Last Monday, for the first time, I get called for jury duty--almost two years after moving into the city. I figure it'd be a quick hello and goodbye, because they generally don't want attorneys in the jury box. I'm expecting to be dismissed around mid-day, and back at work the next day.
Suffice it to say it didn't work out that way--they called a large group of us into the courtroom, and began whittling down the herd--bringing groups of us into the jury box, knocking out a few and replacing them, and this took a few hours. They also brought us up one at a time for the defense and prosecution and judge to ask some basic questions--do you recognize the names of certain parties, do you work in law enforcement, etc.--and while it's a well known fact that you can get out of jury duty easily by answering every question with "well, according to the prophecy . . .", I kept it honest. And when it was over, I found myself sitting on the jury for a criminal trial.
The next several days were spent hearing testimony, reviewing evidence, hearing arguments, and finally deliberating before rendering our verdicts yesterday and being dismissed. A few observations:
1) You know how when you see presentations, there's always a chance to ask questions? It takes some getting used to, to hear a lawyer's presentation or some testimony and not be able to ask anything.
2) Not being able to talk to anyone--even other jurors--about the trial during the trial phase is difficult. You can only work things over in your own mind, until deliberations.
3) This case--involving charges of assault with deadly weapon and intent to injure--was a difficult one, as I imagine most cases that come to trial would be (otherwise, they'd get pled out earlier). Defendant was very sympathetic, and there were some varying accounts from witnesses. Even with everything over, the whole thing still weighs on my mind.
4) Ultimately, we voted to convict on four of the five counts--the evidence and Defendant's own testimony left no room for reasonable doubt on those charges in accordance with the jury instructions. But it still feels awful, as I imagine it feels to have to fire someone.