My Civic Duty

So I had jury duty last week.

I’ve been called to jury duty before.  It was about ten years ago, when Kid #1 was a toddler & Kid #2 was baking in my belly.  I didn’t get to hear a case but it was probably for the best.  I was so tired, so radically sleep deprived, that I probably shouldn’t even have been driving, let alone making life-and-death decisions about strangers’ lives.  I sat in the jury room for five full days without ever being called upstairs, then I went home, well rested & happy.  It was like a little vacation.

LawBookwithGavelbyCoolDesignThis time I actually got to hear a case.  And it was awesome.

It was a criminal case &, as is quite normal in criminal cases, it involved a bunch of young men, a great deal of alcohol, & some poor judgment.  None of that was the awesome part.  That was kind of the sad part, actually.  No, the awesome part was all the story telling.

The prosecuting attorney started by asking us to imagine crime on a pirate ship.  Already I was hooked.  Pirates!  So, really, imagine a crime took place on a pirate ship.  Who would the victim be?  (A pirate?)  Who would the criminals be?  (Um, pirates?)  Who would the witnesses be?  (I bet they’re a bunch of pirates.)   Could you accept testimony from a pirate?  (Will he speak in piratese?  Because AYE, MATEY, I COULD.)

Skull&CrossbonesbyJamesBarkerAt this point, I knew I was in for a good time.

Then the defense attorney gets up & decides to grill me about my career as a writer.  Would I be taking the details of this case, working them into my books & making millions?  (No, sir, I write romance.  Crime is a whole different genre.)  But could you really resist?  What if the case is really juicy?  You might switch genres!  (If that happens, I will dedicate the book to you, okay?)

Somehow I got on the jury anyway.

There were five young men involved in our crime.  FIVE.  And of those five, three of them had the same name, or an extremely close derivative thereof.  I’m not even kidding.  It was like hearing a case in a sorority house & everybody is named MacKayla, except for the one named MacKenna.  But fear not, they all had gangland nicknames, too.

EvidencebySimonHowdenAt this point, it’s fair to say that I am having a ball.

And the vocab!  I now know that should anybody ever point a gun at me & say, “Run ya pockets” or some variation thereof, the only adequate response is “I’m not on that!”  Which evidently means, “I don’t want any trouble,” and should be accompanied by the immediate emptying of your pockets.

I also now know which gas station to stop at in St. Paul should I ever want to score some weed, or get robbed, or, hey, do both at the same time, as happened to our poor victim.  Who actually went ahead & reported the crime.

It was a Super America, but in my mind it is now & will henceforth ever be known as The Pirate Ship.

Arrrrgh.

So how about you?  Have you ever served on jury duty?  What did you think?  Was justice served?  Did you at least hear a great story?  Share!

All images courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net, mouse over for artist attribution

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Comments

32 Comments

  • Jane says:

    Hello Susan,
    Love the part about you getting grilled and the similar names. I guess if you got confused as to which defendant they were talking about you could recognize them by their gang nicknames. My brother gets grand jury duty where they determine if the case has enough evidence to go to trial.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Good morning, Jane! Looks like you get the Golden Rooster this morning, you early bird, you! Keep an eye on him! All this talk of law enforcement might give him ideas!

      As for nicknames, that was truly one of the best parts. Eventually the attorneys started using them too because it was just a lot easier. Imagine that. All these starched & pressed attorney types referring to “D. Dawg” or “Slap Shot” or whatever.

      I seriously had the *best* week.

  • flchen1 says:

    LOL, Susan!! What an exciting experience! The last time I was called for jury duty, I ended up having to serve (on my birthday, I might add). Fortunately or unfortunately, we only heard a morning’s worth of testimony before the case was dismissed :/ Alas!

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh, bummer! I mean, good that you got in & out in a reasonable amount of time, but after a certain number of hours/days spent waiting around, didn’t you feel *owed* the sordid criminal details of a stranger’s life? I sure did. I was like, “Dude, I have EARNED this. Cough up a case!”

      Too bad about your birthday, though. You deserve extra cake.

  • I had a great big ole laugh over your blog. Whenever, it’s a Susan Sey day, I know I’m in for a rollicking good time. While I don’t come here to comment; I read in my feed reader; I never miss one of your posts. Thank you for entertaining me so well. I started reading your books, because I love your posts so much.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh, Keira, you’ve totally just made my day. I swear I spend as much time staring at the blank screen as I do writing my blogs these days. Every one I post feels like I dragged it out of the bottom of my purse, pulled off the lint & the gross, sticky candy, & threw it up there. I can’t even tell you how much it delights me to know that it doesn’t feel that way to our readers!

      Or maybe it does, but people just enjoy what I have composting in the bottom of my purse? It’s a mystery. I’m just happy you’re finding a decent laugh in there.

      That said, I really should clean out my purse more often.

  • Helen says:

    Hi Susan

    Oh it sounds like fun I have only ever been called for jury duty once and that was when my eldest was only 1 year old and I got out of going and have never been called up since and that was 33 years ago 🙂 Hubby has been once and it got dismissed I am not sure whether I would like sitting for days on end without being able to read but I am sure that some cases would be really interesting

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Susan Sey says:

      Wow, you’ve only been called once in 33 years? That’s amazing! I was called twice now, 9 years apart, & evidently, you only get to demur if you’ve been called within the last 4 years. And you wouldn’t HAVE to pass, you’d just be within your rights.

      As for reading, well, yeah. That was hard to give up. But of the five days I gave jury duty, I spent 2.5 of them writing & reading & waiting. It wasn’t until I got called to an actual case that my reading time suffered.

      And the first time I did jury duty, I never even got called to a case! It was five solid days of uninterrupted reading, & for a mother of young children (which I was at the time) it felt like heaven.

  • Shannon says:

    I got dismissed. I was never sure why, but I think it was the jury questionnaire according to a lawyer I briefly dated. He said that having a master’s degree would scare a defense attorney. That individual would worry that I would analyze too much and not conclude quickly. The other reason he thought either lawyer would dismiss so quickly was that I had a mission essential job at Ft. Bragg, and most judges would excuse me. So a waste of time to put me in the jury pool when the judge would excuse me. The odd thing was that work encouraged us to serve on juries as a civic duty

    I’ve gotten forms about three times where I live about being on a jury; twice I was excused and once I got put on the phone list. Everytime I called during the week, I got told that all the slots had been filled.

    • Susan Sey says:

      You know, I’d heard about that phone thing. They don’t do that in my county but I’ve heard that some counties do–where you’re on a list & you get called if they need you. My county still asks you to come in to an actual room & sit there all day until they decide if they need you or they don’t. Not super convenient, but it’s interesting to take an enforced break from your normal routine.

      Plus you can’t beat courthouse eavesdropping. Seriously. It’s awesome.

      Interestingly, they never asked us about our educational backgrounds. Just work. I was already the last juror selected, 12th out of 12. I wonder if they’d known about my master’s degree if that would’ve worked for or against me?

  • Patty L. says:

    No jury duty for me. I have worked for defense attorneys, prosecuting attorneys and currently work for the police. I am everyone’s worst nightmare for a juror.

    • Susan Sey says:

      I wish I’d been privy to the negotiations about who to select & who to reject. We had people married to police officers who made it, & convicted felons, too. The lady with the DWI & 13 years of sobriety made it, but bar owner didn’t. I (the writer) made it, but the book editor didn’t. And I have no idea why.

      The curiosity is killing me.

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    My husband has been on a jury three times. The One time he was gone all day to the point I was starting to worry. I’ve watched enough TV to know how these things work, right? Anyway, I finally get a call from the courthouse saying the jury was still deliberating and he might be awhile. I told them that my husband was a diabetic and didn’t have his meds with him then asked if he’d had anything to eat? I had visions of him lapsing into a diabetic coma! I knew how weak and shaky he got if his sugar levels dropped. They informed me they were bringing in food for the jurors or at least attempting to, which didn’t go a long way towards easing my mind. When he finally got home very late that night, he said it was the worst experience of his life and he isn’t one to exaggerate. Apparently there was one guy who held out to the very end, insisting they find the guy on trial innocent even though he got on the stand and admitted he’d done what he was accused of doing. He said the other jurors were ready to kill the hold out by the time he finally relented and agreed the guy was guilty. That kind of soured me on the experience!

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oh, I’ve read about stuff like that. How awful for your husband! Everybody on my jury was extremely reasonable, & we deliberated for maybe an hour, hour & a half. We were out of there by 5:30 on Friday, as a good jury should be.

  • Sandy Blair says:

    Great post! I shouldn’t have laughed but couldn’t help myself. I once served on a Grand Jury. Couldn’t believe half of the totally outrageous defenses. One illegal drug runner caught crossing the TX border claimed he should be found innocent because he was only shooting back in self defense. 🙂

    • Susan Sey says:

      You’re kidding. You have to be kidding. They tried that? Really? Self-defense?

      Wow.

      I swear, if jury duty were a job, I’d take it. I have NEVER heard better stories or more outrageous lies in my life. I had SUCH a good time.

  • Cassondra says:

    Susan, I both love and hate serving on juries.

    I get called every two to three years, and the term of service is a full month. They have always been REALLY good about giving me postponements–if I tell them I have X project happening this month, but would be absolutely available in X, Y and Z months, they will almost always understand and put off the service until a time I can be there. In our state, we call in the night before to a phone line that tells us whether we are to report the following day. We all show up and they pull a jury from the pool.
    The last time I was pulled four out of four weeks–(each trial lasting about a full week).On the last week (after serving on three trials) I was supposed to be out of town for a trip, and it happened that it was a medical malpractice suit. I just raised my hand as soon as I got drawn and had taken my seat in the box and said, “you are going to knock me out of here during voire dire, so you might as well know it now so you can draw another name. I know every one of those doctors sitting there, and hear stories about them all. There’s no way I’m going to make it through the elimination process.” They tried to talk me into waiting it out and I said, “I’ve served on three trials this month. I LIKE being a juror. But you don’t want me here for this one. I’m prejudiced.” They let me leave.

    I had to be the foreperson of the jury for two trials. One was trying to break a will. The other was a drug dealing trial, and the guy on the stand was being pretty much forced to testify against a much more powerful drug figure, and we all knew he was sealing his death certificate by testifying. Man, he did not want to be there. We had one holdout juror who insisted that “the boy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” We just sat there staring at her. We had to go out and watch a whole testimony (they’d taped it) a second time. Finally she relented and said guilty. It was obvious and unanimous except for her.

    I did get to see the biggest pile of marijuana I’d ever seen though. About a five-lb bag of it. Right there in the middle of the jury table. I’ve seen it growing in fields before, but never a big bag of it like you see on news footage.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Wow, Cassondra! A whole month! That just seems like such a huge ask. I managed a week, & it was moving heaven & earth. Stay At Home Moms have a weird schedule & getting it all covered it tough. Strange hours, you know?

      But a MONTH. Man. THREE trials? Wow!

      But I’ll admit it. I would have enjoyed seeing that much pot. Just for the novelty of it.

  • Cassondra says:

    OH…I forgot to say why I sometimes “hate” jury duty– a few years back I was drawn as a juror for a trial I did not want to be on. It was the rape and murder of a 13-year old girl. It was going to be really, really bad.

    The accused could not find an attorney who would take the case and he did not qualify for a public defender (which means he had enough money to hire a lawyer). The judge felt that it was not right for him to go to trial with such consequences without an attorney, so he postponed. By the time it came around, my month was over.
    I was so, so glad I did not have to see those photos and sit through that.

    • Susan Sey says:

      Yeah, that would’ve been a real soul-crusher. I’m so glad you avoided it. I know it’s important, I know somebody has to do it. I’m just glad you avoided the heartbreaker this time.

  • Cassondra Murray says:

    Oh oh! I forgot– In the will breaking case, we decided to NOT break the will, and several ladies on the other side were really mad at us. I asked the judge if we could go out the courthouse the back way. He had a bailiff walk us downstairs and out of the building!

    Oh the drama!

    • Susan Sey says:

      Yeah, I had a few second thoughts about standing around at the bus stop after we found our defendant guilty, & his big, terrifying friends had spent the last three days giving us the hairy eye ball in court. The judge said, however, that if you’ll notice, these boys tend to do violence only to other folks that look like them–same age, same color, same neighborhood, etc. None of us fit the bill, so in a weird way it was reassuring. But sad. Really sad at the same time, you know?

  • EC Spurlock says:

    Wow, what stories! I have only been called for jury duty twice in my life. The first time was when I was young and I was dealing with a dysfunctional family situation at home and sexual harrassment at work, so I had a standing therapy appointment every week. They called me up to the bench and asked if there was any reason I couldn’t serve. I said I could probably serve as long as I was out by 5PM so I could get to my doctor’s appointment.
    “What kind of appointment?”
    “Therapy”
    “What kind of therapy?”
    “Psychiatric”
    “OUT!” said the judge, and I wasn’t called again for 30 years.

    Here they have a number to call and you call the night before to see if they want you to report. I got called in the first group, came in, played musical chairs for a while as they sorted each group, sat for about three hours and then got sent home because the defendant plea-bargained. The most entertaining part was when I was coming in, the two old guards at the door spent so much time arguing over whether to confiscate my keys because I had a tiny Swiss Army knife on the keyring, that they totally missed the metal nail file and mat knife in my purse. They kept the keys but let the purse through intact.

  • Oh Susan – I love truly love your posts!

    I’ve received notice twice that my name had been drawn for jury duty, but I’ve never served. Here they draw a HUGE number of names once a quarter to serve. When you’re needed they send you a notice as to the week to report and wait to see if you’re picked for a trial. As a self-employed CPA, I can serve every quarter except the first quarter when I make all my income. What quarter was I consistantly drawn for? The first, of course. i had to send the court copies of my certificate both times to be excused – and both times I said I would love to serve any other quarter…but never got a call.

    If I ever serve on a jury, I hope it will be as entertaining as your case 🙂

    • Susan Sey says:

      Yeah, I can see how as a CPA you’d get a pass on Q1 every year. Too bad that’s when they always call you, though, because I found jury duty extremely diverting. Highly recommended!

  • catslady says:

    Oh, I love your sense of humor!! I got called twice when I had 2 very young children and both times they said I didn’t have to go – yay. About 5 yrs. ago they got me. I don’t drive to where I had to be but I got a ride with my daughter who still lived nearby at the time and it was just a bit out of the way from where she worked but oh my goodness, I had to get up like at 4:30 AM because of the traffic. I only spent half a day and wasn’t picked and in a way was disappointed. I enjoyed the whole process – just wish it was closer. If I get called again I’m going to have to try and figure out how to get to a bus stop lol. I think they are stricter now because they made my mother go in when she was in her late 80’s. Luckily my b-i-l and sister could get her there and of course they didn’t take her – her hearing is horrible but they still had to see her in person.

    • Susan Sey says:

      There was a very convenient bus to & from jury duty for me, for which I’m deeply grateful. I wanted nothing to do with parking down town. Also? The bus was almost as entertaining as jury duty. Public transportation is an adventure in & of itself! Good times.

  • Becke says:

    Too funny, Suz,

    My first experience was in prep school. I served on a fake jury for Notre Dame law school. Mmmm cute law students and I have no idea what the case was about. Need I say more.

    The second time I went to the holding pen like you and didn’t get called.

    The third time I was called as a witness–not fun.

    All I knew was the case involved one of my patients that died! Scary. When I learned–on the stand–that it was over witnessing a will, I was pissed! They released me as a hostile witness!

    Ya know, if I signed that the patient signed her name, she signed her freaking name!!!!
    b

    • Susan Sey says:

      Oooh, a hostile witness! We didn’t get any of those. We did get the ones who lied their faces off, but nobody hostile. I’ll bet you were righteously fantastic!

  • Amy Conley says:

    I was called twice for federal court and after driving an hour, was sent home both times.
    I was called once for county court but they got tbek
    Ir jury before they got to .y name.

    • Susan Sey says:

      That’s a little disappointing, isn’t it? I mean, after sitting for a full week the first time & half a week the second time, I felt fully entitled to the sordid criminal details of a stranger’s life. I wasn’t going to happy until I got some.

      Then I got them & felt a little dirty. But that passed & I had great time. 🙂