Intro to Grand Jury Duty

A grand jury summons looks almost identical to a petit jury (the type of jury you would see on TV) summons. The experience, however, is just a little different. I imagine the details will differ from place to place, so assume that everything I write about my jury duty experience is prefaced with “in my county” or “in my experience.”

I can’t discuss the particulars of any case I heard, so don’t expect any saucy details.

When you show up, you’ll eventually be shepherded into a courtroom, where seven jurors and two alternates will be selected at random. Those people will then furiously try to convince the judge that the burden of serving is too great for them: “I am the sole caretaker for my deathly ill mother,” “I am the lynchpin preventing the complete destruction of a small business,” etc., etc. The judge will excuse people who have convincing reasons, and otherwise take into account any specific days that you know you will be unavailable. (So long as an alternate will be available on those days, all is well.)

HOLY CRAP will a lot of people have excuses. I was the three-thousandth* person called to replace an excused juror. [*underestimation] When your name is called and you stand up to walk to the jury box, those who remain will shy away from you as if you’ve spontaneously developed a contagious disease.

Aside from being a convicted felon, I don’t know that there’s much else you can do to not be put on the grand jury. There is no qualification test, or any questioning about how you feel about the police, the law, or what-have-you.

Once a jury is selected, two names are drawn at random from the seven jurors: the first will be the foreperson, and the second is the alternate foreperson. (One other juror is later selected to be the official recorder, but that’s determined among the jurors themselves.) The judge then swears you in, and that is the last time you will step foot in a courtroom. The grand jury actually meets in the District Attorney’s office, which in my case is the third floor of the county courthouse. My term of service was two months, meeting every Tuesday and Friday.

It was a long two months.


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