Jurors are Considered Peers, These are Their Stories

As anyone who has ever watched Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, Law &Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order UK, or the lesser known Law And Order: Mall Security Division knows there are two sides to the criminal justice system for the investigating and prosecuting of offenders.

While the shows in the L&O canon go into great detail to tell us their stories, there is a third side to the justice triangle that is often overlooked.

I am of course talking about the juries who listen to the prosecuting and the defending and render a verdict. I recently was called to jury duty, this is my story.

While Americans have many rights and responsibilities as part of being voting citizens, one area of responsibility that is often compared to that of having a root canal is the requirement to serve on a jury when summoned.

The Police investigate the crimes. Photo R. Anderson

The Police investigate the crimes.
Photo R. Anderson

My day in court as it were occurred yesterday and started with a one hour drive in rush hour traffic to arrive at the Juror Processing Center. Throughout the entire commute I was reminded of why I never want to make a long rush hour commute a part of my daily life.

More power to those brave folk who make the bumper to bumper drive twice a day. As for me I will keep my short interstate free commute for as long as I can.

Of course in the spirit of full disclosure it should be noted that one can take a bus ride from the suburbs to jury duty so it is not necessarily required to use a car.

After parking in a shaded parking garage I arrived at the Juror Processing Center right on time. After a quick trip through the metal detector I was directed to one of five separate but equally important waiting rooms filled with a couple hundred of my peers.

It should be pointed out that the juror waiting rooms are below ground to allow easy access to the tunnel system that connects it to each of the various courthouses. While this works great for the convenience of travel. It does not really bode well for electrical devices such as cell phones.

While there was wireless internet access available my cell phone could not get a signal in the depths of the juror cellar.

The District Attorneys prosecute the offenders. Photo R. Anderson

The District Attorneys prosecute the offenders.
Photo R. Anderson

So as I sat there looking at all of the happy people on their Kindles and laptops enjoying the wireless connectivity I wished that I had brought a low tech book to have something to do to pass the time.

Thankfully though I did have my MP3 player so all was not lost in terms of passing the time.

After about three hours of waiting my number was called and it was off to the criminal court building for juror selection.  As I was walking with 64 other potential jurors the bailiff told us that we would likely not see the light of day until 5 p.m. As it was approaching lunch time the idea of going another six hours without food did not go over well with me.

We were loaded into an elevator 15 people at a time and were off to the 15th floor. While the waiting room we had just left had included plush theater style chairs, we were left out in the hallway outside the court room with no chairs.

After an hour out in the hall we were finally summoned into the court room. And much like the elevator we were sent in 15 people at a time. They must really like the number 15 in the criminal justice system.

Once we were all seated the judge came out in his robe and thanked us for our willingness to serve on the jury.

Of course I am not sure it can really be called willingness since failure to appear leads to fines and/or jail time. Still, if the judge wants to think that we were all willing participants who am I to argue? After all, he is the one wearing the silk bath robe to work every day.

The judge then informed us that our time standing in the hall was not in vain since the two aggravated burglary cases that we were slated to hear were settled behind closed doors meaning we were free to get on with our lives.

Once again it was 15 people in the elevator at a time and once on the ground floor I did in fact see daylight again.

Once I had completed my civic duty it was off to enjoy another American tradition at a local diner.  While I could have gone with a nice juicy bacon cheeseburger I opted for some French toast.

After all, our constitution was based on the one the French follow so it seemed fitting to enjoy a French inspired meal to celebrate the democratic process. That and I was really hungry.

So, my record of not being selected to hear a case remains intact and I have served my civic duty until I am called upon again in about two years. Of course when I am called to serve again I will be sure to bring plenty of snacks and plenty of reading material.

If only Law & Order had taught me better about the jury system I would have been more prepared for the waiting around time. As the forum of this column I vote them guilty of not providing enough facts.

After all, if the people really are represented by those two separate yet equally important groups, shouldn’t one of those groups have done the jury a solid and told them what to bring?

Now if you’ll excuse me, there has got to be a Law and Order marathon somewhere on the television dial for me to catch.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

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