Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tour of (Jury) Duty Over

A month or so ago, I received the dreaded jury summons in the mail. Last Thursday, my time was up and I went in to the Vista courthouse to do my civic duty. Apparently, that consists mainly of sitting around for long periods of time, doing nada.

As luck would have it, there were two people I knew who also were summoned for the same day - a neighbor and a friend whom I hadn't seen in quite some time. We three talked for most of the morning, sharing stories of our life, catching up with what had happened recently, etc. All in all, it was the best experience I've had in a jury lounge so far.

Shortly before lunch, they informed all of us that they had one other trial that needed a pool of potential jurors for the day, and that if our name was not on the list, then we were excused for the day. As a lack of luck would have it, my name was on the list, as was my friend's. My neighbor, on the other had, got a free pass to head back home. Lucky bastige!

So we went to lunch, then came back and waited some more in the jury lounge. I had hoped that they would get started right after lunch (1:30), but we were not seated in the court room until 3:30. Ug! I was potential juror number 45 out of 47, so I just listened to the judge and attorney while they focused on the first 20 jurors.

If you have never gone through the process, I will tell you that it is somewhat interesting. The potential jurors are asked general questions by the judge (usually involving answering some kind of questionnaire), followed up by questions from both attorneys. In general, these questions are asked to see if any of the people should be dismissed for cause. That is, dismissed because the person would not be able to provide an equal footing for both the prosecution and defense. Since this case involved the alleged molestation of a child, you can imagine that there were several people who fell in this category.

Thursday ended with only the first 20 people questioned, so court was adjourned for the day and we were told to report back on Monday (the Vista courthouse is closed on Fridays) for further selection.

So I went back Monday, and the process continued. After dismissals for cause, the prosecution and defense also have a set number of dismissals that they can use at their own discretion, for any reason whatsoever. Perhaps it's a gut feeling, or it has something to do with the answers given to the questions posed previously.

By the time they arrived at the back row (where I was seated) which held potential jurors 41 through 47, the 12 seats had been filled with only the two alternated juror seats remaining open. Then, I was finally questioned (with the others), and as expected - I was not selected. Have a sister who is a DDA in superior court downtown probably has something to do with it, plus my uncle who is a city attorney for Anaheim, and an aunt who is an ex-probation officer. That, and the fact that I have three young children probably doesn't endear me to the defense in the least.

Perhaps someday I'll be able to sit on a jury and see what the process is like in one of those twelve seats. Until then, I'll just keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting...

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