Jury Duty: two words that are dreaded by almost every citizen that gets a notice in mail with their name on it.
Yes, it’s inconvenient to be a juror. It is however, everyone’s civic duty and it is extremely important part of our justice system.
Some of you have been called in as jurors, even served as jurors. Most of you probably didn’t want to be there and had better things to do. Those who have actually served as jurors usually have a great experience after doing so. I wouldn’t know myself because Law Enforcement Officers are exempt from most jury service. I say most and not all because some of my partners have served in civil cases.
Ok, now imagine my point of view as Bailiff. Try dealing with a courtroom full of people who didn’t want to be there in the first place.
I’ve been a Bailiff for a few years now and have worked more jury trials than I can remember. You get good groups and every now and then, you get some bad groups.
Here’s some examples through my experiences:
Cell phones- never fails, after numerous warnings that I give to have them silenced, there is always at least one that goes off while we’re in session.
Tardiness- some jurors seem to lose track of time and will show up late from a break, holding up the trial because everyone needs to be present to continue. In some rare occasions, there are some that decide not to return and they get a nice arrest warrant with their name on it.
Luggage- you’d think that some of these jurors were going on vacation or camping with all of the bags, backpacks and sometimes suitcases that they take with them.
Destroying court documents- this happened once a few trials back; these jurors decided to rip apart a question form that they had, which was a clearly stamped court document! I had to dig the shreds out of the trash bin and the clerk had to tape the puzzle pieces back together.
Sleeping- I don’t blame any juror for falling asleep. Some testimony could be dry and just plain boring, especially when it comes to DUI trials with the crime lab tech testifying about BAC’s and so forth. I usually calmly wake them up and it’s usually not a problem after that.
Attitude- Everyone’s time is important to them but jury service is important too. How one goes about it will dictate their jury duty experience. A few have just terrible attitudes the moment they walk in until the time they’re dismissed.
There are really too many other behaviors that jurors exhibit.
What I’m here to say is that Jury Duty isn’t as bad as it seems.
Here are some facts:
A lot of jury trials actually resolve before they start. Jurors have to be ordered in advance and when there are actual jurors waiting in the assembly room, either the prosecution or defense will ultimately decide whether they have a good case or a strong enough defense and may decide to make a compromising agreement. The jurors are then dismissed before they ever walk into a courtroom and are free of jury service for a year.
The attorneys do not want a juror that doesn’t want to be there. They want someone that they believe will be fair, impartial and that will pay attention to the case. So there is a likelihood that most people won’t fit into that and will be dismissed by either side.
Jurors that get assigned to the case for the most part, have a good experience being jurors after the case is over with.
In my personal opinion, our justice system isn’t perfect, but it’s the best system out there and I believe that jurors get it right most of the time. They hear all of the evidence in the case and none are biased to either side. In criminal cases, they have to agree unanimously to either find someone guilty or not guilty. A few cases are hung and the prosecution has to then decide to retry the case or not. Our system is a fair as it can be and it doesn’t work without jurors.

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