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Jury Duty or Why I need a different job title to use outside Southwest.

Not applicable

I recently got called for jury duty for the first time ever.  "Bring a book, you'll be sitting there all day," everyone advised.  So I did. 

I arrived a few minutes early, signed in, and settled in with my book.  A short while later, we were being whisked away in groups.  I was so involved in my book I almost missed my number being called--I thought I was going to be just sitting there all day!

 At our assigned courtrooms, we were quickly brought in for voir dire  (don't I sound fancy?--I learned that term from watching My Cousin Vinny about a zillion times-- it's an official way of saying "asking people questions to weed them out so you can select the jury you want")!

The State Prosecutor spoke, explaining the Law of Assault and what we would have to do to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the defendant was guilty.  I paid close attention, as I was feeling very Law and Order-ish at this point and secretly wanted to be chosen for what seemed like such drama-filled excitement!  I would be lying if I told you I wasn't disappointed that I didn't get asked one question by the Prosecution, while others were clearly being singled out--I just knew they were in!

Then it was the Defense Team's turn.  They wanted to make sure we understood what "beyond a reasonable doubt" meant.  By this time it was painfully obvious that some of my peers were saying exactly what the lawyers did not want to hear so that they could enjoy the rest of their day outside the lovely Dallas County Courthouse.  I couldn't believe it, here I am with my fingers crossed that I will be chosen, and these people were blowing it on purpose! 

Then it happened.  I finally got asked a question. Then another.  I made good eye contact with one of the defense attorneys and all of a sudden, my stomach turned.  Could I actually be on this jury?  Could it actually be me voting to send someone to jail, then having nightmares that the defendant would come after me?  OK, I'm a bit dramatic, but I really got a little nervous.

 They sent us out of the room, then called us right back in to announce who would be serving and who was free to go for the day.  One name was read, two names, three names, then, there it was, Juror number four, Mallory Messina! 

I couldn't wait to tell everyone I knew--I might have to miss work for the next few days, as this Criminal Assault case might be a doozie!  Who could I get to feed and walk my dog if I was tied up in court late that night?  As all of this was rushing through my head, the Judge let us know that this particular court usually finishes its cases in the same day, maybe a couple hours the next day.  So there went my dreams of being the star of the next Grisham thriller.

We had a lunch break, and then the case started; three hours later, the jury was deliberating. 

I have always heard, and even used, the term "bored to tears", but it wasn't until serving on this jury that I actually knew it was a real thing.  I was struggling so hard to keep my eyes open while listening to the same testimony over and over and trying not let out audible sighs when the lawyers rephrased the exact same questions dozens of times that there were actually tears in my eyes.   I was downright mad that I had been selected for this jury--I could have been at work (which, if you have read my other blogs, you know is a lot more fun than the courthouse!).

So we deliberated for about 15 minutes. The guy was clearly guilty, but we had fun coming up with scenarios for the crime that couldn't be factored in since they weren't presented in court.  I met some really cool people on the jury, come to think of it.

 After the verdict was delivered, the bailiff asked the jurors to stick around for a a bit because the lawyers would want to talk to us.  I had a lot of feedback for them, but our foreman spoke for us and got most of our concerns across.

When we were dismissed, lawyers for both sides walked towards me--I thought I had done something wrong and was about to go to trial myself!  Then I was asked, "So, Miss Messina, we were all wondering, what exactly is a Culture Services Representative?"

Were they serious?  I must have looked stunned as I tried to explain my unique role to them. Then it dawned on me, "did I get picked because my job title was intriguing?" Don't worry, I asked them that and never got a real answer, just giggles. 

 Ha-Ha, lawyers.  Did you just put me through four of the most boring hours of my life so you could find out what a Culture Activities Representative does? NOT FAIR.

 Even if you did choose me for my spectacular juror skills, you could have at least done your part and made the trial showy and interesting, but you took the easy way out.  And just for that, i have decided that the next time I get called to serve Jury Duty, I will list as my job title something the court will be more familiar with...LAWYER. 

That way, there should be no questions.

 

4 Comments
Not applicable
I've been selected for jury duty just once for a civil trial between two insurance companies. I found the experience very interesting and frustrating (ten of us were unsuccessful in changing the opinions of two jurors). During our initial instructions we were told to leave our cell phones in the jury room. I thought, "no way, I'll keep mine with me and turned off." That worked well until my I forgot to turn it off after returning from lunch and it rang in the middle of the hearing. I panicked and stopped the ringing by ripping the battery off of the phone. The judge was understandably upset, and I was extremely embarrassed! The other civic duty I've enjoyed and recommend everyone do at least once is working the polls on election day. It's a very eye-opening experience in many respects.
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To be honest, your job title may have made you stand out and could very well have played a factor. The whole process of jury selection is designed to weed out people that might have a bias or prejudice againtst any of the parties involved. Your job title is interesting and certainly cold have caught the attention of one the attorneys. You have have been been discussed by the the judge and attorneys during a break. In once heard a judgment say that jury service and voting were our 2 most important civic duties and I agree. However, you did find out that law in real life is actually pretty boring. It's nothing like on TV. I love Law & Order, but it is HORRIBLE when it comes to accuracy on legal procedure.
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My last two stints at JD resulted in my getting picked both times. The older case involved a charge of juvenile misconduct-murder, and that one drove my then-wife nuts as I absolutely refused to discuss the case with her until it was over. The accused was not the shooter, but an accomplice, and based upon the evidence, we found him guilty and he was sentenced to time in a Texas Youth Facility until he turned 21. Gang-related drug crime is such a terrible waste, on so many fronts. The more recent one was a DUI case that came to trial nearly 2 years after the incident. During voir dire, but the lawyers for both sides spelled out very clearly what the law on DUI was (either physical impairment OR mental impairment OR a BAC above .08) stressing that only ONE criteria had to be met, not all three. Some folks felt that all three were required, or that BAC wasn't an accurate measure of one's ability to handle alcohol (i.e. big guy, small gal) and those folks were stricken, since they demonstrated that they couldn't follow the specifics of the law. I kind of think at least some folks intentionally played dumb so they wouldn't get chosen. I did get selected, and it turned into a 2-day trial. (The guy was desperate to escape conviction as it meant he'd lose his current job due to insurance considerations). The evidence showed he was clearly guilty using ANY of the three standards (blowing by a blacked-out DPD unit at 80 MPH at 3am was a good indication, and if that wasn't enough, he drove the wrong way down a major street as a "short cut" to his home). Although all 6 of us felt sorry for the guy, the situation was one of his own making, and we found him guilty. The guy's lawyer tried to cast doubt on EVERYTHING, and came across as a real slimeball. Both were good experiences (for the jurors!) and it's something that the average John/Jane Q. Citizen needs to take more seriously. Never, ever, drink and drive!
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In all of that long, but interesting post, you never said what a Culture Services Representative is! Tell us. We're dying to know!