A Case of the Civic Duties

In mid-June, I received a Juror Summons from The Great County of Prince George for August 14th.  They requested that I fill out the paperwork and send it in so they could input me into their system. There were also instructions to call the evening before to see if I had to go in at all.

Now I know that most people have no interest in jury duty. There are great sitcom moments and stories of how people get out of serving. I, however, was interested in serving. I hadn’t done it before and was curious. I suppose it helped that I get excused, paid leave for doing it.

I called the evening before and was told to report to the courthouse in the morning. I went ahead and looked at the rules to see what all I could bring. While they do not allow iPods, they do allow laptops and cell phones, both of which play music. Not sure why iPods are not allowed. There was also the rule about contraband, including weapons and drugs, not being allowed in the courthouse unless they are evidence. That seems self-evident and common sense, but it was nice of them to spell it out. The very next rule explicitly forbid PCP. I figured that was covered in ‘no illegal drugs,’ but whatever. I went ahead and just brought my hard-copy book and my cellphone. No other things, well I did pack lunch.

I got myself to the courthouse at around 0715 and the jury pool was let in at about 0730. We all filed in and through security. Security. That was where I was amazed at people’s inability to follow directions, but it was the same as when going through security at the airport. But anyways, we all went up to the jury holding tank.
The jury holding tank was actually nice. There was WiFi and a ton of chairs and an area with tables. I took a table and started my book. The whole thing kicked off at 0800. Apparently, the 0730 time was just so that people would not be late. I hate that they have to do that because I was there early and then I find out that the end of the day could be as late as 1630. Bah.

Orientation started up and it was actually very interesting. The Clerk of the County Court gave a nice “Why being a juror is important” speech that was entertaining and well delivered. She then turned it over to Miguela, who was also very nice, for the rules and what to expect. I learned the following:

  • We could take seven minute breaks that took us out of the room. There were restrooms and a snack area in the jury area, so it was for people to go out and smoke or to walk around and stretch their legs. We could take as many seven minute breaks as we wanted, but we had to come back and check in every seven minutes. I’m not sure why seven was the numbers. Seemed like they should have gone with something round, like ten.
  • Not that anyone had, but we were not allowed to leave the court to go shopping at Target. If we did this and were apprehended, the defense of ‘I thought it was a free day,’ will not keep the judge from becoming extremely irate.
  • Not that anyone had, but fresh marijuana leaves with a grinder will not make it through security as ‘air freshener.’
  • Not that anyone had, but using a phone to take pictures of jury members, court officials, and court proceedings is not well received. The bailiff can take your phone. Forever.
  • Not that anyone had, but you should not remain in the jury if you know someone involved in the case. If you hug the defendant during a break, all hell will break out. There will be a mistrial.
  • Not that anyone had, but if you find out that the person being investigated while you are serving on a grand jury is your neighbor you should not call them and mute your phone so they can hear the proceedings. There will be a mistrial. It will cause the creation of a rule requiring all cell phones to be turned over to the bailiff while you are serving.
  • The TVs in the jury room will not be changed. Not that there had ever been cause to call in the sheriffs when Redskins fans and Cowboys fans got into a fist fight, but they want to avoid that.
  • Not that anyone had, but when you received your group card, you should not argue about having things to do and, when told that everyone has things to do, proceed to exit the courthouse, throw the card into the bushes and leave. The sheriff department will be called. They will find you. They will bring you back and the judge will be angry, possibly enough to fine you.

After being informed of some of the rules, we were all handed color coded cards with a number and told if they were civil or criminal cases. This was how they ID’ed the different pools. Groups were called by color when the judge wanted them and they were required to line up by number. This was where it was evident that some people cannot count. Then the lines were led away by the bailiff.

I drew a civil case and was number 18. Sadly, my group was not called until almost 1130. While waiting, I read 260 pages of my 340 page book. I was a bit afraid of running out of book when they finally called us. The case we were being interviewed for was a gentleman suing PG for police brutality. They only needed six jurors out of the 40, so my odds were slim. After answering the questions, I was pretty sure I was out. I was. Actually, the people they picked were ones that really didn’t answer much for anything. I was a little sad about not being chosen, I would have liked to follow it through to the end and the judge said that the case would probably be done by the end of the day.

I did not get out until late because of the late start. I also did not collect the $15 stipend, but that was because I did not want it. Well, not so much that. I really did not need $15 and they had a Generous Juror program where you could just allow the stipend to go to the foster program. I went ahead with that.

Although I am off the hook for three years, I would do it again sooner. Granted, I don’t want to do it all the time, but I would like to do it and go all the way through the process and sit on a case or on a grand jury. I suppose eventually, I will get another summons and maybe then I will be able to do it.

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