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I get lots of junk in the mail, I get magazines, I get credit card solicitations, I get numerous bills, but I don't get many personal letters. Last month, I got a letter in the mail. It was not addressed to Occupant or resident, but to me personally. It was from our County Circuit Court and it was a summons for Jury Duty.
"Hey, hey," I exclaimed to my wife. "Look, I get to do my job as a citizen."
My wife didn't seem to be all that impressed, but I was. People don't get this sort of mail everyday.
"Look at this Claudia." I gushed. "I get to do something worthwhile and responsible, and they will even pay me for it."
"Lots of Luck." Said my wife
The summons letter gave me a time and place to report for "Juror Orientation." It stated that I should wear appropriate clothes.
I was not sure what they meant by "appropriate clothing." I decided that the safe thing would be for me to wear a sports coat and tie. (I remember the first time that I went to an Opera. I was afraid that I would have to wear a Tux. I wore a suit, and that was good because I discovered that the only people that wore tuxedos were the Ushers and Orchestra). So it was with Jury duty, I was pleased to find out that I really didn't have to dress up. Only two people sported ties, a person who happened to be a funeral director and myself.
Jury orientation was kind of fun. They showed us a video. Some people seemed bored, but I enjoyed it. The Video related: "Trial by jury has been a cornerstone of freedom and justice for centuries… Your public service as a juror is one of the most important functions of our democracy." The right of trial by jury was adopted by the US when we chose the British System of law. It's origins go back well before the 12th century and we have enshrined this right in both the Six and Seventh amendments of our Constitution. We were told that we were selected at random from a master list of County voters. All Jurors must be U.S. citizens, local residents, legal age, approved integrity (what ever that meant), and of reasonable intelligence. We were told that our serving as Jurors was an honor, and that we should be proud to be part of a system that allows for us to be able to pass judgment on our peers. Some people quietly made scoffing noises, but I didn't. I had to admit that I felt proud to be part of our Democratic process. They also told us that if a person ignores a summons for jury duty, or if a person fails to complete jury service, that they can be held in contempt. I was unsure what would happen, if person were held in contempt. I suspected that it wouldn't be very nice.
We were informed that anyone who has already served on Jury duty, in a State or Federal Court within the last 24 months would not be eligible. A person would also be ineligible as a juror, if he or she has been convicted of a felony or is in state prison.
I asked if a person could volunteer for Jury duty. I was told "Absolutely not."
"You mean I can't talk my wife into doing this in my place?" I asked"
Not unless you want to be willing to pay a fine or do jail time," was the answer.
Every one of us had a separate juror number. They gave us a paper with a list of jury dates and a telephone number. We were told that we needed to call in to check and see if our numbers were called.
They had us sit in a Circuit Court room, and we were given a short talk by one of the judges. "Be sure to bring a paperback, or something to read with you." Said the judge. "You will be spending a good deal of your time just sitting and waiting."
On that first day, we were required to wait. Numbers were drawn from our group on who would serve on the Grand Jury. Later a group of us was asked to remain as potential jurors for an impending trial. I enjoyed myself by visiting with people that I had not seen in years. We were finally told that the trial was settled out of court and that we could go home.
The next week I called in and got this message: "Hello this is the County jury call in, jurors numbered (and a list of numbers were given) please report to the Jury coordinators office at 8:45 AM."
"Wow!" Thought I. "I get to go tomorrow. It's the real thing, I am going to be a real juror."
My wife looked at me and said: "You will be home in two hours."
"What do you mean?" I asked
"Everyone knows you, there is no way that you will ever be chosen for a jury." Smirked my wife.
" Oh yeah?"
The next day, I reported for jury duty. I was given my jurors badge. My number was called and I got to sit in the Jury box. It was a Felony Drunk Driving Case. The lawyers then started asking questions.
"Do you know any of the people here?"
I raised my hand.
"Do you know the police officer involved."
I raised my hand.
Are any of you members of M.A.D?
I raised my hand.
I was home within an hour and a half.
I no longer have jury duty. I never did get the opportunity to serve as an actual juror, but oh I feel so much the better. I did my patriotic duty… and not only that but they paid me. They paid me real money; ten bucks a day.
Now is that great or what?