I had the pleasure of being on a jury this year.
They get prospective jurors from the DMV/voter registration rolls, and lo and behold...I get this notice in the mail. Except that I never opened it until the actual time for jury duty was less than a week away.
So, I called up and told them I was going to be out of town, and the lady was "nice" enough to push back my time until dates in February. So, in January I get another notice, and again, put off sending the questionnaire back.....until I read the fine print that says," If you don't send this back within 5 days, you will automatically be picked to serve on a jury."
Needless to say, I was mortified.
On the date, I took my juror badge from the letter, and headed to Walnut Creek Superior Court, where I gathered with about 90 other people hoping NOT to get picked. There was a TV
in the room, but mostly it was just reading outdated magazines. Kind of like being at the doctor's office.
A judge came into the room and gave this offbeat "stand-up comedy" routine about serving on a jury, we watched a video on how "wonderful" it was to serve on a jury in California, then we all went up to the courtroom to sit in much more comfortable chairs. Of course, since I hadn't sent in my questionnaire on time, I was one of the first 12 people picked for questioning.
And question they did. In the jury box. Boy, everyone was trying their damndest to get off of that jury! Doctors, nurses, housewives, accountants...you name it, people from all walks of life were bitching about how this TWO-DAY
trial would create such a hardship for them. It was also a domestic violence trial, so everyone cries about that proverbial 'one relative' who was beaten and that they couldn't POSSIBLY be fair in such a trial.
This went on for 3 hours, with both defense and prosecution asking endless questions, especially to those people who were trying to get booted. After both sets of lawyers had exhausted their limited strikes of jurors, we got underway immediately. We heard all the evidence that afternoon, and then got recessed for the day.
The next day we had just a couple of hours of "lawyer talk," along with closing statements, then we adjourned to the isolated jury room for deliberations. The judge had given us explicit instructions on what law applied, and that we COULD NOT exercise judicial activism, i.e. we couldn't let the guy go just because we thought he was cute.
If you've ever seen the movie, "12 Angry Men," the atmosphere was really quite the same. You have 12 people with their own points of view on what evidence they had heard, as well as who they did or didn't believe on the stand. It took a couple of hours, along with a few explosive temper outbursts from some of the younger jurors, until we found the guy guilty of battering his girlfriend.
The judge profusely thanked us for our time, and told us that we could stay during the sentencing portion of the trial if we wanted, or we could talk to the lawyers after the trial about how persuasive (or incompetant) they were. We all opted just to get the hell out of there.
It was kind of strange, almost sad, to say goodbye to the other jurors because we had been together arguing and laughing. Pretty intense emotional stuff going on, and now we were just going our separate ways. I'm really glad I was selected, because it was very fascinating to me.