I know, I know… I’ve been negligent this week. The truth is, life has been a bit crazed. I was called in for jury duty. As I’m a firm believer in the legal system, I didn’t cry overly much. This has been the second time in 3 or so years that my number has been selected. When I called the night before, I truly was hoping that they wouldn’t need me. No such luck. Numbers 1-500+ were expected to report. If you count all the people that submit for excuses prior (or have not regained their legal rights, are not citizens, etc,) you’ll realize that there were probably about 200 people that were actually there that day.
I’m not exactly a legal genius, but the law has always fascinated me, so whenever the opportunity presented itself in high school and college, I took things like Business Law, Discussion and Debate, etc. I’m sure there are some of you reading this that are not at all surprised by this revelation. Why am I telling you this? Because, when you get called for jury duty and you really don’t want to be there for more than a day you cross your fingers and hope that whatever case you land does not say “State v.” whatever the defendant’s name is. That usually means you’ve been selected for some sort of criminal trial.
The first time I was called in to jury duty there was only one case being tried. It was a civil case. A young girl versus an auto insurance company who was trying not to pay damages. 5 lawyers against one 23 year old girl and her attorney. Yes, I got kicked off the case based on my revelation of how my brother had been killed in a motor vehicle accident. Well, not just because he was hit and killed, but because my mother sued…and when I saw all those lawyers and they asked if anyone had any objections to so many attorneys on one side I raised my hand. I told them it felt too much like bullying and that when my mom was going through our situation I hoped she didn’t have to deal with such a situation.
This time I actually got a criminal trial….and not just any criminal trial. This time was murder. As if that isn’t exciting enough, this was one where the prosecution was seeking the death penalty. My day one was spent with the judge asking us questions, being interviewed as a whole, one-on-one and in small groups. We found out that this was actually day 3 of jury selection. So they’d had 2 other days where they’d narrowed down the count from 200+ to whatever. Yes, I actually made it to day 2, the day they planned to finalize their decisions. I expected to see a bunch of people. It was a huge surprise to find only 69 of us made the cut.
It’s strange, the things that come back to you. I remembered that back in high school I actually debated the Death Penalty in class. My partner and I were on the pro side. A lot of our research back then centered on Florida (which was not the state I was living in at the time). Oddly enough, I think it was that research that allowed me to better understand the questions the judge asked, as well as enabling me to clearly articulate my point-of-view.
Have you ever considered how important a criminal defense attorney’s body language can be? In those two days, I noticed it. As writers, we tend to be people watchers and analyzers by nature. On day two, when the defense attorney was able to do her voir dire (questions to the jury), I watched as she stood and spoke. She was definitely very conscious of how important facial expressions are. In fact, like actors on stage are told to slightly exaggerate their expressions to ensure all audience members see and understand, she did similar things. Her nods were more pronounced. Things like sympathy, understanding were almost exaggerated, and her verbal cues were definitely clear. Always, if something like having been victimized by crime was being asked…it was followed up with “Is — okay now?” and “I’m so sorry that happened to you!” And when asking if someone felt that such incidents could predispose them to a bias toward her client, she didn’t hesitate to stand behind him in both a figurative and visual show of support. She would place her hands on his shoulders as if silently sending us the message “My client is harmless. See? I’m not afraid to touch him. I support and believe in him wholeheartedly.”
What things have made impacts on you and made you think? Have you ever been called in for jury duty? Was it exciting? Were you actually selected for the case?
As a little side note. Today was my first ever 5K run. I survived! Here’s a before and after picture of us.