Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Reluctant Juror

(Image from Someecards)

I must admit I was dreading jury duty.  I received the summons in the mail last month and I thought of it only as a great inconvenience.  While my supervisor would have to fill-in for me for the first three days, and my daily workout routine would be disrupted for the entire two-week stint.

Fortunately, Pierce County does an excellent job of accommodating jurors and making them feel appreciated.

Normally, jurors would call-in the night before to find out if the group they're assigned to has been called.  Because of my rotating shift, I was instructed to show up whether my group was called, or not, and be placed on the day-to-day schedule.

Showtime for the very first day of jury duty is usually 0800 hours (8 AM)

How-e-ver:  Since I wanted to take advantage of the jury duty free parking, I learned it was best to arrive before 0730 hours.

(Image from:  Tinley Park Public Library--not the Tacoma, WA Courthouse)

Once I got through the Courthouse Security, the first official step in this hurry-up-and-wait process was to report to the Jury Assembly Room.  Here, I was treated to instructional video--and then had to wait some more--with over 100 other would-be jurors.

The good news about all the waiting throughout this is I was able to get a lot of reading done--like finishing four books and starting a fifth one.

(Image:  Link to site defunct)

Names were then drawn at random, in groups of up to 30, or so, to begin the Jury Selection Process.

Of course, I was called right away, along with my "gym-rat" friend, Andrea, whom I hadn't seen in years.  Once we were lined-up as if we were in a military processing station, we proceeded up to Judge Chushcoff's Courtroom. 

Here, we were introduced to the judge, his assistants, the plaintiffs and their attorney, along with the defendant and his attorney.  Judge Chushcoff briefed us on the generalities of the case, a civil lawsuit, and then the jury selection began.

This consisted of the plaintiff's and defendant's attorneys asking various questions to the group at large, in order to weed out anyone with strong biases.  One woman said it was against her religious beliefs to judge anyone, while one man had strong feelings against awarding money for "pain & suffering."

Lo-and-behold, my name was called to be one of the 13 jurors (one would be an alternate).  Andrea wasn't selected, so I'm not sure what her fate was.  Afterwards, we "lucky 13" were sworn-in and then adjourned to the Jury Deliberation Room, where the Judge's Assistant briefed us on what was to come.

This took the entire first day.  Though it all, Judge Chushcoff and his assistant "Winnie" continued with the trend of accommodating us and making us feel appreciated--minus being consigned to the smallest deliberation room in the Pierce County Courthouse.

The trial itself took a week to resolve.  Judge Chushcoff was sick one day, a witness couldn't make it on another day, and normally trials aren't conducted on Fridays, so the courthouse staff can catch up on paperwork. 

The details of the trial I'll save for a later post.  However, there's a couple of observations I'd like to make.

A real trial, or at least this particular one, wasn't like any of the courtroom dramas I've seen on TV, or in the movies.

(Image from:  Perry Mason TV Series Wiki)

First of all the atmosphere was very pleasant.  No one shouted.  There was no melodrama, or verbal confrontations.  Objections were made in a conversational manner, so much so, that a couple of my fellow jurors had trouble hearing what was being said.

In other words, no "you can't handle the truth" outbursts...

(Image from:  A Few Good Men)

Courtroom dramas also edit out a lot of mundane issues, especially when the jury is excused and has to wait in the Deliberation Room, while the attorneys and the judge discuss some legal point-of-order in private.  So there was a lot of back-and-forth during each session--several times each day.

After a week of listening to testimony and viewing evidence, my fellow jurors and I spent most of the day deliberating and then delivered our verdict.

In the end, I have to say my feelings towards jury duty have changed.  My stint as a juror was a pleasant experience; so much so, that we shared contact information with each other and hope to get together socially someday.  After we rendered our verdict, Judge Chushcoff, again expressed his appreciation for our attendance.

Attending jury duty gave me a first-hand look of--and greater appreciation for--our judicial process.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your service.

Ted Henkle said...

You're welcome! For the most part, it was a pleasant and rewarding experience. The next post will be about the trial itself. Thank you for reading and commenting.