Hey Now, You’re The Juror

Last week I got called for jury duty, despite only having lived in the area for under a year.

Not having, um, jured, before, I wasn’t sure of just what to expect, especially given some of the passages in the court’s Jury Service guide, such as:

The newly completed courthouse project offers jurors a greatly enhanced jury assembly area with comfortable individual seating (no more hard wooden benches), cable t.v., vending machines, bathroom facilities and other amenities to make jury service less painful.

I can just envision an advertising campaign. “Circuit Court jury duty: now with bathroom facilities!” And don’t get too excited about that cable TV, either; depending on what time it is, you’ll be watching either some awful morning show or The Price Is Right, neither one of which is exactly exclusive to cable.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first day of jury duty, you get to watch a training video about what happens during the jury selection process and the trial itself. The most interesting fact? Apparently, according to the narrator, “juror” rhymes with “bursar“, “quasar“, and (if you’re Andy Ober), “cursor.”

After that, you wait. And wait. And wait. Bringing something to read is a good idea.

Eventually, the Powers That Be decide to do something about those hundred jurors sucking up oxygen in the waiting room, and a bailiff starts to call names for a jury selection process (which has some Latin-sounding name I can’t remember). Each person gets assigned a number in the order in which they’re called, a process which always reveals at least one person who fails at counting and/or paying attention. After a group of several times more people than actually fits on a jury gets called, they get led into the audience section of one of the courtrooms.

This is where the first round of magic happens. Also in the courtroom will be the judge, a clerk, the plaintiff, the defendant, their lawyers, bailiffs, and a guard. After calling roll and swearing in the proto-jurors, the judge asks them series of questions to weed out anyone who might be biased or somehow have an interest in the case. These could include anything from knowing one of the parties, to having been in some similar case yourself, or whatever else the lawyers might have dreamed up to screen based on. Any “yes” answers are explained to the judge, and afterwards the lawyers figure out who they want to exclude from the jury, and out of those left, people are randomly picked as jurors, or alternates, or people who get to go back to the waiting room.

Fun fact about Anne Arundel Circuit Court courtrooms: whenever someone’s conferencing with the judge up at the bench, the judge plays white noise over the courtroom’s speakers. I’d say I never saw that happen on a courtroom drama, but that could well be a result of me pretty much never watching courtroom dramas.

In my case, I went through the selection process twice, and neither time did I wind up on a jury. On the plus side, I only had to go in two days out of the five I was on call for jury duty, and people who don’t get put on a jury get dismissed at noon, so it wasn’t that big of a hassle.

Plus, when you factor in your daily expense monies, that comes to… not even close to minimum wage.