Yesterday it was a little hard to believe that I would not be heading out to swear at the traffic on the freeway, be told to park "on levels three or higher" when I got to the parking garage, and sit in a basement grand jury room, listening to cases about stupid people doing (for the most part) stupid things. Most of the cases we heard did fall into this category, although it pains me to admit that I will likely be haunted by some of the examples of the worst of humanity that we also had to sit through. Fortunately, the stupid cases far outweighed the heartwrenchingly awful ones.
When I first received my summons (the one that cordially invited me and said that if I couldn't make it I'd only have to pay a $500 fine), I had many friends make suggestions on how to get out of jury duty. As well-intentioned as my friends are, none of those suggestions are really germane to a grand jury selection process (although they might still be applicable for a trial jury).
I'll be honest - I truly enjoyed the experience. Sure, once the school year started up again, I sometimes allowed the stress of trying to get 40 hours' worth of work done in 24 each week to get to me, but this process really opened my eyes to the judicial process and gave me a new appreciation of it that a college-level course on the three branches of government never could. I know that many of my fellow jurors were similarly inconvenienced, and several of us spent some of our lunch hours making calls, checking emails, and otherwise completing work projects when we would have preferred to actually go to lunch and relax a little bit.
While I am forever sworn to secrecy about the cases that I heard and the decisions that we made, I thought it might be helpful to educate my fellow citizens on the ins and outs of the grand jury selection process as well as the daily procedures once empaneled on a grand jury so that those lucky few who receive the same engraved invitation I did know what to expect. Should any of my fellow jurors stumble across this, please feel free to leave additional recommendations in order to make the whole experience easier on the newbies who will follow in our footsteps.
During the Selection Process
- Do dress comfortably; you're going to be there all day. You may also want to bring something to do (a book, a crossword, a knitting project, etc.).
- Do pray that your assigned juror number is greater than 30 (this applies only to those who really don't want to be there).
- Do remember that this is considered your "civic duty" - the only way to avoid ever being summoned is to not obtain a state-issued identification card. Or by committing a felony. Pick your poison. Basically, man up and remember that if you were on the other side, you'd want a jury that wasn't selected from the smallest pool possible.
- Don't claim you'll lose your job if you get selected for the jury; it's actually illegal for employers to terminate employees for jury duty.
- Do, however, check to see if your employer will compensate you for the time you serve; this can play a role in the judge's determination.
- Don't claim that you don't speak fluent English and then proceed to answer the judge's follow up questions in perfect English.
- Don't claim a third cousin's incarceration is going to bias you for or against every case that might come before you; everyone will see through that story and decide you are a complete b****.
- Do know that your "orientation" day will be the single most boring day of your life. Imagine Steven Hawking reading you a 3-inch binder full of the Arizona Revised Statutes (or, for those of you not in Arizona, your home state's revised statutes; they're probably similar). That's really f***ing boring.
- Do be a jury who snacks. During our empanelment, we consumed untold amounts of York Peppermint Patties, smokehouse almonds, teriyaki beef jerky, cinnamon roasted almonds, M&Ms, dark chocolate covered pretzels, and various home baked goods (and that's not even counting lunch time).
- Do dress comfortable - you're going to be in a small room with poor air conditioning.
- Don't take this commitment lightly - do remember that our country was founded on the principle of innocent until proven guilty, and even though a grand jury only needs to determine whether probably cause exists, the more troubling cases must be heard and determined just as carefully as the idiot who tried to sell pot to a cop after asking, "Are you a cop?" and being told no.
- Don't wear overpowering cologne or perfume (a general rule of thumb is that if YOU can smell your scent, everyone else in the room is dying from it). No one in our jury actually had this issue, but I was somewhere the other day where someone clearly loved her scent, so I thought it was appropriate to add that reminder here.
- Don't wear any metal through the metal detector, but do feel free to have about ten metal knitting needles in your bag that goes through the X-Ray - apparently a barrette is dangerous but double pointed knitting needles are no big deal.
- Do go to lunch with your fellow jurors. You will become friends with these people even thought you may have never spoken to them before.
- Do have inside jokes (including dirty ones).
- Don't attempt to bring a camera through security. Don't worry about your phone camera - apparently only camera cameras are contraband.
- Do create a lottery pool. Don't assume you'll win.
- Don't discus your cases when the door is open.
- Don't fall asleep during the presentation of a case.
- Do bring balloons and noise makers on your last day (it's also recommended that you applaud your regular hearsay officers).
- Do come home every day and hug your kids tightly.
I must say that it was honor to serve on this grand jury with the men and women who were empaneled with me. I believe that we all took this civic duty seriously, and I hope that our work served to make our county a better, safer place to live.