NJ For Change

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Jury Duty

Many years ago I was called to jury duty. I have been called regularly over the years, but this one tour of duty makes me laugh every time I think about it. Today it comes to mind because my cousin received a jury duty notice.

Anyway, everyday for two weeks I reported for jury duty and would sit around in a room with my fellow citizens waiting for our numbers to be called for a trial. It was a busy courthouse and with the docket loaded with cases everyone had their number called often. But just as often, most of us would not be needed or we would be rejected and sent back to the waiting room. There was little to do except read and chat with the people sitting around you. I became friendly with several people and this story is about one of them.

As it worked out, one of my new friends and I were called for the same trial. In the courtroom we were asked a number of questions as a means of weeding out jurors unacceptable to one side or the other. One by one we answered the questions, either being accepted or excused from the case. Some of the questions were of a personal nature, such as where you and your spouse worked and your complete address, including street.

The trial was for a man accused of robbery and a brutal assault and as each prospective juror answered the lawyers’ questions, the friends or family members of the accused would take down the juror’s address and then give the juror a very intimidating look. When it was time for my new friend to give her address, she surprisingly asked the judge for “a sidebar.” A couple of weeks hanging around a court room and she had learned the lingo.

After quite a stir, she was asked to approach the bench, along with the attorneys for the prosecution and the defense. I couldn’t make out what was being said, but I could tell the judge and the defense lawyer were not pleased. Conversation went back and forth until the persecutor turned to the side and covered his month as if to keep from laughing. Then with a resigned look and the faintest hint of a smile the judge excused my friend from the court.

As it worked out the trial never did take place with the accused ending up taking a plea and we were all excused. Later, I found my friend in the waiting room and asked her what happened. She explained she told the judge she was not going to give her address in open court. She told the judge about the friends of the accused writing the down the addresses and the threatening looks. No way was she setting herself up to be robbed while sitting on the jury, the friends knowing her husband was at work and her address. She told the judge he knew her address and that should be good enough. The judge said otherwise, but she held her ground.

So then the judge asked, “What if everyone was like you? And she said, “If everyone was like me, none of us would need to be here today". With that my friend was excused. It makes me laugh every time I remember her.
10 Comments:
Blogger Sluggo said...

Great story and good on your friend.

I love jury duty. I've been on three or four juries over the years and it's always interesting.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Jim - PRS said...

If everyone was like your friend (and me), no one would need a lock on their doors.

Great story.

5:51 AM  
Blogger Bob the Corgi said...

I just received a survey form regarding my eligibility for jury duty. When I was very young, I used to think that the term was Jury Beauty, and I coudn't see why getting it produced clucks of sympathy instead of admiration. If I get a summons because of that survey, I will finally have a shot at making real the mental picture I've held since childhood of Jury Beauty. (It will take a lot of work, though.)

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