Somewhere on or about March 6th, I reported to the Riverside County courthouse to fulfill my jury duty summons obligation. I was just released from my jury duty as of this past Friday afternoon. What an experience. This was my very first time to be selected for a jury, and serve on a case. Now I’m not going to discuss the case or its particulars, but I do want to share my court “experience” with all of you.
I had never stepped into a courtroom until I was in the process of being selected and questioned as a potential juror. The judge was very particular about letting anyone be dismissed for hardship reasons. If you were helping your Mom pay the bills she requested that you re-arrange your work schedule. If you had a Dr. appointment she would flex the court calendar around you. If you were a Domestic Goddess, like me you were definitely staying. So my new identity these past few weeks became juror #8.
The process of seating the jury of 12, plus 2 alternates was quite intriguing to me. The lawyers are basically filling the jury slots like a well orchestrated stage play. They want the people with specific types of “life experiences”. I believe the process of the final jury being vetted and seated took a day and a half.
The witness list for this case was quite long, and so we began. The judge was very concise with her instructions, and made the process very easy to understand. But I was definitely not prepared for the plethora of information I was about to digest. After the second or third day of testimony I was asking myself how am I going to remember any specific details of importance. You are able to take any notes that you need to during the trial, but the notebook never leaves the court room.
The witness testimony is a story all on its’ own. I had not realized that the witness questioning could bounce back and forth between the lawyers so many times. Direct testimony, cross testimony, re-direct testimony, re-cross testimony. It’s like watching a tennis match. That’s when the digestion of the information becomes the most difficult. Once the witness testimony is complete the lawyers can call rebuttal witnesses, and then they give their closing statements. Once closing statements are complete the deliberations begin.
The jury is escorted by a sheriff’s deputy to the deliberation room, which is well equipped with comfy chairs, a round table, and bathrooms. A jury foreman is selected and the deliberations are underway. A review of the evidence (both physical and witness testimony), a review of the charge and the penal code that applies to the charge. All of these items are taken into account to determine a verdict. In our case the jury was hung, and a mistrial was declared. The lawyers discussed our decision with us after the end of the trial, and whether or not a second trial is held we will never know.
For myself, I know that my civil service, and the time served on the jury is the most rewarding and mind-boggling thing I have experienced in a long time. But it also reiterates the fact that we live a country full of freedoms, and that we have a unique system of due process. I told my twenty-somethings that I think each of them should have to serve on a jury. It gives you a whole new perspective, and more appreciative level of respect for the law and the justice system. When you receive your next jury summons, try not to say, “ugh”, and dread your time at the courthouse. Be appreciative, and know that you are serving the freedoms of your country.