Jury Duty - My Day in Court

Collin County Courthouse, McKinney TX
Collin County Courthouse, McKinney TX | Source

One of the challenges and privileges of being a U.S. citizen is the responsibility of serving on a jury. From time to time, we face that task, usually when we least expect it or have the time to spend performing this service. Sitting in judgment of a fellow human is a daunting experience when we realize that a jury's verdict can impact a person's life from that moment forward.

Our society allow us the freedom to choose where we work, where we worship and where we live for the most part. We can speak unkindly of our leaders without retribution most of the time. We can elect to vote or not to vote, even though it is a privilege of citizenship. And we can elect not to serve on a jury when called, but not without serious consequences.

Juror Information on Failure to Appear

Summons to Appear
Summons to Appear

The Summons We Dread

When I received the summons to report for jury duty, my reaction was predictable. Although it wasn't my first time to be called for jury duty, I was aggravated about having to adjust my work schedule. My coworkers offered advice on what I could do to to get out of serving.

Some suggested that I ignore the summons or when questioned, behave like a bigot so I would be dismissed from the panel. Others, like my boss, said that I should ask to be rescheduled. Despite the discouragement of my manager and coworkers, I knew that I would show up at the appointed time for jury duty.

If the juror is deceased, there is no need to appear in court.
If the juror is deceased, there is no need to appear in court.

Exemptions

  • Students enrolled full time in high school or college
  • Primary caregivers for an invalid who is unable to care for him/herself (This does not include health care workers.)
  • Those serving on active military duty deployed outside of Collin County
  • Officers or employees of the Senate, House of Representatives, or any department, commission, board office, or other agency in the Legislative branch of state government. (This does not include Law Enforcement Officers.)
  • Someone who has appeared for a jury summons within the past thirty-six months
  • A person who is seventy years or older who would like to claim a permanent exemption

The judge's bench
The judge's bench

When the specified day arrived, I drove thirty-five miles in rush hour traffic to the courthouse. Parking was limited, yet, I found a spot within a reasonable distance of the building. By 8:00 am, I was seated in the designated jury call area surrounded by a room full of my peers. Each sat nervously awaiting whatever would happen next.

Within moments the bailiff arrived and took a position behind a podium at the front of the room. First, he called for anyone who thought they had a valid reason not to serve to come forward. A number of people made a beeline to the front of the room to give an outpouring of testimonials aimed at being excused from serving on a panel. Those whose excuse met the stringent criteria for dismissal left the holding room one by one. The remainder of us, who had remained seated, had little hope for a reprieve as our numbers diminished.

Soon, my name was called along with fifty-four other prospective jurors. The judge directed us to report to Courtroom Four where we entered single file into the solemn room. The Bailiff instructed us to call out a sequential number as we took our seats.

Anyone with a number under thirteen stood a strong chance for selection in this trial where twelve jurors would be chosen. The attorneys took their turns asking questions of the prospective group of jurors while we had our first look at the defendant..

Some of those who were still trying to get out of serving on the jury admitted to prejudice that most people would be ashamed to admit privately, much less state in open court. The prosecuting attorney asked each of us the same question.

"If, after the presentation of evidence would you be able to come to a conclusion of guilt and sentence this person to serve time in jail?" I answered in the affirmative.

The Old Collin County Courthouse

The old Collin County Courthouse
The old Collin County Courthouse | Source

Jury Selection

At the moment when the defendant’s eyes met mine, I felt the awesome burden of the task ahead. Accused as an accomplice to armed robbery, if found guilty, her life would be forever changed. If I was chosen to serve on the jury, the fate of this young woman would rest in my hands.

I prayed for the jury to be filled with reasonable and prudent people who would take this duty solemnly. If I were in her place, I wondered if a jury of my peers would include people who would pay attention to the repetitious details of events long past. I caught myself dozing off at times in the aftermath of a big lunch.

Police Presence

The parking lot filled up quickly despite the early call to arrive at the courthouse.
The parking lot filled up quickly despite the early call to arrive at the courthouse.

Serving on a jury is something I look forward to as part of my civic duty

  • Yes, I certainly do.
  • Not me. I dread getting a summons.
  • I have never been called to serve on a jury.
  • I find the whole process fascinating and have done it many times.
  • I am an employee of the Senate or House of Representatives and am exempt
See results without voting

Called as a Witness

Perhaps a more daunting task is being called as a witness in a criminal case, as I was years earlier when I worked as a bank teller. I was called to court as a witness to testify.

That came about after one of my customers withdrew a substantial amount of money from her savings account. I recalled at the trial that during the transaction, she appeared to be somewhat stressed and nervous. I checked her balance on the books, which at the time was printed out within a huge stack of green bar paper kept behind the teller line. We were required to manually write down any transactions on the appropriate page showing the customer's balance. For withdrawals exceeding a certain limit, we were required to obtain a bank officer's signature to proceed, which thankfully, I had followed the procedure.

Sometime later, the woman claimed to have been coerced into making the withdrawal. She told police that her husband had been kidnapped and held captive while she was forced to pull out the funds.

Regrothenberger at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Regrothenberger at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Called to the Witness Stand

As the trial progressed, a number of witnesses were called to the stand to give their testimony. One of the witnesses was the ex-husband of the woman who was standing trial. He was marched into the courtroom in leg irons wearing an orange jumpsuit. He'd already been convicted on his part in the armed robbery of a neighbor. His testimony stayed with me, especially when asked about abusing his wife he told the court, "Well, someone had to straighten her out."

During the trial, we were shown graphic photos of domestic abuse that the defendant suffered. Her plea of not guilty and her defense was based on Battered Wife Syndrome.

The Prosecuting Attorney was suffering with a terrible cold and throughout the trial he sniffled rather loudly. This annoying habit was really hard to tune out so we could pay attention to his presentation, rather than his nose.

We wondered if we would we be able to filter through all the lies, testimony and evidence, to sort out the believable from the unreasonable? I fervently hoped that our group of jurors chosen could reach a reasonable conclusion.

Despite my wishes and hopes that a full panel of jurors would be chosen before they got to me, I was selected to serve. I prayed that I could fulfill my purpose in this role and that I would prove adequate to the task, so help me God.

Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash

© 2010 Peg Cole

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36 comments

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

And I'm sure you will (or did.) Amazing isn't it the number of people so quick to shirk their responsibilities of society, but always first in line for the benefits.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Immartin, thanks for stopping in. It truly is amazing and sad to see.

I served for a week at this trial before its conclusion. It was a sobering, heart-wrenching experience. I will never forget the statement made by her ex-husband who was brought into the courtroom in orange coveralls wearing handcuffs and leg chains. We were shown pictures of the abuse he'd inflicted on her in the past. In response, he said "Well, someone had to straighten her out." Her plea was based on battered wife syndrome.


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 6 years ago from Alton, Missouri

I've been on the list for jury duty twice but there was never a trial going on in my county during those times so I was never called in. What a lot of people consider a burden, we writers see as an opportunity. Thanks for the reminder of our responsibilities in a free and democratic state.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Cygnet,

As writers it does present an opportunity to experience a different slice of life. I've been summoned before and released when the court had filled their requirements. One time I served as a witness in a bank extortion case. That was interesting. Not your everyday fare.

Thanks for stopping by. I will gladly post your website on my profile if you like. It is awesome.


dabeaner profile image

dabeaner 6 years ago from Nibiru

Everyone should be aware of their rights and obligations as a juror.

Fully Informed Jury Association

http://fija.org/

For one thing -- jurors are the REAL judges. The petty tyrant in the black robe is supposed to just be a referee.

That is, jurors can judge both the law and the facts, contrary to the judge's instructions to just consider the facts of a case. Jurors do NOT have to follow instructions. If the law itself is a bad law, IN THE JURORS' OPINION, jurors can vote the defendant "not guilty" even though the defendant may have technically violated the bad law.

This is called "jury nullification." If you are called, and you want to serve, you must not mention that, and you must appear to be a typical ignorant, stupid sheep. Otherwise you will be booted off the pool. All parties to the courts do NOT want informed, intelligent jurors. They want easily manipulated sheep.

You will note that the system actually does the best to keep out intelligent, informed jurors. The per diem is a pittance, parking costs more than that. Many trials drag on and on. They treat you like the sheep they think you are. So what you usually get as jurors are those dependent on government -- government employees, retired, on welfare, etc.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi dabeaner - thanks for the comment and looks like you have your own experience with the system to tell. I'll look forward to reading about it.

Perhaps it was unusual that our jury was a mixture of business people, some with post high school educations, most with full time employment. The debate in the jury room was quite interesting but we managed to come to agreement in short fashion. Thankfully, no one was there for the per diem.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Thanks for the insight into how this all really works. I have seen the process in many movies. In South Africa the jury system was abandoned a long time ago.

Love and peace

Tony


munirahmadmughal profile image

munirahmadmughal 6 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan.

"Jury Duty, My Day in Court".

This is an excellent hub, informative and full of humanistic feeling for justice.

Main thing is protection of right. Sometimes a person has a hundred person right, some time less and some time totally not having any right. The Counsel is to do his duty honestly and with full knowledge and best manner. The decision is with the Judge for which he is responsible and answerable.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Tonymac04 - I've seen lots of movies and TV shows where jury selection is portrayed. It never occurred to me how important the process could be until I was in the courtroom. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment. I would be interested in how the system works in South Africa. Do tell.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Munirahmadmughal, hello. Thanks for your nice comment and thoughts on personal rights and justice. Protection of a person's rights is important, including the rights of the victims. Welcome to hubpages. Hope you enjoy it here.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

I learn much from this hub. It open my eyes about what's going on in United States. Good information from you. Thanks for share with us. Vote this Up.

Prasetio


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Prasetio, Good to see you here again. Remember this is just one person's perspective on the system. Every trial is different - hopefully fair and impartial jurors are selected to serve. And thanks for the thumbs up. Cheers to you.

Peggy


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Thanks for sharing this. I have always dreaded being called for jury service. The burden must feel heavy yet someone has to do it.


paradigmsearch profile image

paradigmsearch 6 years ago from USA

A beautifully written article that eloquently described how I believe most of us feel.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thanks so much paradigmsearch. I'm fascinated by the American judicial system and criminal trials. Awesome to think about, a jury of our peers.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

I keep forgetting what a global environment we write in and how different things are from country to country. This medium really enables a closer smaller world! Wow.

Thanks pastella13 for your remarks about Jury Duty. It would be an interesting comparison to make on how the process varies from country to country. I agree with the subject matter having a direct bearing on whether I could serve impartially; I would have some limitations for sure when it came to animals. Thanks for reading and for the nice comments.


ralwus 6 years ago

Yeah, it's nothing like they portray it on TV or in the movies. I was chosen last spring, but then when the judge found out all of my medical problems and the fact that I had to pee quite often in the morning, he told me to leave just before the proceedings started. Back in '94 I was called to serve and was on heavy chemo treatments, they threatened to arrest me when I was a no show. God, I had one heck of a time with them. LOL I had sent them all the required documentation too. Kudos to you.

I received an email with your fan mail, it is gone. You have disappeared altogether. hehe thanks, I'm sure it's just a glitch, it was there, and when I went to approve it, it just vanished. Honest, I didn't touch it, thanks again, Charlie


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Welcome Ralwus! Nice to see you here. Yes, more recently I had to opt out of Jury Duty because of ongoing care of two elderly people. Can you imagine being on a jury for 6 months or so? Sorry to hear of your medical problems. Anyhow, thanks for dropping in and I'll leave a new fan mail for you. Hope it doesn't vanish as well. You're great!


wilderness profile image

wilderness 6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

Only once have I been called for jury, and I was glad I was not chosen. It is not a task I would like to undertake.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Wilderness - It's pretty scary once you get past the first eliminations and realize you might actually serve on the jury. Thanks for stopping by and for your comments.


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA

Peg - I am late to the table for this nice meal of an article, but it was well written and interesting. I enjoyed the visit.

Gus :-)))


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hey there Gus - Thanks for stopping by to read and for the nice comment. Great to have your face here.


Mrs. J. B. profile image

Mrs. J. B. 5 years ago from Southern California

Some told you to "ingore the summons"? NO NO NO... The last thing you want is the state after you.

I was called to JD last year. What a tedious process. The waiting alone is a nightmare. I got there at 8:00 AM as instructed all to be told that I would be there until 5:00 PM.. Oh the screams that shot throughout my brain. Next I had to sit in a room that was packed with people. No open windows, no TV and no one to talk to. By one ( finally ) my number was called. We walked into the court room and this young boy of 16 turned around to look at all of us. My heart hit the floor. He was being charged with robbery and sexual aggravation. His eyes caught mine, ( I am sure he saw the look fo disbelief? Horror? Pain? ) in my eyes. When it came my turn to talk to the Judge, I stated that I could not do it. That one of my kids was just a bit older and I could not be a part of his conviction. The Judge being a woman must have sensed the Motherly part of me, understood and excused me... I am now off the hook for another year before I can be called again. Thank God. This was a great hub. I enjoyed it very much.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I think we should all serve on a jury at least once to get an understanding of how it works. I was called about a year ago but was not chosen. Actually I have been called for jury duty several times over the years but only served on one jury. It was a civil case.The lawyers were rather annoying. and we did not all agree but we got through it.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Dahoglund, Thanks for the response to this hub on jury duty. We are all part of the civic process and until we serve on a jury we can only speculate about what goes on behind those closed and guarded doors.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Wow, Larry. It sounds like there's more than one problem with that parish. That isn't at all random or right. If you reported on a case you are the media, and jurors are usually excused for even reading news reports before a trial. Sounds a bit off for that reason alone. A jury of our peers. Really. We have a small town nearby that has its own system of justice, too.

Thanks for sharing your experience in the judicial system. It was eye opening.

Peg


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

Over my life I have been called for jury duty 4 times....doing my civic duty I never tried to back out....during all 4 times....I never got to sit in as a jury member....heck I never even saw a lawyer....we just sat around the court area...until somebody would tell us we were done for the day.

My most recent time....we were required to call in every morning.....an automatic message would tell us if we needed to come in....all 5 days the message told me to stay at home. So my memories of 4 jury duties.....sitting around a hallway and calling an automated answering machine.

I enjoyed reading about your jury duty experience. Looking at some of your comments....I see that you wrote this hub over two years ago....can you believe that much time has gone by? Voted up and interesting.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Cogerson,

Too bad you didn't get picked and have a chance to see the inside of the system. I served on a couple of juries and was even called as a witness once in an extortion and kidnapping case. It was quite exciting. I guess the process has evolved with all the messaging systems now in place, cell phones etc.. We were all just grouped in a central area where the judge eventually came in and called off names for those to go into the jury selection room. That was really eye opening listening to the prospective jurors and how they answered the pointed questions from the attorneys.

You know, I can barely believe that this has been out here for two years. Time really does fly when you're having fun!

Peg


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

I've been called for jury duty a couple of times, but luckily I was dismissed because I manage a small company. If I were to be away too long in court, the company's welfare could be at risk. Not all court localities accept this for dismissal, however. I'm glad I live in an area were it does. You wrote an exceptional article Peg, and I found it very interesting.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thank you Glenn. I had a Jury Summons just this past Monday and sat in the assembly room for about 3 hours. Thankfully, I wasn't chosen either. The system has changed quite a bit in the past few years. We had a big screen TV and had to watch a movie before selection began. It was a collection of movie clips from among To Kill A Mockingbird, My Cousin Vinnie and others along with some legal guests. Very interesting.

Nice of you to drop by today.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas

As it happens, I must report for jury duty next week Monday morning. Last time I served, about 10 years ago, it was a minor traffic offense in the city court. This time the county has called. Have been looking forward to my summer vacation for months and hadn't expected it to be cut short by a jury call.

One can often be dismissed if s/he does not agree with the death penalty and would not be able to consider the death penalty if that were the listed, or one of the listed punishments, for a guilty verdict for that case. Last time I went through voire dire it was announced and in writing on the forms given us, that if we would not be able to vote for a death sentence then we would not be allowed to serve because we must be able to consider all possible punishments in the event of a guilty verdict.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Au fait. Sorry about your vacation being cut short. I've served on a few juries and even testified on a kidnapping/extortion case when I worked at a bank. Yes, they must be sure you can vote to punish the crime in whatever manner the State allows. It is an awesome responsibility, when faced with judgement of another person. Quite sobering.

All the best to you on the upcoming trial.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas

Just thought I would let you know I spent 8 AM to 3:15 PM in voir dire with a couple of hours here and there for the attorneys to rest up. I wasn't picked. There were 52 of us for the one case and they only needed 12. It was a domestic violence case with some jail time included if found guilty.

So it was an issue of them sorting us out. They had already done background checks on all of us and pretty well made up their minds and just wanted to have a look at us and make sure we still seemed the way they decided we were from the background check. Defense attorneys don't leave much to chance.

There was no death penalty involved here so it wasn't an issue. It was instead an issue of whether we could all give the minimum sentence (2-years + a fine) if we delivered the guilty verdict.

I was glad to finally be sent home.

It is true however, that if we would want a jury trial available to ourselves in the unfortunate circumstance something criminal or civil should come to court proceedings, then we have to be prepared to avail ourselves to other people who want one. Something to think about.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Au fait, Not sure how I missed this detailed comment for so long. Sorry about that. Yes, waiting is the worst part. Well, maybe now, it's the part where they put the TV on daytime television for the room to watch the inane antics of the celebrities talking about fashion and recipes and the latest celeb mishaps. Who can read with that clatter on?

Thanks for sharing your experience in the court room.


Robert Sacchi profile image

Robert Sacchi 6 months ago

Yes, it is rough. Serving on a jury is one thing that doesn't allow for mistakes. I'm a bit surprised they picked you considering the case where you were a witness. Did either side question you about that case?


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

No, Robert. Nothing was asked of the panel about previous jury duty on other cases, that I can recall. One was a case of kidnapping and extortion rather than armed robbery. Thanks for coming by.

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