Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Jury Duty

About a month or so ago I received a letter in the mail saying I'd been chosen for Jury Duty, starting yesterday October 21st.

My immediate reaction was, "What? No." and irritation and maybe a little anger.
But I don't know why.

I've never served on a jury before. I was called once before, menia year ago, but got excused because the defense lawyer had been my divorce lawyer.
So I had no idea what was so bad about serving jury duty.

I recall back a few years ago when my Dad said he'd been chosen for Grand Jury Duty, and I started 'helping' him by coming up with ideas and reasons he could try to get himself excused.
He didn't want to be excused. He actually looked forward to the experience and was excited to be a part of The Process.

Following my initial reaction, I thought about what my Dad had said, and my reasons for my reaction, and pretty much all I can come up with is, I didn't want to go to jury duty because I'd been conditioned to dislike it.
All I've heard over and over is people moan, groan, and bitch about it, or "Pray God" they didn't get called. Jury Duty was something awful, a Punishment, I thought.
But having never really experienced it for myself, I didn't actually know.

In my whole *trying to look at the bright side* plan to control/overcome my Depression, I decided to look at it as a new Experience. An Adventure.

I have to be honest, I did experience some mini-panic attacks the night before on account of my Introvertedness (Introversion?). I didn't know if I would know where to go, what to do, what if I did something wrong, and everyone looked at me like I was an idiot?

But I knew there'd be people, Security Guards, at the door and they'd tell me where I was supposed to go, and when I got there someone else would probably tell me what to do. Many of the others there were going to be just like me, going into a new situation, not knowing what to do, either. We'd figure it out. Always do.
For years and years, I create drama for myself, worry myself into a panic about things that I know from experience, just is not necessary.

I didn't think I'd sleep Sunday night - but I did - and I was afraid I'd feel like shit Monday morning - but woke up feeling pretty good and looking forward to my little Adventure.

I arrived at the Courthouse and went in the front doors, where some other prospective Jurors were already going through the Security machine.
The man in front of me asked if this was where he was supposed to be for Jury Duty, and when he was told it was, he asked was it upstairs.

See, I was so worried about not knowing where to go, and all I had to do was follow that guy and look like I knew exactly what I was doing.

Upstairs a man was handing out forms and pens for us to fill out our name and mailing info for our Check.
After that we went inside the Courtroom and sat in the pews and in a little bit the Clerks read off a Roll Call, and then a Judge came and told us a little bit about what was going on this week.

I think they said there 93 Prospective Jurors there. The first 40 names on the List was the Red Panel and the rest would be the Blue Panel.
I was on the Red Panel, although I'd rather have been on the Blue. Red clashes with my hair, and just isn't a good color for me in general. And turned out the Blue Panel got to sit Criminal cases, I think, which would have been more exciting than Civil cases.

(Or so I was thinking at the time. However, once I got on a case and the reality set in that I was having to decide a court case, I was kind of freaked out, and glad it was just money, and not someone's guilt or innocence.)

I was the 12th name on the List so was called for the 1st panel of Jurors to be questioned/weeded through for the case (which we still didn't know what was about at this point.)
The judge asked questions like if any of us worked for a certain insurance company, or had any interest in it, and a couple other things I can't remember now.

Then we had to go one-by-one, stand up and tell our name, where we lived, what we did for a living, our spouses' name, and what he/she did for a living. I didn't love that part, and talked breathless and forgot to say where I lived.

We found out we were working a Personal Injury Damages case resulting from an auto accident, and the Lawyers asked a bunch of questions like if any of us had any prejudice because the Plantiff was Hispanic, or if any of us was just set against awarding a large amount of money even if the evidence proved the damages. They asked who had medical training, if any of us had any knowledge about non-displaced fractures, had we ourselves or anyone in our family experienced a non-displaced fracture, or a broken jaw.

Even though I'm a Fire/EMT wife, I didn't have a clue what they were talking about. J doesn't get into details like that usually, he'll just say like "a broken arm" or leg or head or whatever. I've never personally broken a bone, Kevin had a fractured ankle once and of course Ryan broke his neck in a car wreck a few years ago, but I didn't know if those were non-displaced fractures.

It started out with a couple of people telling about their own, or their spouse or parent's broken jaw, and then I guess someone knew what a non-displaced fracture was and offered their up their own broken bone - wrist, I think? - and then someone else had that same broken bone, and it snowballed from there.
I think every one of us ended up telling a story about a bone we or someone we knew had broken, LOL.

After all the questions we were sent out in the hall for several minutes, then when we came back the lawyers struck the people they didn't want. The Clerk read the remaining names, and the Judge excused the rest.

After we found out what the case was exactly about, I was kind of surprised I was left on the Jury because when I told the Defense lawyer about Ryan's broken neck, she asked me had it required surgery (Yes) and did he have some sort of pins, screws or anything in it (Yes, it still has a Titanium cage around it). She asked did he continue to have any pain or trouble with it, and I said no, the scar aggravates him a little bit, but otherwise, no, he's fine.
Seems like the Plantiff's lawyer would have axed me right there. (I didn't tell her that trying to get booted from the Jury, but we still didn't entirely know at that time what the case involved exactly, and I was just being honest.)

After the Jury was selected and the others were given their instructions, we were excused for lunch. After lunch, we reported back to the Courthouse and were sent to the Jury Room to wait for everyone to get back and the case get started again.

This was the first time the 12 Jurors got together and got to see one other and chat a little...and ohhh my lawwwwd, did they whi-i-i-i-ne, mo-o-a-a-n, gro-o-a-a-n, and carry o-o-o-n.

They were tired, bored, had better things to do, missing work (losing out on pay), not being paid enough, being generally inconvenienced, or simply just didn't want to be there.

I just kept my mouth shut, though, because I didn't think it had been so bad thus far, but I didn't want to be that person.

Other than that one thing, though, they were awesome.
No one tried to be all large-and-in-charge, no know-it-alls, no smart-asses. Some of them were hilarious as heck, had us ROLF'ing.

So we get called back to get started and it wasn't that bad.
Had I been sitting off in the back having to watch the thing I probably would have been bored to tears or reading my Kindle, but we were involved in this. We had a stake in this. A job to do.

Sure, some of the testimony was boring and the lawyers were pretty repetitive, but it was interesting to watch it all happen. They gave us notepads to take notes, and I took a lot. Pretty much everything they said. I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything.

After a little bit, not too long, the Judge gave us a break, which was nice, it was just about long enough after lunch that I needed to visit the Ladies' room.

They put us back in the Jury room...where everyone moaned and groaned and complained....and made us laugh sometimes....then we went back to the Courtroom and continued.

Every so often the Judge would ask if we needed a break and no one said they did. I didn't but I figured even if I did, I sure as heck wouldn't say so, and risk having the others' lynching me for making them have to stay even longer.

About 4'ish the Plantiff's lawyer Rested, and the Defendant's lawyer Rested, and the Judge sent us home for the day. We reported back at 9:30 this morning, to the Jury room.
Gahhhhhhh....okay, I got it, they didn't want to be there.

We were called into the Courtroom to hear Closing arguments, and wow, Lawyers have that "Polite Viciousness" down to an art, don't they. Whew.

Both sides told us told us the amount they wanted to award in the case, which I was glad to have a number of some sort. I'd been afraid they were going to leave it to us to pull a number out of our butts.
I have to say, I was pretty surprised by the amount the Plantiff was seeking, it was considerably lower than I'd been expecting. I thought we were in there for maybe a quarter- or half-a-mil or something really extreme.

The Judge Charged Us with our Duty and sent us off to the Jury Room to Deliberate.

I have to say, that went really awesome, too. Pretty much everyone in there had a lick of sense. And everyone was important. You didn't have one or two say "Well this, well that" and run over or discount everyone else. Everyone was listened to, their thoughts taken into consideration, and in a relatively short time we'd made our decision, and everyone was satisfied with it.
I thought it went really, really well.

Then we were done for the week. The others sure were happy to be out of there, but I would've happily come back some other days and did more Jury Duty.
I don't know if I just got lucky, or if it was my mind set going in, that I wasn't going in hating it and already decided to be miserable, but all in all, I thought it was a pretty excellent Adventure.

By the way, if you've avoided Registering to Vote hoping to avoid Jury Duty, it apparently doesn't work that way anymore (or at least not in Georgia, not sure about other States). But a couple of the people on our Jury aren't Registered to Vote, and didn't understand why they'd gotten picked. Maybe they use the Driver's License Database now, I'm not sure.

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