Jury Duty

I’m retired two months, and the court has my number.  “No worries,” I think to myself.  I was the coordinator of Mock Trial for our county.  I know TOO many attorneys and judges.  They’ll throw me off in a second, and I’ll be back to Retirement Bliss.

OK that didn’t happen.  What did happen was that I ran into our friend and my husband’s former boss, Carlos Aleman, in the Jury Waiting Room –  Room 202.

I got caught up on stories from his daughter’s debut at Georgetown University.  I’m not quite sure what her major is, but she’s learning all about politics, economics, and wonderfully social studies/civics types of classes – AND she has to learn Chinese!

Then he got called away, and I saw teacher I knew, but she didn’t see me and besides we were watching a video about grand juries.  I didn’t have a clue as to what was in store for me.  Before I even had a chance to pull out my Kindle story of Tale of Two Cities, a serious woman behind a glass window called about 30-35 names, and lo and behold my name was among them.  So up I went to the farthest room on the third floor, Department 10.  I can’t tell you a THING about the case, but I can tell you a little about what it was like being on this Grand Jury.

All of us crowded inside the room.  More names were called, and I stayed put.  “NO WORRIES”, I thought.  I speak Spanish.  They threw me out last time because I MIGHT understand what the witness said.

“Are you all of sound mind?”  The judge asked.  Nobody moved a muscle – not even a smile.  “Nobody wants to admit to that.  Is there anyone here who cannot understand English?”  Several people raised their hands.  The judge questioned each one individually, and dismissed them all.  One man didn’t move.  He REALLY didn’t understand English.  Finally people motioned and waved goodbye.  A big grin spilled over his face.  He left.

My name was called.  “NO WORRIES” I thought.  I am best friends with a defense attorney.  The prosecution threw me out last time.  I took my place in the juror’s box.  They called a few more names.

“OK, that’s 19.  the rest of you are dismissed.” I was in shock.  I looked around.  The rest of the 19 were in shock.  The video didn’t warn us about this.  It just said how much fun it (the experience of being on a Grand Jury) was, and how much the jurors learned from their experience, and how they trusted the system now.

The judge looked at us, read some instructions, then said, “___ ___.”  (no names here) “You are going to be the floor manager (I think that’s what he called him.)  Who knew what that meant?  Does any one want to be the keeper of the keys?  The courtroom is locked at all times until YOU let the witnesses in. One juror finally raised her hand.  “And now we need someone to be the court secretary.”  No one raised their hand.  I volunteered.  Then the judge LEFT.  Did you get that?  The man with the black robe walked OUT of the courtroom.

WOW!  Now what?  There were two attorneys.  One said, “I’ve never done a Grand Jury before.”  The other one said, “YOU are in charge,” and looked at US.  “You can  determine your schedules.”

___ ____ took his/her place in the judge’s spot (the bench).  There was a book up there that he could read from when one of the attorneys directed him.  (Usually the judge directs the attorneys.)  “Oh, and you (and the knowledgable one pointed to me) are going to have to move over here somewhere because you are going to manage all the evidence.  But you don’t have to move yet, you can wait until after the break.”  So I stayed put.  We all got packets with the case.  I got a binder with my duties spelled out.  I’m in charge of taking roll.  I guess a retired teacher can do that with no problem.

Then we started hearing witnesses.  After the attorneys finished with their questions, we could submit our questions in writing – but NO TALKING!  So we sat quietly and listened and watched.  Still in shock.  Was this really happening to us?  We came back after lunch.  More witnesses.  One juror had to be home to pick up kids by 3:00, so we adjourned at 2:45.  Everybody agreed to start at 8:30 the next morning.

It came SO early!  I took roll, and noted the time when ___ ___ called the court to session.  More witnesses.  No lunch because a different person had to go on a trip, so we got out at 1:08.  I wrote it down as prescribed by my job description.  ___  ___ admonished us not to talk to anyone, ANYONE about anything regarding the case under penalty of perjury.  We will be done on Monday.  Our only job is to decide whether the case needs to come to trial, or in courtspeak “whether a criminal indictment will be issued.”  That’s it.  We don’t decide if the accused is innocent or guilty.

I looked up Grand Jury in Wikipedia.  I know that’s not the total expert, but it was quick and interesting to note that ONLY the United States even uses Grand Juries, and only 21 of the states still employ them.  Grand Juries got the name GRAND because they are big.  Notice, we are a group of 19, not 12.  That makes us just Grand as opposed to petit juries, or trial juries.  Grand juries had a lot of business and were influential in public matters in the beginning days of the United States. Once public prosecutors came into being, the Grand Jury was not AS necessary to weed out “incompetent or malicious” prosecutions.

So on Monday I go back to do the mostly unnecessary work of weeding out a potentially malicious or incompetent prosecution, with the two prosecutors directing our GRAND group as to what to do.  Amazingly, I’m OK with that.

Have you ever served on a Grand Jury?  Does your state even use Grand Juries?  Did you like the story of my experience, or was it as dull as sitting in a Jury Waiting Room?

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Author: Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, author, blogger and retired teacher/consultant. Read more about me here. http://wp.me/P7tP3I-2

23 thoughts on “Jury Duty”

  1. We don’t have grand juries here in Australia. I think the defendant goes to a committal hearing or something like that, and everyone does the we have this and that, and a magistrate decides if there is enough evidence to make a commitment for court, or something like that, very strange, but grand juries sound even stranger. I hope you are finding it interesting.

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    1. It is interesting, and the U.S. is the only country that does STILL have grand juries. The magistrate sounds like a judge. I’d have to look it up. I’ll probably be able to talk more about it after we finish on Monday. There are lots of things I wonder about.

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  2. Fascinating account. I just love the way you spill a narrative, lass. I have not served on one, but I do know a bit about grand juries. I will be most interested to read the rest of your adventure after Monday.

    Last time I was down there in the courthouse was with Sir. He had been summoned, I tagged along hoping to witness something fantastic. Instead it was a bit daunting. A shrimpy judge shuffled out, looked just like a scarlet-faced Colonel Sanders, and said in an aggressive, bull-dog sort of tone, “This experience will make you THINK and really put your faith in the SYSSStem (a bit snakey there), because on that FATEful day when YOU come before ME (assumes everyone there will end up getting tangled up in some crime), you will know justice WILL be served.” He was a very scary bloke in his lugubrious black…..

    Florida seems a bit scarier than some states, in general, when it comes to the courts and policing and so forth. I was once nearly tossed in jail for 60 days because I accidentally stepped quite literally about a metre into a closed park when I was blinded by oncoming headlights (of a police cruiser). I admit, it was a very late hour. I’d been listening to Sintara, a mistake, and got very weepy (I know….I am exceedingly pathetic….that autumn of the year song gets me every bally time!), and thought a walk would be an excellent plot. Well, at night, individuals in the police force assume I am nasty teenaged prowler up to some horrible crime, like stealing a cat to use in a ritual or such, or just steal in general. Right well, I managed to avoid doing time, but I was called a muppet and asked to repeat my age several times. This was some years ago now, I was twenty-one. The officers couldn’t believe it. I do look slightly youthful. Some girls that moved in across the street thought I was 8, and this was two days ago… As for the muppet thing, I don’t think I have huge, bulbous eyes, but then, one’s self-perception often conflicts with the rest of the world’s….

    Oddly, though I vote and do all that sort of citizenry, I never have been summoned meself. Me mum and I used to loiter about the courtrooms, drawing magistrates and soliciters for fun, hilarious days….I should post some of her charcoals in a blog entry. You hath inspired me. Cheers lass, hope you’re enjoying your Sunday! Looking forward to reading more of this. Ta la,

    Autumn Jade

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    1. That’s quite a story. No one has thought I was 8 recently. I’m OK as long as they don’t ask if I’m the Holocaust survivor speaker that has come to their school. I wrote up the second part of the story, because my husband was pestering me to tell him what was going on during the trial, and, of course, I couldn’t. So when he read what I wrote about the trial he told me it was too gruesome to print. I can tell you this much. The prosecution asked for an indictment for murder in the first degree and got it with only one person who disagreed. She needed 12/16 and she got 15/16. The husband was indicted for murdering his wife. But the details will have to remain untold in this venue anyway.

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      1. Yes, I was mistaken for a little lad in the ocean just the other night, surfers kept calling out, “Careful little dude” Holocaust survivor speaker comment nearly killed me…

        Oh my that was QUITE a major case then. Wow, sounds like it was VERY intense.

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        1. Yes, but you look 8 and with your spikey hair, very cute by the way, I can see that from a distance. By ONE of the Holocaust survivor remarks came from a man about 75, I would guess. He looked at the poster, then he looked at ma, “Are you the speaker tonight?” When I asked him, “Do I look OLD enough to be a Holocaust survivor?” he replied, “Well, You could be 70.” I thought I would kill him.
          In real life she did look a lot older than I was, but definitely pretty, and there was SOME similarity in our looks. At least I looked like a PRETTY Holocaust survivor, but when the first words out of their mouths is, “The average age of a Holocaust survivor is 83…”

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          1. WHAT?! Well, the man was clearly troubled, as you do not look 70 or beyond, (not that septuagenarians are not absolutely gorgeous, like my dashing grand neighbour Lily, or the real speaker that day, by the way, I would have LOVED to have been there for that lecture, I imagine it was extremely affecting). Perhaps this bloke was so overly exuberant and optimistic, and so excessively anticipatory, that he oh so hoped you were the guest speaker the crowd was eagerly awaiting, and this optimism obscured his reason, clouded his very vision. Now, with your vitative tendencies and habit of effervescent laughter, which both imbue youthful beauty (which you clearly possess), and also judging from your photos, I imagine you are often thought quite a spirited young lass indeed (though perhaps not too often an 8-year-old one- which believe me is a good thing!).

            Now, I do try to project the age of my old briny soul, but it just doesn’t quite register. Oh yes, I do have elevated hair. Quite often it looks like a very wind-tossed sea and a bit of Einstein (hairstyle-wise, not intellectually). I imagine you discovered the elevated nature of the crine from that blasted video. Blast. I thank you nonetheless. The do does help one take on many forms. This past weekend it helped me imagine I was Hamlet pondering mortality, looming in the shadows deep in the weald. And yesterday, I was a melancholy Beethoven. Music-wise, no, hair-wise, oooohhh yes, very Beethoven. It did not make me look any more decrepit, however. Walking to the beach, a woman bugled, “Leave the little girl alone Fred,” to her intrigued cocker spaniel. Little girl?! I suppose if I wore the period attire…well, that would get awfully hot here in Florida. Maybe a hat would cast a shadow and make me look more ancient. Tilted fedora, fake stogie, black tie, suit, a little mojo (well, I can attempt), and I’m Sinatra (again, not music-wise, oh no, but hat-wise). “What an odd child…keeps crawling around on the ground with that camera…careful, don’t step on him, by the way, I’m getting you a camera like that Gloria.” Right….Perhaps try the posh urban look, detached, with billowing trench coat, the wispy scarf, and the steely, lethal gaze, so lupine and feral, “Oh look at that brooding little girl. She looks so sweet! And she’s walking a cute cat!” SWEET?! Cute cat?! This cat is one burly beast, like me! ARG! But when I go to the ocean, I’m in my rawest form, sadly. Wet hair makes me look about 6. Add freckles, and surfer-attire (with spiffy, brightly-hued, shark-decorated surf-shorts), even though I don’t surf (usually), large goggles and bright lemon flippers. I come out in order to walk down the beach a little bit, boy of ten runs up, “Hello, I’m Nolan! What’s your name, watcha doing, wanna play?!” …….stomp home, little girls playing jump rope, run up squealing, “Wanna play…wha? You’re NOT eight like us?!!” “NO! But you can come over and pet the rabbits if you like. The rabbits always want to play. They’re like perennial puppies.” Sometimes, one has to resign one’s self to the Inevitable…

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  3. Fascinating! And this one is a rare, unique post. Something I haven;t seen or read to have experience by other bloggers. Well, I’m so glad it was you who get to share these accounts. I’m always curious how who these people are, what they feel, how they really react, how they get picked, etc. I guess the silence really made them very mysterious. You did oh-so-well explaining. I don’t know if I would be able to do what you did/do. Wait, is this gonna be what you do now? Anywho, I love how you didn’t get too technical and just focused on the basics. Your narration was easy to understand. Again, this is an unique experience others don’t usually don’t get to hear so it’s good that you explain it at the right level. Kudos to your experience, and to your writing. I got hook immediately reading it.

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    1. Thanks Rommel. YOU are always so encouraging! Are you a teacher? One of the techniques we try to emphasize for teachers is to give specific praise to kids. Tell them what you like, and why – or wrong – so they can make changes. You do a beautiful job of this!!! Thanks again!

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      1. I was an instructor before, ended last September… not for kids but for not fully attentive, not fully curious, criticizing adults. Hehehe. My co-instructors dubbed me as a “tree hugger”. I guess someone who pleases his students to get good feedback. Ahihihi. Yikes. I do somewhat dream to be a teacher, I’d prefer middle school. But, I think if that happens, I’d be more straight-forward and commanding.

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        1. If you get two comments, I apologise! I also teach adults – teacher, administrators, aides – prescribed professional development. You would probably love middle school kids. I think they would love your sense of humor!!! BTW I thought a tree hugger was an environmentalist. Have a great week-end!!!

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  4. Hi Marsha, Thank for sharing the story. I’ve never served Grand Jury, but got called for Jury Duty and served twice. Jury waiting was the worst part…

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  6. I was called once, but am a performer, and there was no way I could reschedule all my shows or call in a substitute. I do appreciate your account of your experience, and am thankful that intelligent people like you are there to serve.

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