Jury Duty Report: Day 1 of X

Obviously I can’t disclose the details of the case I was involved with today, but some interesting/amusing things happened that I thought I’d share, as well as a question.

Midway through the morning, my number was called. I joined about 50 other potential jurors, and we were ushered around until we ended up in a courtroom for jury selection.

Over the next 6 hours (with a short break for lunch), both lawyers asked us dozens of questions, some pertaining to the law in general, others about the specific case. In the end, I wasn’t selected for the trial, but all of us who weren’t selected are required to return tomorrow. So I may have to do the whole thing all over again.

There were some genuinely interesting topics broached, even with very little information about the case disclosed to us. There were also some moments of levity, including:

  • One of the lawyers asked a middle-aged woman if she had any training for determining if someone is lying, and she replied, “Well, I have 4 kids, so I have quite a bit of experience with that.”
  • At one point, a lawyer apologized for asking so many questions, joking that he was going to get in trouble if he didn’t wrap it up. The judge leaned into the microphone and said, “Oh, you’re already in trouble.”
  • In the oddest moment of the day, a juror in her 60s could not only not remember her last job, but she also couldn’t think of any hobbies or activities she participated in, or even anything that she does in her free time. It might have been that she was nervous being in front of so many people (I was too), but it was very odd. It literally left the lawyer speechless for a good 5-10 seconds before he said, “Well, if you think of anything later, please let me know.”

Finally, here’s a somewhat philosophical question that emerged from the proceedings: In the US, a person charged with a crime is not required to take the stand, nor may jurors assume that person is guilty simply because they don’t take the stand. I totally get that, and I’ve replied as such during the other 3 jury selection processes I’ve participated in.

However–again, no details–what if it’s a matter of “he said, she said”? That is, in lieu of physical evidence, if jurors need to decide if they believe the word of a witness versus the word of the defendant, it seems to me that we should hear directly from both the witness and the defendant. I expressed that opinion today in court.

What do you think? Does your view on that law change based on the case?

6 thoughts on “Jury Duty Report: Day 1 of X”

  1. Even for “he said, she said,” I find it hard to give a blanket answer because what if defendant is subject to debilitating stage fright or suffers from some other problem unrelated to the case that would make him/her come across unfavorably.

  2. My understanding is that “he said, she said” should always go in favor of the defendant because there is no way that they can be shown to be guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

    It’s not the job if the judge or judy to figure out who’s telling the truth, just if it’s possible that the defendant is.

  3. I would not agree. There are many good reasons for a person not to take the stand. Some people just have anxiety and putting them up there to sweat and stutter could end up making them look guilty even if they are 100% innocent.

    I look at it like a game of werewolf. Have you ever played and had a person stand up and explain passionately and eloquently why they know who the werewolf is but the more they talk the more everyone just wants to vote for the speaker?

    Happens all the time with all different sorts of groups. Sometimes it is better just to let the evidence speak for itself.

  4. I disagree. Ideally, sure, hearing from both is great. But I would never expect that someone share the story of their incest or rape with the power dynamics in the room and the pressure that their fate be decided on their ability to perform in that specific capacity.

    • I wasn’t selected the first day, but I had to return on Tuesday, where I was part of the jury selection pool for a new case. I was the very last person selected to be on the jury (I was the alternate). I returned the next morning, sat in the jury room for an hour and a half, and was then dismissed because some part of the case made it unable to go to trial that day.


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