ShaneHalbach.com

Jury Duty Part I – Jury Selection

As some of you are aware, I have spent the last couple of weeks doing my civic duty.

I have never been called for jury duty before, and I have to admit, at first I was a teensy bit excited. It was sort of like a holiday, with a chance of peeking behind the curtain a little bit on the judicial process. I really wasn’t worried about having to actually serve on the jury; nobody ever gets picked.

First off, you have to call the night before to see if you have to show up or not, and I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t have to show up. Of course, I did have to show up, but surely I would sit in the room all day long and never be called like everybody else I’ve ever spoken to about jury duty. My number was the first called, and within 15 minutes of arrival, I was on an elevator up to a court room.

Interestingly, when we arrived in the court the judge informed us, “I have good news and bad news; the good news is that just by showing up today, you’ve decided this case. The case is closed. However, the bad news is you’ll have to go back down and wait again in the jury room.”

SURELY that would be my closest brush with the law, and I would spend the rest of the day languishing in the waiting room. Nobody gets called up once, much less twice!

About 15 minutes later I was back on the elevator. “This trial is scheduled for 2 1/2 weeks,” the bailiff informed us, “so if you have any commitments, you’d better speak up. Once you’re picked, there’s no getting out if it.”

The jury selection was very interesting. They called up 12 people into the jury box and questioned them, eliminating anybody with even a hint of conflict of interest. I was kind of surprised at how many people had conflicts of interest. In fact, they read us the list of plaintiffs, defendants and potential witnesses and asked if any of us recognized the names. A gentleman in the second row stood up and said, “Yes. I work for an insurance agency reviewing malpractice cases, and I reviewed this case.” Boom. Now that’s how you get off a jury.

Of course, I’m pretty sure that some of the excuses were made up, just to get off the jury. At first that bothered me, but then I decided that everybody knew they were lying, so everybody’s happy: they get off the jury, and the judge gets rid of dishonest people that shouldn’t be on the jury anyway.

There were at least 50 potential jurors in there, so I felt fairly confident that a jury would be picked before it was my turn to go up. Therefore, I was in the next group called up.

Some of the questions they asked potential jurors made sense, but a lot of them didn’t. “Do you have pets? Do you like puzzles? Have you ever had any bumper stickers?” I was asked this last one. “Well,” I replied, “in college I had a Dave Matthews bumper sticker…” Oh how they all had a good laugh over that one. It’s his stupid question, and I don’t really see why my answer was any more ridiculous than anybody else’s answer. That’s the bumper sticker I had! Why ask the question if you don’t want an honest answer?

After a few more questions, they dismissed one of the potential jurors and moved on to the next group. I sat there with a stupid smile slowly fading from my face. I hadn’t been dismissed. Wait a minute, that means I’m selected!

Until that moment, I still never thought I’d be picked, and certainly I’d never thought I’d be signed up for such a big commitment. I just sat there in horror as I realized how much this was going to disrupt my life. How was I going to get Evie to school, manage at work, etc.? Our life is only possible by having such a routine, and now that was totally disrupted.

The trial started at 9 a.m. the next day, but I think it literally took days for me to emerge from my fugue. It’s like my mind kept sliding off the issue every time I tried to think about it. It was a such a colossal disaster that I couldn’t wrap my mind about it. Shell-shocked is the only way to describe it.

However, every time I started in on “woe is me”, I would think if not me, who? There’s nobody who wouldn’t have some sort of commitment over the span of 2 1/2 weeks. What makes me so special that I should get out of it?

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