’s room. We were getting a bit more friendly with each other.
We had a couple more witnesses speak, a couple more trips to the jurors room, a tray of cookies and chips, and the night was up. I went home leaning more toward the defendants side. The woman claiming to have been both attacked and kidnapped at knife point testified that afternoon and she seemed to be not completely there. I am probably not wrong in assuming that years of drug use is to blame.
The next morning I made it there bright and early, no way was I going to be late again. A new bailiff came to get us and boy was he a treat. He joked that while he usually prefers to come get us, he was in charge of watching a felon who was explaining his story of heroin use. Needless to say, he drew the short straw in having to come get us, this heroin user was quite an interesting fellow. Either way, us jurors were glad to have him. We could tell that he alone was going to make the day interesting.
In the juror’s room we were greeted with juices, coffee, muffins, and donuts. The courthouse does not provide lunch, or pay us well for being there, but they do a fine job of providing snacks!
Back in the courtroom we heard from four more witnesses including the defendants son. Things got a little emotional there for me. I had to stair at the wall because looking at either of them made my eyes well up with tears.
In between these four witnesses of course there were plenty of trips to the juror’s room where the eight of us were getting more friendly with each other. At one point we got excused lunch and they gave us a whole hour and a half. I went to a one of my favorite cafes downtown and drove around a bit looking for walls to bring Tahlya back to for picture backgrounds. (wow I have a problem)
Finally, deliberation. Beforehand we went through a list of around forty instructions to help us understand exactly what needed to be done and what certain court words meant. We were informed that guilty or not guilty of each charge was not our only options. Below “aggravated assault” we could also choose “assault” or “not guilty”. Below “aggravated kidnapping” we had a couple more options. “Kidnapping”, “unlawful detainment”, or “not guilty”. I will be honest, I walked into the juror’s room pretty set on what I believed the outcome should be even though I was urged to have an open mind.
Now let me tell you, I could write an entire blog post just as long as this one on deliberation. Crazy right? There is an older movie where the entire thing takes place in a juror’s room for deliberation. I have been instructed by a co-worker to watch it, especially after he heard how I felt in that room. It is called “12 Angry Men”, has anyone seen it? Don’t spoil it!
Sorry I am getting off track, no wonder this post is so damn long.
We walked in and there was a moment of silence. Then, a sigh of relief. We were not allowed to speak of this to anyone for the past two days, now we could. The man at the far end of the table was voted to check off the charges on this paper and sign it, his new job has a name but again, I did not pay attention to the tacky instructional video.
Before deliberation began I assumed that I would probably stay pretty quiet. That is just the type of girl I am. At least, the type of girl I use to be. I seem to forget that in the past couple years I have mostly shed that “quiet girl” skin. I quickly found myself speaking up quite frequently.
Frustration. I remember feeling that. I seemed to be the only one here truly fighting for the defendant. Was I emotionally attached to the defendant and was my judgement clouded from that? Or… was I the only one seeing things as it truly was? I understand that this man was not perfect but he seemed to be a lot more truthful than the women making claims against him.
We were a bit all over the place at first but decided to start on the aggravated assault charge. This was where it got a little messy. We all agreed that there was simply not enough evidence that the knife supposedly used even exists. However, I seemed to be the only one who thought that he was not even guilty of assault. I sure fought for that.
We took a bit of a pause and wandered over to the aggravated kidnapping charge. We unanimously agreed that it was not aggravated kidnapping or even kidnapping. He was most certainly guilty of unlawful detainment. Of course we did the round-a-bouts and discussed every possibility of it being otherwise but we all knew we were right. There was plenty of evidence of unlawful detainment.
Now back to the assault or not guilty tug of war. I was still fighting strong for not guilty. Slowly I came a point where I was wobbling back and forth. I had brought two others with me. Finally the juror in the black leather jacket made a great point. The three of us agreed that yes, we should charge the defendant with assault. I was not completely happy with the decision but that in no way meant that I was not agreeing with it. Again comes in the idea that my judgement may have been clouded. I really will never know.
We looked at the clock, only an hour had passed. Nice! The sweet old man sitting next to me would make it to his Christmas party and we would all be on the road before five o’clock traffic!
One knock from our side of the door was the bailiff’s signal that we were done. I could not help but wonder if he had to stand outside the door the entire time. (probably, right?)
We all walked down the hall and lined up in the order of how we had been sitting the past two days on the other side of the door. The door to the courtroom opened and solemnly we made our way to our seats. What looked like just a normal paper being carried in, really held a mans fate. It was handed to the bailiff and then to the judge. I believe he may have asked us if this was correct but I was a bit lightheaded. The charges were read off. I looked at no one but the judge.
The defendants attorney said that if we (the jury) would like to, both he and the prosecuting attorney’s would love to speak to us. We then left the courtroom for the final time. There was not one of us in that group of eight who wanted to talk to anyone anymore. We had made our decision and there was no need to explain the why’s of it.
Finally, almost two whole days later, we were excused as the twenty seven others had been before.
We said our goodbyes to each other. One woman made the remark, “You will all forever be my jury family.” That I agree with, the eight of us were all very different people from very different walks of life but we shared the same experience together.
What a unique experience jury duty was. I probably took it more seriously and felt more emotional than anyone else but I cannot help it. That is just who I am.
I guess this is not necessarily a one size fits all “what to expect” type of post. You may never be chosen to be on a jury and that is definitely not a bad thing. You may also be chosen for a civil case instead, or a criminal case completely different from this. You likely will not take it to heart the way I have, but even without my knowledge of what the fancy words are for what we did, you now know a little more how it goes. No, it is nothing like the movies, I can promise you that.
I will probably never see those seven other jury members again. It is likely that I also will never see the attorneys, defendant, judge, bailiffs, or witnesses ever again either but they have all become a forever part of my life.