Tuesday I reported to the Montgomery County Judicial Center to fulfill my civic responsibility as a juror. Here are ten things about that experience.
1. It rained that morning, so traffic was fucked. Of course, I had to be across the county by 8:30 am. I made it, but not by much.
2. The "Welcome to Jury Duty" orientation and video was good. Among other things, I learned that "voir dire" means "to see and to hear". (I already knew it, but what the hey. I'm sure there were folks who did not.)
3. The juror's lounge had free Wi-Fi. However, it was really slow and Twitter was blocked. Damn!
4. I got called to a courtroom shortly before noon. The courtroom was kind of small, but round, with comfy chairs.
5. The judge's first name was Durke. His last name was not Diggler. He explained everything to us again ("voir dire" means "to see and to hear"), told us that this was a criminal case, and introduced the people in the room. The defendant was accused of stealing three cars late last year. He reminded us, several times, that in our legal system an accused person is considered innocent until proven guilty, and it is up to the prosecution to prove its case. The defense does not have to do anything.
6. Voir dire (meaning "to see and to hear") took a long time. The judge asked the group (about 40 of us) a number of yes-or-no questions. If we could answer "yes", we had to stand, state our juror number, and tell why we answered yes. The judge would then ask a couple of follow up questions, one of which was always "Will this affect your ability to be fair and impartial and judge this case based on the evidence?"
7. I answered "Yes" to two questions. One was whether I or any member of my immediate family had a connection to law enforcement. (Hi SonnyeBoy!) The other was whether I or any member of my immediate had been a defendant, witness, or victim in a criminal proceeding.
8. Most of the folks who stood in answer to the second question said stuff like, "I've had my house burgled" or "My wallet was stolen." But if anyone did not feel comfortable explaining their "Yes" answer in front of the other prospective jurors, he or she could approach the bench and explain privately. A lot of folks did -- I suspected they were telling the judge that they'd been popped for DUI or something similar. I thought about doing that when I answered that second question, but then I decided that I was not ashamed of my answer and that people need to be aware that these things happen. So when the judge asked me what had happened, I said, "In 1972, I was gang raped." A couple people gasped. The judge was cool though. He allowed as how that was a serious crime; did I feel that it would affect...? I said, "No, I think I can be fair and impartial."
9. Then the first 12 prospective jurors were called up to sit in the jury box (which wasn't actually a box, just two rows of comfy chairs). Each of us had to stand, and the defense and prosecution got to decide to swear us as jurors or excuse us from service. The defense attorney didn't hesitate with me -- "Excused!" he said.
10. It was the easiest $15 bucks I'll ever make.