Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Jury Duty Exposed!

on June 3, 2011
Snohomish County Government Campus, Everett, WA.

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I had an interesting experience this week.  My number was chosen and I had to report for Jury Duty.  I’ve received the summons before, but either I’d moved (Hudson County, NJ called me two months after I’d moved to Manhattan) or they ended up not needing that many people.  Well, this week I was living where I was supposed to and they needed A LOT of people.  I found out Friday night that I had to report and was able to get my request sub and had the weekend to write sub plans.

So, I reported early Tuesday morning (would have been Monday had it not been for Memorial Day) along with at least 150 of my fellow Snohomish Countians, Never having actually done this, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  We all filed into a room after going through metal detectors, scanned our summons, validated our parking, and then waited. I brought my Kindle on which I had just started a new book and I began to read.  A little while later, after everyone was in and accounted for, they explained what we would expect throughout the day, and showed us a video explaining our responsibility.

Before long, the law clerks came in and started pulling their jury pools. The first group was 60 people alone. I had figured there was at least one big trial, simply based on the number of people pulled.  Now, Snohomish County is fairly big geographically, but really has only one big-ish city and several smaller towns.  To have this many large jury trials in one week is kind of unusual.  The second group had 40 people in it. I was not in either of these.  Then the Everett Municipal Court called 13.  The fourth group called had 35 people and I was number 10, which meant I was seated in the jury box from the beginning.  We took a short break to use the restroom and grab something to eat or drink, and then came back to the room to wait.

The law clerk brought us up to the court room.  The first 12 of us sat in the jury box and the next 23 sat in the first few rows of the room.  I have to admit, I was a little nervous at this point as I knew that the lawyers were going to start questioning us. I had no problem telling the truth, it was just not knowing what the questions would be that was unsettling. the judge gave us a little information about the case, defining what burglary and harassment were in the eyes of the law.  The voir doie, what this questioning section is called, lasted a little over an hour as first the prosecutor asked questions then the defense attorney.  The whole time, the defendant was sitting there, assisted by a translator through an earpiece.  The questions were somewhat personal, but respectful. A lot of them were about how we would react to a situation or at what point we feel a crime was committed.  We then had a lunch break and were told to report back to the jury room by 1:10.

At the end of the break, we, along with those from other trials, were back in the jury room, waiting to hear what happens next. Two groups were taken back to their courtrooms, but we remained. Some people returned as they were excused.  Our law clerk came back to apologize for the delay and gave us another break until 2:30. We returned and waited again. During this time, I read about 300 pages of my book. A little after three, the clerk returned, apologized again, and left. We continued to wait. Around 3:30, the judge came down and explained to us what had happened. Between the time we had entered the courtroom and when we were scheduled to return, the defendant agreed to a plea deal. They were busy hammering this out while we waited. I appreciated that the judge came down to explain the delay and thank us for our service.

All in all, it was an interesting day. Yes, it was a pain getting a sub and writing my sub plans, but it was interesting to see how the legal system works up close. If it had been summer, I actually think I would have wanted to be on a trial and to see it through to the end. As it is, I’m glad it ended the way it did.

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