For those of you following my Blog, this post is on a subject completely unrelated to business law: What to expect while serving on a jury. While some of you may be wondering why on earth is she talking about this, the answer is easy. Yours truly is serving on a two-day criminal trial. While I cannot talk about the specifics of a trial, should you end up in a position similar to mine, you may appreciate knowing what the process is.
In most counties, the morning begins with the potential jurors assembling in a room waiting for their numbers or names to be called. Some of them are dressed up in suits and dresses (typically those that are older), others show up in jeans. The first thirty minutes to an hour (or more) may be boring waiting for your number to be called or for you to be dismissed. During this time they go over the basics – how much you get paid, parking info, etc.
If your number (or name) is called, you proceed with a group of people to a courtroom. The judge will give you some basic info and begin the process of voir dire. During voir dire, you (and the rest of your peers on the potential jury) will be asked a number of questions. First comes the statutory disqualifications. Do you have medical problems? Do you live in the county you were called to serve in? Are you related to the parties or witnesses in the case? Are you involved in a different proceeding with any of the parties or witnesses in the case? Have you been in the past? In addition, you may be asked if you know any of the parties, witnesses, court personnel, or attorneys. Depending on your answer you may be disqualified without any further questions (i.e. you live in a different county) or stay on for further voir dire (check my blog tomorrow for more info and a funny story about this once the case is over).
After the judge goes through statutory disqualifications, the real work begins. You will be asked lots of questions (i.e. what you do, whether you have served on a jury, etc) by both the judge and the attorneys. The attorneys will probably ask specific questions to find out if you are prejudiced against either side in any way (i.e. if it is a domestic violence case, if you have been the victim of domestic violence). After several hours, depending on the number of potential jurors, the attorneys and judge will meet privately to determine who both attorneys would like to dismiss (for example someone that has a religious conflict of interest). The preemptory challenges, those that are done by only one side, may be done privately but usually are done publically. If you are dismissed, it does not mean you are a bad person just that the attorney disqualifying you was afraid you would go against his or her client (i.e. you stated you think all police officers are liars so the district attorney disqualifies you). After this, the jury is whittled down to the correct number plus an alternate or two and the case begins.
The case is pretty much just like on TV, both sides try to prove their side. However, unlike on TV, you get to break several times and for lunch. You cannot discuss the case with anyone except to say you are on a jury (like I did above) until the case is finished. And with that, I am off to bed to be awake for the rest of the trial tomorrow and can’t wait to blog about the full experience!!!