My Experience of Court Process through Jury Duty

It’s been a week since I wrote, so perhaps some of you may think that I have fallen off the edge of the earth by now, but alas, I am still here and alive :) Today I wrapped up with jury duty which is quite disruptive to my schedule. Still, I found it a great learning so I will write about them today and some thoughts that came from the experience.

Selection Process

12_angry_menSomeone shared his experience that his selection process took 2 weeks, so I guess I should not complain about my 2-3 days selection. Though, I cannot help but feel that it is a very inefficient process where there is a lot of 1 on 1 questioning, while 50+ other people were watching, but that does shave time from repeating questions and retelling of their expectation of jurors.

The selection process is tedious but it is a plus because it guarantees that people who do not want to be a juror, and whom will not do the job right anyways, will not be among the 12 jurors. In all honesty, if you really desperately do not want to be on the panel, it is almost 100% that you can do so by dramatizing past experience or making up stories. That, I chose not to do, so I was stuck in the box, but I was interested going through the process once anyways.

That said, the best story I heard of a person who got excused from jury duty is a Chinese engineer who studied in New York and lived in the U.S. for 16 years, who claimed that her English is not good enough and it is a result of her job not requiring her to have good communication skill. It’s a shame because I am of Chinese heritage and my job is an engineer. But no matter, I don’t consider myself Chinese anyways (nor do I consider myself American). I am simply a human being.

Besides that, I found that the final panel of jury is also somewhat dependent on the judge’s way of presiding and MUCH depend on who the lawyers choose to kick out. Herein lies a strategic decision for the lawyers.

Witness and Testimony

This is the most interesting yet exhausting part. It is interestinb because this is where you listen to testimony and observe the witneses, as those are “evidence” for your jury deliberation later, especially in cases without “hard evidence.” I already enjoy observing people and find that there is always more to learn about people, so that is not bad, but it requires attention the entire time, which is the exhausting part.

I cannot help but find that I have details I want to find out and more questions to ask. However, as we all know, jury is allowed nothing but to observe and listen. I cannot help but think that why there is not a “question period” for the jury to flush out some questions. Maybe I am too naive. As the system stands now, this is one of the biggest reason why you want a GOOD lawyer, who is adaptive, good planner, think critically, perceptive (down to the smallest details, and who ask good questions.

Jury Deliberation

This is the part where you enter “the room”. For the longest time, I was wondering we will deliberate as jurors, and so did the other 11 people. There is no rules, no system, and we were not allowed to converse until that point. In my case, I found it an enjoyable expericen (uh, more so than some meetings at work…) because we had an atmosphere where we openly conversed and contributed our opinions and ideas.

Funny part is, there is a large paper pad on a stand, and as we started using it to organize our thoughts and laid out the facts, the paper is running out. Upon asking the deputy for replenishment, he claimed that no one had used it before so there is no more. This makes me wonder how did many of the jurors deliberate before.

There is also evidence that is mentioned in the testimony but not submitted, which we felt could be key evidence and… shady. It’s almost like it’s so open to manipulation… which it’s how it really is though. The free format of jury deliberation is also prone to various human errors, but I guess hence we had the selection process and also, we can only do the best we can. There is almost no way for certainty in life and definitely in courtroom where it is simply, words against words.

Aftermath

Once we are done, we received our excuse letters. However, 3 or 4 of us had our names typed wrong on it. Mine also has the dates marked incorrectly. Talk about incompetency… so I had to drive to a separate location (Jury Commssioner’s Office) to verify and correct.

Upon arriving and asking, the clerk and comssioner simply said the computer system is correct and that they had “corrected” the date. The way they show me the date is corrected is by marking my piece of paper and initialed it. I’m like “uh, can I get a new print out please”. For which they are reluctant and said it will be fine. I pursued once more by asking for the commissioner’s card in case I really need the proof. I received the card, but the commissioner (a older lady) said, “what? you can’t trust me?” I simply took the card and left, but seriously, first of all, I trusting you is totally unrelated to the future scenario where I need to prove to someone else about my jury, if it happens. Second of all, I don’t know you, why would I trust you? Simply because of you title? Title means nothing.

Oh right, as a juror, you do get paid at a whooping($15 dollars + miniscuous mileage) per day, woohoo! Boy, am I sarcastic…

Two important things I learn though:

  1. If you must to go to court, DO get a capable lawyer.
  2. If a police or detective calls you out of the blue, it will be a good idea to be careful what you say and how you phrase it (even if you did nothing wrong).

All in all, I am glad I went through it and also glad that it is over becase my routine has been totally disrupted. Now I can get back on track and there is a jury movie called 12 Angry Men that I become interested in now.

Oh, did I mention that the case is related to child molestation.

What jury experience did you have?

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