Friday, April 9, 2010

My Thoughts On Jury Duty

My experience as a juror came to a sudden end today. After a morning of testimony on the case I was sitting on as a juror, we recessed for lunch and were to begin again at 2:30. When our deputy didn't come to take us to the court room at the appointed time we realized something was up. We began to speculate amongst ourselves about what was going on in the court room. When we were finally called into the court room we were told our services were no longer required as our trial had been declared a mistrial.

Now I'm not allowed to talk about the specifics of the trail or what we discussed in the jury room but I can say this. I am glad that it is over and I'm especially thankful that we didn't have to deliver a verdict.

I learnt a lot about our justice system in the last week. It isn't perfect, but the men and woman entrusted to up hold the laws of the land, from the judges to the lawyers and the court clerks, all do an incredible job. It is a tough job that deals with the darker side of society, where decisions you make affect peoples lives and it's a duty that shouldn't be taken lightly.

No one wants to be called for jury duty, but rest assured, these guys are pros at guiding you through the process and try to make it as painless as possible for ordinary citizens like you and I. They add humour and compassion to a job that ordinarily wouldn't have any and guide you through the maze that is our legal system.

That being said, there are some scary people in this city doing some even crazier things to other scary people and sometimes to people like you and I. And occasionally people like you and I are asked to decide on the fate of these people who stand accused of doing these very bad things. It's not a pleasant job and not one to be taken lightly, but when called upon, we have to answer that call and do the best job we can, after all, as I found out this week, it really is our civic duty.

Here are some things I found interesting about being on a jury.

A handler or a deputy is assigned to you for the duration of the trial.

They tell you when to show up in the morning, which is usually 15 minutes before the trial begins. This way they can get the jury into the jury room and out of sight before family, media and witness' arrive.

When you are selected as a juror for a trail you are assigned a number (1 to 12). Whatever number you are assigned becomes your number for the duration of the trial.

When in court the jury always travels together. The jury always lines up from 1 to 12 and always enters and exits the court room in that order. If one jury member has to go to the bathroom while court is in session, all jurors must go with and wait in the adjoining jury room.

The jury enters the court from a separate hallway then family, friends, media and witness' do.

When not in the court room the jury stays in a locked room behind the judges bench. The room is big enough for a board room table and 12 chairs and has an adjoining men and woman's washroom. This is also the room the jury goes to when the court wants to discuss legal issues the jury is not privy to.

The deputy always knocks before they enter. The jury is not allowed to leave this room at any time and must knock on the door for the deputy to unlock it to exit.

Whatever is said in the jury room cannot be discussed outside of it.

All breaks are spent in this room and coffee, juice, muffins and bagels are provided.

The jury is allowed to leave the building for lunch, but are not allowed to eat in the cafeteria downstairs.

The jury is always last to enter the room after the judge and everyone else is already seated.

The amount of notes a police officer takes in the course of their day is absolutely incredible.

Lawyers will drown you in the details, over and over and over again.

Lawyers like to make the same point over and over and over again.

I would not want to be either a police officer or a lawyer. Ever.

The majority of potential jurors in my informal poll were 1. teachers, 2. financial advisers, 3. retired people, 4. consultants, 5. the rest of the working world.

I'm glad that it's over.

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