Friday, February 11, 2011

Civic Duty...

Someone likes me… well I should say the court system seems to like me. I have received a jury summons many times in my life. I only “got out of it” one time and that was when I was undergoing my chemo treatments. After many times of receiving the summons and dutifully calling in each day I have now gone the approach of selecting a day to appear. I don’t remember that being offered when I lived in New York State but in California in Orange County it is an option.

I had to appear on Monday. I have to say they are really pretty organized here. After only about an hour of checking everyone in they started calling jurors. The first case was for a month… whew missed that one. I think they called two other cases and then my name was called.

I sat through a few hours of questioning prospective jurors… lunch time I was still not selected. After lunch they quickly agreed on all twelve jurors. Whew… But now they had to select alternates. They only had to select two, they randomly called a bunch of numbers (we now were only known as numbers no names anymore) that were allowed to go… their service was completely for another year at least. Of course my number was not called. Literally they went through about 5 of the remaining people who gave excuses as to why they could not serve. I have to say that some of the excuses are really LAME. I guess the one that gets me the most is the “I can not speak English well”. Anyway… one seat left… another number called… you guessed it MY NUMBER. I knew before I got up to the jury box that their jury was complete. I think the judge asked me 3 questions and both lawyers agreed the jury.

I had been questioned a few times for different juries. I have been on a jury for manslaughter and it was declared a mistrial… that one really is frustrating because they do not tell you why. I was on a felony drug, DUI, possession charge. Guilty. I have now moved up to a Murder trial, but never as an alternate.

So we listened to all of the evidence over a few days and when the evidence was presented and the closing arguments complete, the 12 jurors entered the deliberation room. Myself and the other alternate were sent home but still could not discuss anything about the case. We were on call in case one of the jurors could not complete their duty. That is the frustrating part of being an alternate. The good thing is you get to go home earlier but the bad thing is that you do not have a vote in the outcome. The next day the Bailiff called me to tell me the decision had been reached. He informed me that my jury service was complete and thanked me again for my time. I was now able to discuss the case. He told me the verdict reached. Guilty. Another murderer will be off of the streets. The system does work.

I usually am not thrilled when I receive my summons, but I have to tell you each time I am selected, the process is intriguing. What evidence can be brought into the trial and what can not. Who takes the stand and how each side works. It makes me want to be a prosecutor. The judge tells us that during the trial you can not discuss the case with anyone and you can not do any research on anything involving the case. I understand that. In this case it was a really good idea at least for the defendant. When I googled him after the trial was over… I found out a lot of unsavory info on this guy. Not his first time at the dance so to speak. So hopefully he will be behind bars for a long time.

If you receive a summons in the mail and you really do not have a good reason not to go, my suggestion would be to go and do your civic duty. Watch the system at work. In this case the jury may have just saved some other innocent life from being taken.

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