Inside the courtroom: my jury duty experience

By Grey Stephens
January 31, 2019

Juror Summons
Photo by: Grey Stephens

One afternoon, I came in from school and my dad handed me an envelope. It had my name on it with a court seal from Delaware county courthouse. It had the words “open and complete immediately” in bold across the front. So, I open it to find a juror summons. I was to report on Oct. 29,  2018, at 8:30 in the morning to serve as a juror for a civil or criminal case.

This all sounded exciting and frightening at the same time. As I read the details of the notice, it said a failure to appear as summoned would result in a “fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or imprisoned for a term not more than 10 days or both.” Neither of those sounded like a good option for me, so I planned to go. It would be my first time, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. My dad told me I should expect to be there all day; he was right.

I arrived bright and early at 8:30 a.m. I walked into the building and had to go through security along with my belongings. All I brought was a small purse with money inside, a phone charger and of course my summons. I got through security and followed people in front of me to a big room with about 200 people in it. I walked to the desk to check in, and the lady hands me a clipboard with numerous papers attached to it and tells me to find a seat. I walk across the long room to find an empty seat towards the back. As I look around, I see adults of all ages but none as young as me. When I get to my seat, I look over the papers attached to the clipboard.

It had questions about my ability to serve as a juror. Some of the questions discussed how I felt about law enforcement, mental health issues and religious beliefs. During my time answering these questions, I realized the United States of America makes it a legal obligation for you to serve as a juror. People cannot be excused from jury duty unless they have a view that would impair their judgment on a case. All jurors are under oath, to tell the truth when introduced to a case. After being in a room almost all day, I was finally called in a group of about 50 people to serve in a criminal case. We all stood in the detailed courtroom before the judge, until he instructed that we were to be seated. Before disclosing information about the case, he went over all legal obligations and any questions about the selection process.

I thought it was uncommon for me to be selected because I was fairly new to the government system. I’m a college student that only registered to vote the year before. They say the selection is random, but I’m not sure that’s the case. The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) reported that in a given year, 32 million people get summoned for service. Also, it’s estimated that only 1.5 million people actually get selected to serve on a jury. There are many variables that affect the probability of being selected for jury duty.

What I realized is that jury duty is a big responsibility we have as citizens of the United States of America and if you are summoned, take the time to learn more about the government system; keep in mind you will be there all day. I wasn’t released until 5:30 p.m. that day. Although it was a long day, I learned about the process it takes for government officials to pick a jury that will best fit the case and be unbiased in their decisions.

Grey Stephens

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