Minnesota Farmer


Member of the Jury
February 14, 2015, 11:24 am
Filed under: make a difference, time | Tags: , , , , , , ,

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The law and jury trials fascinate me, but until yesterday I had not had an opportunity to see it from the inside.  Yesterday I was a member of the jury.

Back in December I got the letter saying I was on jury duty for the first part of 2015.  Getting the letter does not mean I will be called, it means I am in the pool of potential jurors.  This is the second time in my life I have been called to jury duty, last time I was called in but never selected.

When I got the letter to appear for duty I immediately reported to the bus company of my call.  An 8:30 appearance time meant I could do my morning route, but nothing after.  They had to know to make plans to replace me.  Even then there was a chance I would not have to appear.  Many a case is settled before the jury is called.

The night before the trial I called the jury line number.  The phone message told me the trial was on and I should be prepared for a one day trial that could go on into the evening.

Reporting to our county courthouse, I signed in and waited for the rest of the potential jury to arrive.  Waiting seems to be a big part of taking part in the Judicial system.  There are many things that have to be done in a very precise manner to insure that they will not have to be done again.

There were about 28 people in the room, several of whom I knew, not surprising in a rural area.  Some had already been called for a January trial, but most had never even been in a courtroom before.  After viewing an introductory video, 14 were chosen to go forward as potential jurors.  Questions were asked to be sure there would be an impartial jury.  One of our members was 1st cousin to the defendant, he was dismissed and replaced.

Once the questions were answered the list of potential jurors was passed back and forth between the lawyers as each cut the list by one with each viewing, to get to a jury of six, five men, one woman.  I was now on the jury.  All other potential jurors were dismissed.

I would love to know what the reasons were for the elimination of certain people.  I noted that those with ties to law enforcement (family members or friends) were out.  A lady who had been involved in a bad car accident was also removed.  Why did the rest of us stay?  Some of the questions we were asked would mean something to the lawyers who were trying the case I was sure.

After receiving instructions we recessed for half an hour.  I texted my supervisor that I would definitely not make the evening route.

The case turned out to be a fairly simple one.  There were two counts of breaking the law before us.  There were opening remarks from the lawyers, a witness for the state (a police officer) and the defendant was the only witness for the defense.

Were were instructed not to talk about the trial to anyone, and were released to get some lunch.  It was not surprising to me that many in our community already knew details of the pretrial actions, I had to reply that I could not talk about it now.  The opportunity to listen in as others talked about their courtroom experiences was interesting.  Some of those folks had been in on some nasty trials, mine was going to be really unexciting.

We reported back to the jury room at 1:30, but some issue that had to be discussed kept us out of the courtroom until two.  After closing arguments and final instructions we went to the jury room at 2:30.  There we had to stay until we reached a verdict.

We elected a chairperson, who had been on the jury for a January trial, and got to work.  Before us we had the two counts of the trial, the photos provided by the prosecution, documents provided by the defense and a written copy of the judges instructions.  We had to make a decision that would affect the defendant’s life, not an easy thing to contemplate.

A jury must decide, without a shadow of a doubt, that law had been broken.  We all agreed that on the first count there was no doubt.  The law had been broken.  On the second count, there was doubt.  We needed more information than we were given.  It is possible that such information does not exist, we could not be sure.  We had to say not guilty on the second count.

The rest is formality.  We were ushered back to the jury box and the written decision was handed to the judge and then the court reporter.  After the decision was read we were asked it we all agreed and the trial was over.  We were thanked for our service and dismissed.

I may or may not get called for a trial in the coming months, that will be the luck of the draw to be determined by how busy the trial calendar is.  After this call period I cannot be called back for 4 years.  Once I reach the age of 70 I do not have to report if I do not choose to, so this may be my last shot at a being a member of the jury.

Was it interesting?  Yes!  Would I do it again?  Sure.  As a citizen of this country it is my duty to take part in the process.  My chances are small to be called back again, I know of several who have never been called, you think their chance would come up eventually.  I am proud to be allowed to serve.

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Good for you Dad!

Comment by Michael and Elizabeth

I’ve been on a number of juries, criminal and civil and always have found the system interesting. Scheduling can be problematic for a trail that lasts a week but you work through it. One of the big complaints I hear from fellow jurors is the loss of pay as the amount paid by the court system is not even close to their regular pay at work. Good for you being an active citizen.

Comment by Don singsaas




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