Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Journey Into Jury Duty

The notice I received said that my name had been drawn for the jury panel for 2007. It went on to say, "When you are summoned for a specific date, be prepared to stay all day or for a number of consecutive days..."! I set the notice aside without much notice as I had served jury duty 7 years before in Spokane County in Washington State. Also, my husband had been selected for jury duty last year and was summoned for a case which was settled out of court. I was expecting the case I was summoned for to be settled out of court also. When I made the call to the clerk's office though, I was told that the case would go on as scheduled. PANIC!

What am I going to wear!!!!
Consistent with the dignity and decorum of the Court, the following attire will be required for Court appearance:
(A) Male: Long or short sleeve dress-type shirts; slacks or dress-type denim trousers, shoes or boots.
(B) Female; Dresses, slacks or shirts and blouses; dress shoes.
In no event will t-shirts, tank or halter-tops, shorts, soiled or unkempt clothing thongs, sandals or casual exercise apparel be allowed.

Let me be clear. I didn't have to have instructions in order to dignify this serious duty with appropriate apparel. What I did initially think was that I needed to loose 30 pounds in three days in order to fit into any of the appropriate clothing I now possess. And if it turned out that the case required us to be sequestered for several days.....!

So I went into the mode I usually go through when I prepare to be away from home for vacation or such. PANIC!!!! I try on all wardrobe possibilities, make lists, go through my toiletries, make more lists and on and on until it is 1:35 of the night before and I have to get up at 6:45 the next morning. Well, I got into bed and tossed and turned until, of course, 5:38 when I had to get up and pee. Healthy REM was out of the question now. I dressed in black RL slacks, a pink RL long sleeve blouse with black stripes, white collar and cuffs adding a black Claibourne tie from my husbands huge collection, the knot hanging loosely several inches below the collar of my blouse. I was pleased with my dignified appearance. I slipped into my navy Crocs, intending to change into black dress shoes before entering the courthouse (but, I forgot until I was sitting in a jurors seat and unable to do anything about it).

Anyway, I drove off. The drive was pleasant and uneventful. When I turned onto Main Street behind several cars I had been following and or had been following me most of the way, I realized we must all be going to the same place, The Lyon County Courthouse. The setting was straight out of that Grisham book where the lawyers house gets burned down. What was the name of that book? Excuse me a minute. I must go to Amazon.com and find out. (A passage of time.........) "A Time To Kill" is the name of the book.

I was transported a hundred years as I stepped through the huge wooden doors, then the more modern glass ones. A worn wooden staircase loomed before me. Typed instructions taped to the front doors had directed me to Court Room 1 on the second floor. I climbed the stairs and waited with the others circled against the walls around the landing, inspecting the interesting pattern of the worn black and white marble floor, the elaborate dark wood crown molding, wainscoting and paneling while waiting for the door to Court Room 1 to open. When it did , we all herded in and took a seat. There were more people than the 112 seats, perhaps three dozen more, and they all crowded around the walls. The architecture here was as equally fascinating to me as the rest had been. The movie "To Kill a Mockingbird" immediately came to mind. I wouldn't have been surprised to see the lawyers in suspenders when they finally came out.

The defendant was sitting alone at the defense table when we entered the courtroom. He wore dark rimmed glasses, a short sleeve white shirt that obviously had just come out of a new package, a tie of horizontal stripes in various shades of blue, chinos and a dark belt. His hair was shaved almost bald, but it was obviously very dark and a fraction of an inch longer like a rice bowl on top of his head. From the jury seat I later realized that initially I sat directly behind members of his family. I had wondered about that when I noticed that two of the girls in front of me looked related to each other and were whispering to one another and at one point I saw one of them quietly crying. (I have always been intuitive like that).

I wanted to take this time to apologize for all the years that I smoked and sat next to people smelling like an ashtray. I seem to have chosen a seat surrounded by smokers and I couldn't just get up and move. So now I know. Sorry.

We were instructed to stand. The judge entered and sat behind his imposing podium, then instructed us to sit. We sat. He greeted us cordially and thanked us for coming. He asked us to respond with "here" when the court clerk called our name (The people in front of me never responded....another clue to their identity). And then he told us. And I could physically feel the heavy onus that was felt in the room when the judge announced that the case we were here for was one of "Murder in the first degree".

The jury box on the right side of the courtroom consisted of two rows of six old swivel wooden arm chairs attached to the floor with a smaller box on the right having four more of the same chair. There were two rows of brown folding chairs set up in front of the jury box. The clerk turned the handle of a tumbler, opened the door of it and pulled out a small piece of paper, then read aloud the name on it. My name was the sixth to be called and I took my seat.

When everyone was seated the judge explained how the selection of the twelve jurors and two alternates would be selected. He would ask us some general questions. The defense attorney would ask us more specific questions and then the prosecutor would ask us questions. We were instructed to raise our hands if we had a positive answer to the questions asked. I felt like I raised my hand more often than most. In my previous jury experience, most of the questions that the judge asked had been answered on a questionnaire before we filed into the courtroom. Also in my previous jury duty they told us what the case was about before they asked if we had heard about it. If you were only told that it was a case of murder in the first degree how would you answer the question, "Do you have any knowledge of the facts in this case?"

As the questions were asked some people would be thanked for their honesty and excused. The clerk would reach into the "Bingo like" drum and call another name. After we had been seated for a little over an hour the judge called for a fifteen minute recess, instructing us to not discuss the case amongst each other or with anyone else, not to read any newspapers or listen to any TV or radio news and to sit in the same seats we now occupied when we returned from our break.

As we were filing out I was standing next to the prosecuting attorney when some perspective jurors complained to him about a group of people who were talking with each other, obviously not in the jury pool and were very distracting. I had noticed them when we were waiting to come in to the courtroom and questioned whether they were perspective jurors because they all reminded me of Ozzie Osbourne and wore medal medallions around there necks that were five point stars inside a circle. When we returned from our break they were no longer in the courtroom.

The questioning continued until there were no more positive answers and no more questions. I was still seated. The judge excused the remaining jury pool still in the audience and called for a thirty minute recess, instructing us to sit in the courtroom seats when we returned.

We waited maybe ten to fifteen minutes in the courtroom before the accused, the deputies, lawyers, stenographer, clerk, etc and finally the judge returned. The judge reassured all of us that we shouldn't feel bad because we had all been deemed worthy to serve. Then the twelve jurors and two alternates, that had been selected, took their seats as the clerk called their names. It felt a bit like choosing up teams for a baseball game, "will I be chosen?" I wasn't. I was sorta disappointed and relieved at the same time. The thought of not having to possibly be sequestered for a week and a half or more, or having to get up unnaturally early (for me) and driving an hour each way every day for that long was relieving. I drove home.

That next night on the news the accused was shown in black and white stripe prison garb, hands in cuffs clasped in front of his body, shuffling into the courtroom (not the same one I had been in the day before) with ankle restraints to be arraigned, last year. And the newsman said, "A Dayton man accused of killing his estranged wife in her parents driveway now is on trial. Opening statements were held today in the murder trial of 26 year old Christopher D. Prosecutors say last year D shot and killed his wife, 24 year old Heather Green D. Lyon Co. authorities caught him the next day. He reportedly told deputies that he intended to kill himself but he ran out of bullets. He faces life in prison if he's convicted."

I will keep you informed.


  1. You are an amazing story teller. I am glad you didn't have to be on this jury. I think it would have been hard on you to have to listen to all that everyday for so long. Or at least it would be hard on me, but I have been told that I tend to be overly sensitive.

  2. I think I'd find it hard too. What a shattering end to two families' lives.

  3. Wow! At least you wont have to get dressed daily!

  4. Wow, this was interesting! I have never been called to serve. Isn't that odd? I would like to.

    I don't think they would have chosen me for that case, though. I would have been very biased against him, due to my experience.

    Do keep us posted.


  5. Wow. Interesting. I'm sure you'll be following this one closely now, won't you? I know I would.

    Thanks for leaving a comment at my site. You're nice! And thanks for turning out such a great Shannon!

  6. marsha- thanks for the encouragement.
    Z- shattering indeed.
    toni- or to drive the long drive everyday when my car is in scary condition(we have been shopping for another).
    amber- I was over fifty when I was first summoned for jury duty. So there is hope for you yet. And the prosecutor would probably have wanted you on the jury.

    Except for the long drive and getting up much earlier than I am used to, I wouldn't have had a problem serving. I am fascinated with figuring out the truth of things.

  7. geo- And thank you. I'm just so happy for you. You can see a picture of Lucky, the day before she was born as well as the story of finding out I was pregnant for the first time on my February 25, 2006 post and the story of her birth on my May 28,2007 post.

    She is amazing, isn't she!!!!

  8. Phew. Blesch. I would NOT want to be on that jury having to listen to every detail about a circumstance like that. Apology accepted about the ashtray comment. Proud of you for quiting the smoking addiction :o)

  9. lucky- thanks for the comment and the apology acceptance because to you I am the sorriest.

  10. I am SO glad you weren't chosen! I've never been called to Jury Duty before and am sure I would freak out just like you if I was. It's funny that one of your biggest concerns was your wardrobe!

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