Jury Duty – An Unexpected Experience

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Have you ever been summoned to serve as a juror? Have you ever been selected to serve as a juror? What was your reaction when you received the summons? How was your experience when you were selected and served as a juror?

I received a summons to serve as a juror, and on July 31, 2017, I was selected to serve as one.

When I received the summons, I said, “Oh Crap”. It was not something I welcomed. And I believe I am not the only one with this kind of initial reaction.

Before I go into my experience, let me give a ‘simplified’ detail (from my experience) of the selection process. On the date of your summons, you will stay in a big room with hundreds of potential jurors. A group will then be picked for a particular judge and a case. You are not a juror yet at this point. This group will be brought into the courtroom with the judge and the lawyers for both the plaintiff and the defendant. The judge will explain the case. You will be given a questionnaire, the Voir Dire, to answer. You will be excused if you have a reason not to be in this case. Valid reasons include, but not limited to, having a knowledge of the case, knowing anyone from the case, having been involved in a similar case, medical reason, financial hardship that could result being in the case, etc. Random names will be called, and if you are (un)lucky, you will sit in the jury box. You are still not a juror at this point. The lawyers from both parties have the right to excuse a selected juror without giving any reason why. If the lawyers asked that you be excused, you are excused, and another name is called. This process goes on until the lawyers are satisfied with the jurors sitting in the jury box. If you are still in one of the seats at the end of this, you are NOT a juror yet. The judge, for the last time, will once again ask you and the rest of the selected group for any reason to be excused. Last chance. If none, you will be sworn in. Congratulations! You are now a juror.

When I was sitting in the room with hundreds of potential jurors, I was hoping I would not get called. I was called in the first wave. “Crap!” Our group was brought into the courtroom with the judge and the lawyers for both parties. After the judge explained the case, I thought of possible reasons to be excused. I gave my reasons to the judge. Nope. I was sent back to my seat. Names were called for those who would occupy a seat in the jury box. “Darn!” I was called. The last hope of being excused was now in the hands of the lawyers. They kept picking other jurors’ numbers, just not mine. This went on like eternity. At the end of the day, I was still there, in one of the seats in the jury box. I am a juror.

This was a civil case, scheduled for 3 days (it ended after 2 days). And to summarize my experience, it WAS indeed a very worthwhile experience (BTW, the judge kept mentioning this during the explanation and selection process – that being a juror is a worthwhile experience). As the trial went deeper into details, the more interesting it became. I learned so much during the process. It was interesting and educational to listen to the statements of the lawyers and testimonies of the witnesses.

“As a juror, you are the judge of the facts.”

This is the responsibility of the jury. And we have to base our judgement solely on the facts from the evidences presented to us. This is such a big responsibility. We have to weigh the testimonies and evidences presented by both parties. Two opposing parties sworn in to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But how can opposing statements lead to a single truth?

It hit me during the closing arguments that the lives of two parties depended on us. Two parties from the opposite sides. Again, two opposing parties sworn in to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Going in to the deliberation, I hoped that the decision would be unanimous. For me, this means that we, the jury, a group of total strangers, believed in a single truth. And I was so relieved that we came up with a unanimous decision. The facts lead to a single truth.

“Only a person knows whether he is telling the truth or not. Not even him saying he is telling the truth means he is telling the truth.”  –  This is a fact.

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