For three weeks, I have been on an on-call period of federal jury duty service. Every Sunday night I call the juror hotline to see if I am needed, and so far the same recording has blasted through the phone each time, “you are NOT needed for jury service at this time, please call back next Sunday.” I’ve been bummed every time, seeing as how my on-call period ends after six weeks. This past Sunday night however, I was greeted with ultra-robotic reporting instructions as opposed to a deferral, and I was incredibly excited.
Excited? Jury duty?
Yes, extremely excited. To be honest, I’ve never really understood the whining and complaining about jury duty. UNLESS:
1. Your job will not be paying you while you miss work
2. You have to drive a long distance and maybe even spend the night in another city in order to fulfill your duty
3. You feel so terrified at the thought of someone else’s fate being in your hands, you succumb to anxiety attacks and long bouts of debilitating diarrhea
Other than that, what’s the big deal? As cheesy as it sounds, I think it is a true privilege and honor to be able to participate in a process that is so sacred and crucial to our justice system and nation. I would take being a juror very seriously, as I imagine all do once they are actually put on a case and see the stakes firsthand. I simply cannot understand the people who despise the thought of jury duty because it disrupts their daily routine for one freaking day (or a few more if you are actually put on a case).
I lucked out, circumstantially. I live 5 miles from the federal court house and my work will pay me for the days I’m out due to jury duty. On Sunday night, I spent a ridiculous amount of time Googling things like “how can I increase my chances of being selected for jury duty” and “what to wear to jury duty.” Sure, the pamphlet included with my jury duty summons said I could wear jeans, and pretty much anything as long as it didn’t display profanity or obscene pictures, but I wanted to know what to wear to get picked.
Yes, I know you can’t actually do anything to get picked other than answer the questions and hope you fit the criteria they need, but I did read some interesting tips online, some of them from the mouths (fingers) of attorneys:
- What I’ve heard from friend who are attorneys is that they’re looking for people who are very even keeled, not overly reactive (but not deadpan) about the questions answered and be very, very clear that you RESERVE ALL JUDGMENTS UNTIL THEY ARE PROVEN. Also, dress well and don’t speak to other jury contestants – a trial lawyer friend says that he likes to eliminate the chatty people as soon as quickly, since they can sway a jury with incessant chattering and they want the jury to blend into the background
- If you look like you’re uninterested, one of the attorneys may choose to strike you for that reason.
- Don’t come across as a “leader.” Lawyers are looking to see who will lead the conversation in jury deliberations, and to make sure they swing their way.
- Don’t dress too well. Unless you are middle-aged or older, showing up in a suit is going to mark you out for unfavorable attention on all sides.
On Monday morning, I carefully plotted out my day at the court house with suggestions from multiple websites. I wore jeans and a sweater, nothing too professional looking. I wore light makeup, styled my hair, and wore my glasses to “look smarter.” I took a seat next to a woman in the juror waiting room who was of a different race than me (this was actually not planned, but after realizing it I figured it couldn’t hurt. We hadn’t seen the defendant yet but just in case he was of a different race, may as well not show any race preference). I exchanged a few words with the lady at my table, and then buried my nose in a book to not seem too chatty. I unfortunately often posses perma-bitchface so I purposefully raised my eyebrows as often as possible and lifted the corners of my mouth in attempt to look interested and happy to be there.
I located all of the security cameras in the jury waiting room. I pictured the lawyers on the other end watching the jurors closely and marking big X’s over our faces if we socialized too much or looked too intense. I tried my hardest to look neutral, semi-intelligent, and impressionable- sounds like I was trying REALLY hard, right? Looking back, there’s absolutely no way I looked even slightly natural sitting in that juror waiting room. Nobody can try so hard and look good. In reality, I was probably looking something like this:
Little did I know that my clothes, answers to the attorney’s questions, and overall demeanor would have nothing to do with my eligibility to be a juror that day. It was basically decided before I even entered the courtroom that I would not be selected for that particular case. I was juror number 63, meaning there had to be 62 jurors sent out of the box in order for me to even get INTO the box to be questioned. No chance. When we realized this, my bench mate and I created a game of “who’s going to get voted off juror island?” and would stifle our giggles as people we pegged “NRA member” or “has a relative that is a cop” were voted off juror island for those exact reasons.
I actually wasn’t too far off from being called into the box. I sat in the courtroom for several hours as each individual potential juror was asked a slew of questions, and one after another was sent away and another pulled up. The whole questioning process took about 10 minutes each time someone new was pulled into the box. Talk about tedious. If asked, I could probably repeat the whole line of questions right here right now. We got up to juror number 50 or so before the 12 members of jury and 2 alternates were decided on by the two attorneys and judge.
Even though I spent my entire day in court and wasn’t able to sit on the trial, I’m really glad I had the experience. Yes, people were bitching that they couldn’t have their smart phones and they were bored, but I thought it was a really unique and fascinating experience. I finished the book I was reading (Jaycee Dugard’s memoir, very interesting), I met several new people, I got to sit in an absolutely beautiful courthouse that I thought only existed on TV, complete with red carpeting and vaulted ceilings, and I got to be a small part of a very big, well-oiled machine.
Hope is not lost for Juror #63, though. I have to call in the next three Sunday’s and there is actually a pretty good chance I’ll have to go back to the court house for another day of jury selection. Maybe I’ll get lucky and get put on a trial that lasts weeks. A girl can dream, right?
Now to work on my perma-bitchface that doesn’t resemble someone with slight emotional/mental/physical disabilities.