Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Tale of Jury Duty

Hi, it's Trevor to bring you another tale of Brenda's life. This time, is going to be about her recent experience as a juror.

She was summoned to report to her county district courthouse on June 2, 2016 at 8:30 a.m. She had to call in the night before, to make sure that the trial was still scheduled. She found out that it was and where she would need to report the following morning.

So on the morning of June 2, 2016, she arrived at the courthouse in plenty of time, as she did not want to be late. This was a new experience for Brenda. She had been summoned for jury duty before, but the cases had always settled out of court. She was a bit apprehensive, as this was completely out of her realm of comfort.

When she arrived, the first thing she had to do was to have her purse scanned. No buzzers went off, so she was free to go upstairs to the 3rd floor. Brenda told me that one of the great things about this was, that the weather was perfect, as she walked the mile to the courthouse and then during the day, climbed those stairs several times. It was great exercise for her rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and also was great stimulation for her brain.

She entered the courtroom, and was completely surprised. It reminded her of a church, as there were benches where she would be seated, along with the other perspective jurors, that reminded her of pews.

Very ornate architecture. It reminded her, of when she toured Mayo Clinic, back in 1988, as it was the same, in some ways. So there were a few people there already. I guess they didn't want to be later either.

Brenda had to take off work for this. It is required by law, that your employer lets you perform this duty, if you are selected. In Brenda's case, it would be two days. More on that later.

When they got ready to start, they all had to rise, in respect to the judge, who had entered the room. They were then, asked to be seated. It was beginning now. Brenda was in awe of this whole experience, but never in her wildest dreams, did she imagine that she would be called to the jury box, be interviewed and then selected as a juror, but she was.

To backtrack a bit, the Defense Attorney and Assistant State's Attorney, introduced themselves. The defendant was also in the courtroom. Sorry, I got a little off course there. BOL

If you were called to the jury box, the first thing you did was state your name and tell a little about your background. In Brenda's case, it was her name, how long she's been living in her present city, where she was employed and for how long, and that she was single. The judge proceeded to ask her, what she did at her present job.

She was then interviewed by both the Defense Attorney and the Assistant State's Attorney. One of the first questions was if she was going to be bothered by the nature of this case? She said no. She figured she had gotten this far, she was going to go full steam ahead. When the Defense Attorney questioned her, she felt like she was being cross examined. She stuck to her guns and said before, she would be able to make a decision on whether the defendant would be guilty or not guilty, she would have to weigh all the evidence. Apparently, that was the right thing to say. She and some of the other jurors were told that they were selected and to go back to the room, where they would end up deliberating after the trial had ended.

This room had a large table and chairs all around. It was really quite nice. There were all kinds of snacks on the table. They were even told they could help themselves, to coffee, bottled water or pop, that was stored in the fridge.

One of the first things that they were told, was that they could contact anyone, if they needed to do so. Brenda had to call two people. She was to be filling in for another department during the noon hour, but it was obvious, that this was not going to happen. She also called her department to let them know, that she would not be back until Monday, as it was going to be a two day trial.

So the rest of the jurors were selected, including an alternate, in the event that one of them would not be able to come the next day, for one reason or another. Being there was an alternate, they were told that one of them, would probably not be deliberating with the others, as there are only 12 on a jury. They had no idea who that would be, but it had already been decided.

So when all the jurors were selected, they all came back to the jury box to begin the trial. Opening statements were given, by both the Assistant States Attorney and Defense Attorney, to give them some background, as to how this case was going to go. They recessed for lunch, were told not to talk to anyone about this case and not to loiter in the courthouse, but to come straight back to their room, before they would reconvene in the afternoon.

I can only imagine, how much fun this would have been, especially with all the objections, sustained and overruled that Brenda would get to hear. Yes, I love my lawyer programs. She told me, that it was nothing like Law and Order. BOL

So the afternoon court was now in session. This is when it began to really get intense. They listened to several testimonies. One was from a detective working on the case. Another one was an expert witness and this is where they had to look at many exhibits. It was pretty close to 4:00 p.m. when the judge said, that this was obviously going to take another day. So the jurors decided on the time and they were adjourned.

Brenda was pretty tired by the end of that day, but she managed to walk that mile home again. They were not to form any opinions or talk with anyone about this case, or even search the Internet, regarding details from this case.

The next morning she walked to the courthouse again and had her purse scanned. She knew where to go this time, as she told the person, when she came in, that she was one of the jurors from a trial that began yesterday.

Court began and it was at that time, that the alternate juror was announced and thanked for their service, and told that they could remain for the rest of the trial. It was the last juror who was selected. The only thing they were not able to do was to deliberate and help the others form their verdict.

So the next phase was to go on. There were no more witnesses, so it was time to hear the closing arguments from the Assistant States Attorney and then the Defense Attorney.

After the jurors heard both of those, they were instructed to go to the room to deliberate and to come back with a verdict.

All the evidence had now been given, so it was just a matter of looking at some of it again and coming to a conclusion, on how this was all going to play out.

First they elected a foreman or spokesperson, who would hand the verdict to the bailiff, when they again, entered the jury box. They next went through the checklist and they all agreed that everything was there. Next was to decide on a piece of evidence, that would help them make their decision on whether this defendant was guilty or innocent. It was an unanimous decision and the defendant was found guilty by all of the jurors. They went around the table, each giving their response.

They then entered the jury box and the verdict was handed to the bailiff, who in turn, handed it to the judge. A verdict of guilty was read. The Defense Attorney wanted a poll from each juror, so the judge asked each of the jurors, if this was their true verdict. They all responded again, with YES.

This was a difficult case in many aspects for Brenda, but at the same time, very rewarding as well. They even got to speak with the Assistant States Attorney after and were able to ask questions and now they were able to speak freely, so it turned out to be a great dialogue.

Brenda enjoyed this experience as a whole and has gained a new appreciation for the judicial system and how the whole process works.

This is Trevor until next time, This court is now adjourned! BOL