Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jury Duty

My experience with jury duty so far has been a bit rotten. Or rather, left a bad taste in my mouth (mostly).

Here in Alaska, in my borough, we get stuck with it for an entire month. An entire month of being on edge, never knowing when you would have to drop everything and go.

I was first called in to serve on the day of the worst blizzard ever. Thankfully, they canceled it for the day, but it was fraught with miscommunication. I was not impressed. I had to go in the next morning and brave the still blizzard conditions for it. I found the process interesting, and was #19 of 20 jurors to be put on the spot. It was a drunk driving case and I wormed my way out of it. It was a bit intimidating to have the attorneys in my face, questioning me! I got there at 8:15 and was on my way home at 12:30.

I called in last Monday, the 15th, and was told to call again Monday night, the 22nd. I was pleased to not have to come in on spring break and especially not my birthday!

Friday evening, I called the number again to confirm that yes, I did not have to be there. I hung up the phone and forgot about jury duty.

Monday morning, at 10:15, I was just finishing up breakfast and loose ends on my internet reading when the phone rang. It was the court. Turns out, things changed or something and I was needed at the court right away. They were desperate for jurors. When I confusedly asked about the message, I was given the reply of "Oh, we changed it a couple hours later."

I was pretty unhappy. And irritated. Why would I have checked the message again? I was not penalized or anything, since everyone else was caught off guard too.

So I took my sweet time in getting there and trudged down to the courthouse. Other people trickled in after I did. I spent time doing homework until we finally got called into the courtroom after 11 sometime.

This was a really different experience. The judge was a man this time and he definitely had a sense of humor (the lady last time did too, but was more no nonsense). The prospective jurors were much more laidback and less irritated. Many people made some amusing comments that kept it more light hearted this time around too.

It turns out that I knew the defendants, not well, as they were just acquaintances, but still. This time, I was not called to sit on the first 20, but made to observe. I got more and more uncomfortable with where the questioning was going. The attorneys were asking about civil lawsuits and awarding damages, and our thoughts on them. It was definitely interesting for me to see how I am uncomfortable with the thought of forcing someone to pay a large sum based on "51%" of an unreasonable doubt.

Thankfully, I never was questioned. There were about 25 people who were questioned several were let go. It was a bit of a shocker to realize that after the others had gone that no one else was being called forward and the jury was selected! Some of the jurors had stated several hardships that I was a bit appalled the court did not dismiss them. (One lady lives across the bay, for goodness sake! It's still winter, she might not be able to make it over tomorrow!)

But I was free to go at 1:15, so I breathed a sigh of relief and went to Subway for a reward for making it through.

I really hope I don't get called in again. Another week of this!