my jury duty experience

I’ve been getting summons since i was 18.  literally the month after i turned 18 they were asking for me but they never wanted me.  I’ve gotten called to jury duty in rio grande city but they didn’t want me because i didn’t live in rio.  i got called once to somewhere in the valley but the day before they called saying they didn’t need me anymore.

The wierd part is i’ve actually wanted to get to serve on a jury.  I want to be able to do my civic duty and participate in one of the rights we have as American citizens.  So.. another summons came, i didn’t hold my breath.  The day of came and we were all hearded into an auditorium in the courthouse that apparently can be used as a fall-out shelter.  along with 200 other people we sit and wait.  we started the morning saying the pledge to the American flag and the Texas flag.  (all those years in student council paid off) i actually knew the pledge.  they tried to play a video which seamed interesting but they couldn’t get media player to work quite right.  if i wasn’t sitting in the middle of a bunch of people i probably would have helped them.  They picked 75 people for the first group.  then we waited and they picked 75 for another group.  that was my group.  we then got sent off to come back after lunch.  i’ve never made it this far before.

when we got back we waited upstairs for about two hours.  when we finally got in the court room i was number 22.  we got to meet the judge, the lawyers and the accused.  They did a brief presentation and asked some questions.  The voir dire they called it.  just general group questions like “Do you know any of the people on this list” “can you pass a fair judgement if..”  just a bunch of questions.  I didn’t say anything.  I was hoping they would pick me for the jury, we’d stick around a few hours and i’d be home before patti.  well.. this day didn’t end until after 6.  I ended up being the 5th guy seated in the jury box.  Kind of like the penalty box without the plexi glass all around. 

The next day we showed up bright and early to get started.  the lawyers began their opening statements and explained the case.  It was a capital murder case and an attempted capital murder.  I can still see the district attorney describing the facts of the case.  As the case began i’m glad i took a notepad because all the guys they were talking about had like 4 names.  Once the first day was over, i was overwhelmed with names but had no idea how the guy on trial had anything to do with the case.  They called to the stand one of the investigators but he never proved anything.  Then they called this other lady, same thing.. didn’t even mention the accused.

As the week rolled on i got to know my fellow jurors a bit better.  most of them were teachers or worked with a school.  some were mechanics, some worked in the oil field.  By thursday you could tell that everyone wanted to be finishsed with the case.  we ended up staying late.  good thing joe canceled practice that evening.  by the end of that night, both sides had rested their cases.  friday morning they worked on the charges, by the afternoon we heard the closing arguments and they took us to lunch.  afterwards they had us begin deliberations.  they picked me as the presiding juror.  (talk about getting the full jury experience)  we took a poll right away and found that we were about 50/50 split.  so.. we started laying out the facts as we knew them.  ended up being another late night.  the judge finally sent us home at 10pm that night.  (come to find out they were waiting in the court room that whole time)

by the time i got home i was so frustrated.  9 hours of deliberations.  going over the same facts over and over again.  looking over statements, evidence, surveliance videos.. all sorts of stuff.  i came home to patti who was understanding and helped me vent for about an hour.  i think the biggest dilema we were facing was the fact that we knew that this guy was probably guilty, but didn’t have enough evidence to prove it. 

monday morning we returned.  before we took another poll i started the morning off describing my thoughts and opinions over the past weekend and how torn i was about the decision we needed to make.  the first poll of the day started with progress but not unimaous.  4 hours later we finally got everyone on the same page.  walking back in the courtroom i couldn’t even face the guy.  i just starred at the judge as she read the verdict.  behind me in the courtroom i could hear someone give a sigh of relief.  afterwards the judge came in and talked to us.  we got to hash alot of stuff out.  the lawyers even came in and we got to talk to them.  that was probably the best part of the whole experience.  You know.. your swamped with all this information for a week but can’t talk about it or ask questions about it with the lawyers until afterwards. 

would i ever do that again willingly.. i doubt it.  it was a rough week.  having to put aside my convictions and feelings and just go by what the law reads.. that was tough.  probably one of the roughest weeks i can remember.

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