Jury Duty

Last Monday I reported for jury duty. 

I have been summonsed more often than anyone I know, and I have no idea why.  I can only assume that word has spread about all the episodes of L.A. Law I watched in the '80's, so I must be especially qualified.

Whatever the reason, I made the drive downtown last week, on an unusually frigid day.  I navigated the freeways and the tall buildings and the one-way streets of downtown, affirming to myself that I will never, at heart, be a city girl.  I managed a sloppy parking spot and, running late, I sprinted two blocks to the courthouse. 

There was no need to rush; the long line of my fellow jurors-to-be wound around the side of the building as we waited (in the 25-degree weather) for Uncle Sam to funnel us through the metal detectors.  A well-dressed evangelist with slicked-back hair handed us all tracts and shouted a sermon that ONLY GOD is our judge and jury.  Behind me, a woman chattered into her cell phone.  In front of me, a young man listened to an iPod.  The waist of his pants hung at the middle of his thigh.  I distracted myself from the cold by wondering how his waistband was resisting the call of gravity. 

Finally in the building, we were herded to the basement.  The corridors were endless and gray, and there was not a window in sight.  I texted Hubs:  I've found the end of the universe.  At the end of a long line of about 400 jurors-to-be, I had plenty of time to stand and wait and grumble inwardly at how inconvenienced I was.  Into my mind flashed a most excellent lecture I had given my ten year old the night before.  You have to do your homework–it's not optional–so you might as well do it cheerfully and learn something.  I stopped grumbling.  Mostly.

The next several hours were a quiet blur of waiting, with hundreds, in a cave-like room that smelled of…well, caves.  The occasional announcement over the loudspeaker reminded us what a fine and heroic thing we were doing, and by the way, please DO NOT sit on the floor or leave this room without express consent.  We talked as we waited.  I met, among others, a hospital cook, a church bookkeeper, a PTA president, and an unemployed welder.  A single dad told me how proud he was of his son.  A Vietnam veteran told me what it smelled like to unload body bags.  A young stay-at-home mom wondered aloud how she would pay for childcare while she sat in a courthouse basement.

After several hours, my name was called.  With a group of 40, I was sent to the criminal courtroom of Judge H.  For the rest of the afternoon and into the next day, we answered six hours' worth of questions from the judge and attorneys.  I have four children.  My husband is in finance.   Yes, I really respect police officers.  No, I've never done illegal drugs.  Yes, I've had a family member in prison.  Yes, I've been on a jury before, and we acquitted (and, I'll confess, I allowed an exaggerated expression of sympathy to settle briefly on my face.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the prosecutor write a note next to my name).  The defense attorney asked me how I could tell when one of my kids was lying.  "Radar?" I offered.  The defense attorney laughed, but he made a mark next to my name, too.

They weren't going to pick me.  I knew it. 

Except they did pick me.

:: (to be continued) ::

57 thoughts on “Jury Duty

  1. jen says:

    I’ve never been even summoned for jury duty. What a bummer.
    Can’t wait to read “The rest of the story.”
    I love your blog. Am I telling the truth? Is your radar on?
    Totally being truthful.

  2. Prasti says:

    i got summoned for jury duty twice. at that time my husband and i were both working full-time and i was the one responsible for picking up my son after work. we also didn’t know anyone who could watch our son for us if i were to come in. the first time i used that “excuse” (which it really wasn’t bcs. i probably would’ve had to take him w/ me), i got out of it. the second time, they re-scheduled for the day before thanksgiving and i went home w/out my name even being called. phew!

  3. Joy says:

    You and my hubby were in the same boat.. uh jury predicament. He tried to get out of it but was still called. He served from Tues till Fri (guilty verdict), where we lost $500/wk pay. He is the sole provider and not sure how we are going to make it with this loss. The judge said, ‘if I excused everyone who claimed economic hardship then my court house would be empty of jurors.’ UGH!! So frustrating. I don’t mind doing my civic duty, but come on… my kids need to eat this week seriously. 😦 I look forward to reading the rest of the story.

  4. Deanne says:

    I was on a jury recently. Wow, talk about the weight of the world being on your shoulders. It was a domestic violence case. I will never complain about jury duty again. I realize now (after complaining I was chosen) how important and life changing it is. I could go on and on. I can’t wait to read the rest of your story.

  5. se7en says:

    This is amazing! I don’t think we have jury duty here… I can the see the point and I understand about civil duty and all that, but blimey talk about total disruption… If everyone on jury duty has to find a sitter and what happens if you are a nursing mom? Our lives would literally fall apart if I was not in the picture for a couple of days… And if I was to get a couple of days off (like I wouldn’t want them!) I can think of a whole lot of other things I might like to do…

  6. Tammy says:

    I have never been called to jury duty.I find it funnyhow some are called many times and so far never for me.
    Can’t wait for the rest of the story!

  7. Leanne says:

    I dread jury duty. I worked in legal for ten years and was exempt during that time in case I happened to know any of the barristers or judges which may make me biased, but now I’m fair game along with anyone else.
    And now that I’ve commented I can almost guarantee I’ll be called now. How much do you want to bet? I’ll let you know.

  8. Michelle says:

    oh wow…..kinda cool you were picked. Can’t wait to laugh along with your “to be continued” stories. 🙂
    I got out of jury duty once…I pulled the mother of four, no childcare hardship card out. But I did have a skit planned to perform *if* I did get called in….let’s just leave it at I had a severe (fake) twitch mastered, fabricated a long family tree of criminals to rattle off, and had a new package of Depends to purposely stick out of my pocketbook.

  9. annie's eyes says:

    I’ve always had such anxiety about being picked for a court case. Believe it or not, though your cave description didn’t help, you’ve relieved some of my fear about being in court. Thanks for this account, and goodness knows, we need willing and capable jurors. Hope you’re not too inconvenienced. You’re doing a good thing.

  10. Ann Voskamp @ Holy Experience says:

    Thank you for the privilege of letting us have a peek in to your week, Shannon! You write it and we’re right there — anxious to turn the page and read more!
    (And who wouldn’t pick you, gracious, warm Shannon! ~warm smile~ )
    All’s grace,
    Ann

  11. Lysa TerKeurst says:

    Oh have mercy. On the one hand I hate that you got chosen for this because- hello life interuption.
    On the other hand, I can’t think of a more qualified critical thinker than you.
    I bet you get elected foreman- foreperson- forelady. Whatever they call it.
    And I bet you will discover a big ‘ol Jesus assignment in all this. Can’t wait to hear.

  12. A Frog In My Soup says:

    I have been summoned for jury duty several times in the last 15 years, and find it very strange that my husband has NEVER been summoned in that same 15 years LOL.
    The crazy thing is that every single time I have been called, I have either just had surgery, am nursing a baby or “hello, I’m happy to do so if you pay for childcare for 6 children”…they dismissed me every time, before I even needed to go downtown.

  13. Misty says:

    A couple of years ago I was selected for jury duty…I went through my week (and even met my husband’s AUNT – no joke – on jury duty as well!) and made a new friend. This all happened BEFORE I was selected for a trial. Once I was called to go into in a courtroom, I sat in front of the judge (with the others in my group) and when they asked if there were any that did not think they would be able to commit to the extended length of time this particular trial was to take I raised my hand. I explained that tomorrow was the last day of school and I am a stay-at-home mom with no one to keep my child while I was at court. My husband’s parents and sibling all work; my parents live out of town…etc, etc. (I was not lying in the least…I couldn’t commit the weeks they assumed this trial was going to take.) I was realeased from the trial and waited to be selected for another. When we were all finally dismissed, I went on about daily life. During our church’s Vacation Bible School a year or so later, I met a woman that seemed so UNBELIEVABLY familiar. And I couldn’t figure out why: did I know her from church? School? Prior workplace? Then I realized…she was the judge that released me from her courtroom! We go to church together! (Talk about intimidation! – But really she is so super-nice…she even teaches VBS in the summers! :o)

  14. Snowb ird says:

    I know that Jury Duty is a privilege and a duty (as it says) but I was so glad when my last summons appeared (just a few days ago) that I could return it and ask to be permanently released because of age. I was!
    But I loved your description of your experience so far. It sure brought back a lot of memories of when I was called for duty several years ago and picked.

  15. Jessica says:

    Great story. I can’t wait to hear the rest of it. I’ve been summonsed…summoned…twice and have never had to serve. I have to admit, I was bummed out, and still am. I think it would be a pretty amazing thing to see and be a part of. Hopefully your experience got better…and if not, it makes a great story!!

  16. Lauren says:

    I served as an alternate on a jury for Judge H. Unless there is more than one Jaudge H. in our county courthouse, in which case, it was still Judge H. but maybe not the same. Random thought of the day.

  17. Sally says:

    My husband is picked for Jury Duty all the time. He has a busy work schedule and has an hour commute to work, so serving on jury duty is not exactly convenient for him, since he doesn’t have a whole lot of extra time on his hands. He grumbles every time he gets another letter in the mail summoning him to report for jury duty yet again. I have been a stay-at-home Mom for 17 years and have only been called to serve on Grand Jury once, last summer. My husband always aske why they keep picking him and not me…..

  18. Sally says:

    I forgot to say that I was also called to serve 15 years ago when I had a nursing baby, and they would not let me off for that reason, saying it was not a good enough reason to be excused. So I found someone to stay with my kids and I went, and then the defendant did not show up so the trial ended up being cancelled anyway.
    Guess it would have been allright to have let me stay home in the first place, huh??

  19. Lari says:

    Last July I had my first summons that I didn’t have a reason to opt out of. I got picked. It was interesting to see how things work “in the real world”. I got another summons for March 30th…my due date w/ baby #4…they’ve excused me for the next yr.

  20. Rachel says:

    I’ve been summoned twice and both times I was breastfeeding an infant. They really didn’t want me doing that during the trial, so I got out of it. I would think that it would be an interesting experience. Can’t wait to hear all about it…if you can tell us.

  21. Amy says:

    I am happy to report that I have never been called to jury duty. How I’ve managed to avoid it for this long, I have no clue.
    I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story.

  22. Daiquiri says:

    I get called for jury duty all the time too! One time I was literally a day away from delivering my 3rd baby, and I could easily have asked for an extension – to be called later. Instead, I took my chances. I sat in that courtroom breathing through contractions. The men sitting around me were VERY nervous! When the judge asked if anyone thought that they had a valid reason to not participate, I hefted myself up (you know, belly first, the way you do when you’re 106 months pregnant) and announced that I was going to have a baby at pretty much any moment. The judge practically kicked me out. It counted as jury service since I showed up 🙂
    The last time though…it was for a double murder and death penalty case. It was so creepy to sit in the room with that guy (who had already been convicted of another rape and murder). I could hardly look at him. The form was filled with questions about the death penalty…I’m pretty sure that what got me kicked from that jury was my response that I’d have to study my Bible to see what it says about it! I wasn’t lying – definitely would have been some serious Bible study and prayer going on before I could send someone to the gas chamber!
    The irony is that I’m fascinated by the whole process, and would love to be on a jury some day…when I’m not the only one available to watch my 4 small kids, preferably…so in like 18 years.
    After that? I’m wide open. Although, I’ll still have to study my Bible and pray for wisdom 🙂
    Looking forward to the rest of your story…

  23. Heather says:

    You totally cracked me up!
    I also thought that the last time I was summoned that I would not be picked- I was 8 months pregnant!
    But the prosecution’s client was also pg at the time of the event….
    I ended up befriending no one because I made us all stay past dinner since I was the only one who would not agree to give $$$ to a crazy lady just to go home!
    Do not under-estimate a pregnant mind!

  24. AF says:

    I had jury duty in October. I didn’t get sent to a judge’s court. I didn’t even leave the main room (I was number 3,000 something). Thankfully, we had windows but there are some interesting people in Dallas county. They’ve promised that I won’t be part of the jury wheel for two more years.

  25. Kori says:

    I have only been called once, just out of college when I was only substitute teaching, the judge let me go and I was glad. But then I read something that made a lot of sense and has caused me to think differently about serving. If I were to get into trouble or get accused of something I didn’t do, wouldn’t I want the BEST people on my jury? I definitely would want people with good common sense and reasoning skills… someone like you!!! Good Job!!!

  26. Chelsea says:

    I got called for jury duty in 1995. I was starting a brand new job that day teaching high school, and there was no way I was going to miss the first day of school for jury duty.
    So I didn’t show up.
    And they haven’t sent me a summons since.

  27. Monica says:

    My MIL has been called to j-duty so many times. Her doctor always writes a note that she has Irritable Bowel Syndrome (which she does not have!). So she always gets out of it. She is too judgemental to serve anyway. LOL

  28. KayKay says:

    Oh my, I’m sorry. I was on a two week murder and drug trial a couple of years ago. I was the first name called from the pool of prospective jurors and the first one that they selected to go in the jurors box. I was barely questioned by either attorney. I mean I know I’m ordinary – hence my blog name – but good grief, I couldn’t believe I didn’t warrant even a little concern from either side.;-)

  29. Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates says:

    Looking forward to more of the story! I was almost seated as an alternate juror – was minutes from being sworn in, but the defense changed minds at last minute about me! But I praise the Lord for that because it was a case of molestation of a young girl and I would have had to hear all details, including her testimony.
    It was a fascinating experience to get that far and I now have a lot of respect for how a jury is chosen. It is a long and careful process!

  30. jen says:

    I’ve been able to get out of jury duty twice. In twelve years my husband has never been called. Hmmm . . .
    I think my biggest fear about it all is navigating downtown. All those one way streets and alleys. Ick. I’d never make it.

  31. ML says:

    I also am called more than would seem statistically likely. However, I never actually get to jury selection – odd. The cases get settled, dismissed, whatever…I can’t wait until the attorneys question me! Looking forward to the rest of your story!

  32. Carla says:

    Oh gosh, I was called up last April for Municipal jury duty and was sent home after about 3 hours of sitting. Then last week what happens, I get another summons but this one is for District Court in April. The lady last time said I couldn’t be called for 2 years but I think this is different courts. The problem is that I have to be on constant call for my father now so may have to beg off for a few years. Since my Sis and her heart health and my brother and his impending back surgery I’m left to care for Daddy. Funny thing is The Hubby was called up a couple of weeks ago.

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