Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Civic Duty Completed

As it turned out, all those questions I answered in the online reporting tool got me selected for the jury. When I arrived at the door to the room in question, it took me right into the jury box in a courtroom. And there I sat with 10-12 other people.

There was no one else in the room. There was a desk for a court reporter, a table for the defendants and another for the prosecutor, a witness stand, and desk for the judge. I found myself thinking it was surprisingly plain and unassuming for the state capital of Texas, even for a municipal courtroom.

Everyone sat there quietly, not wanting to be the first person to try and make chit-chat attempts. The guy next to me was that person who is way too important for his own good. He sent and received probably 10 text messages during the 30 minutes I sat next to him.

We could hear voices in the next room. They got louder and softer as time progressed. Sometimes it sounded like a very unhappy person, and sometimes like a very angry person. Couldn't hear anything when the voices got quieter.

After a little while, a man came in to take roll. Two people were missing. When he left, we resumed our quiet ignoring of each other. I returned to my puzzle, and a guy across from me looked for a new magazine to thumb through. Ten minutes more, and the roll-caller came back to announce that the judge would be in momentarily to talk with us. We were told to rise, the judge came in, and we all sat back down.

He thanked us for coming and fulfilling our obligation. He thanked us for our patience. And then he said they were able to settle all the cases on the docket for the day without having to bring them befor us, so we were free to go. He even said any parking tickets we may have gotten would be paid for by the city.

As we left, I overheard one of my fellow jurors say, "That's my favorite judge ever."

It was a bit anti-climactic. I was sorry not to have gotten to experience the full fun of a trial. It probably would have been a speeding ticket or parking ticket, and not nearly that exciting, but I was intrigued to see the process in action. Only without the cameras and TV writers scripting it out.


mr. kyle said...

Well done. This allows me to work in a plug for Courtroom 302, an incredible book that came out last year where a reporter spent a year in a Chicago courtroom and it's a stunning and fascinating look into just what happens on the other side of the door you were waiting by. So very worth the trip to the library and the few nights it would take to read.

James said...

I had a very similar experience once, but we, the jury, sat in the hall for hours while people walked back and forth, including the defendant and his attorney. Apparently they saw a hallway full of annoyed people who'd been waiting too long and decided it would be best to plea bargain. I don't know what the case was about, but apparently the appearance of an actual jury often causes people to rethink their chances in a trial.