Yesterday I had jury duty, and while I know most people loathe the hassle I like the whole idea. I wasn’t thrilled that I had to take a 30 bus ride after getting in to Union Station downtown, but the commute wasn’t too bad.
The journey went smoothly. I got to the courthouse without a problem. Outside the criminal court I saw a group, Courtside Prayer. It’s a new ministry that prays for whomever wants it.
At 9:00 prospective jurors were shown a video, a tad dated as it featured NBC’s Lester Holt with a mustache. It looked like the video was from the 1980s. Afterwards we were told that we’d be bused to a courthouse on Harrison. When we got there the 32 of us went up to the courtroom and swiftly began jury selection. Throughout the judge was swift and got down to business. He was clear and attentive to procedure and the law.
I was one of the first 14 called up and was put on the jury. I was worried that since this was a criminal case, there might be gruesome graphics, but I trusted that I’d be on a case I could handle and I was. The first group was sent into the jury room to wait for them to choose three more jurors and an alternate. By 12:20 pm the judge was explaining the schedule and process. We then had to return by 1:30 from lunch.
The judge kept things moving along and our case was straightforward. The victim had gone to pick up her mother for a 4th of July party at her house. She had an altercation with her stepfather, who eventually hit her repeatedly. During the confusion, the victim said a man from the barbecue behind the apartment burst into the hallway of the building and stopped the fight. At some point the victim’s mother came out too and yelled, “Stop hitting my daughter!” The police were called and took the victim’s story and tried to find the defendant who’d left the scene.
The judge kept everything going at a brisk pace and all the lawyers seemed new to the profession, but the case was pretty simple and they did fine. (I do think they tried to be more dramatic and verbose than needed.) The state called four witnesses and the defense called one.
By probably 3:40 we had the case for deliberation and after two votes and a thorough discussion, we reached our verdict. Guilty as charged. The jurors were conscientious and a good group to work with. We stuck to the facts and invited dissension. While people didn’t want things to drag out, from what I could tell, no one compromised on their duty to be fair. All earned their $17.20 for the day. One man said that was the rate they paid in 1972, when gas cost .36 a gallon. (Most people drove to the courthouse.)
Considering that the incident occurred less than a month ago, it’s possible to get a speedy trial in this county at least. Perhaps domestic violence cases are sped along as the parties are so closely tied.