Wednesday, May 9, 2012


What Happens When You Serve as an Alternate Juror

1. You finally come to terms with the fact that you're not a good liar. You were an okay enough liar to get off the three-week-long medical malpractice suit, but you can’t figure out a good excuse to get off a civil case involving a 12-year-old being hit by a car (he’s fine, everyone) while crossing in the middle of the street.

2. You start having a week of bad luck. It begins when jury selection takes two days to complete, and continues when you are chosen last as an alternate, have to make an emergency call to a doctor to get your birth control refilled, and lose your wallet in a cab after the NYC ‘Pinup.

3. In an act of desperation to find something besides McDonald’s to eat during the court lunch break, you trust ordering a fried flounder sandwich from a deli three blocks from the courthouse. It is surprisingly incredible.

4. You eat the sandwich next to an 80-year-old man who is wearing a fedora and eating an entire pound cake with his bare hands.

5. You entertain the idea of marrying this man.

6. You become very familiar with the subway system, and realize that for all the bitching people do about delays and fare hikes, it is surprisingly easy to get to Jamaica, Queens.

7. You realize you have more sympathy for old men than you do ineloquent teenage boys.

8. You become very opinionated about the inefficiency of the New York justice system, which stretches a three-witness civil case over an entire week. This involves the judge telling you to show up at 9:30 and not starting the trial until 11 a.m., coming back from lunch at 2 p.m. and not starting the trial again until 3, and budget cuts making the courthouse close at 4.

9. You want to scream out that you used to live down the street from where the accident happened, so clearly you are the most qualified when it comes to judging who was being negligent.

10. You want to scream at the plaintiff’s lawyer for not understanding how the traffic works at the scene of the accident (or maybe he’s just trying to confuse the jury, but you obviously know what’s up).

11. You resist the urge to tell all the other jurors about the plaintiff’s lawyer’s mistake, as the judge has forbidden you from talking about the trial.

12. You realize just how opinionated you are. As an alternate you are forced to sit in on the entire trial, but when it comes time for deliberation you are whisked away to the courthouse library to read while everyone else gets to actually decide the fate of the defendant. You feel you’ll throw an actual fit if they come to a verdict you don’t agree with.

13. You start feeling powerless. You are burdened with the information of this trial and can’t do anything with it. You start wishing for one of the other jurors to fall ill.

14. You start judging the other jurors. One of them keeps farting during the trial. Another mumbles so much you can never hear what she’s saying. You want to tell someone that clearly these people aren’t fit to determine the fate of the defendant.

15. You wonder if one of the other lawyers you see around would bring on an ageism suit for you, because you’re positive the only reason you’re an alternate is because you’re the youngest one there. Okay, you know it’s because you were interviewed last, but maybe they set it up that way because they’re all ageist.

16. You try to flirt with the lawyers, just to see if you can.

17. You can’t.

18. You run out of reading material in the courthouse library, finishing three comic books, a romance novel, a copy of Bon Appetit and a book about Boss Tweed, so you start flipping through law books.

19. You hope the court officer will notice what you’re doing, and comment on how intelligent you seem, and then tell you that you should be in there instead of that farting woman.

20. You notice your court officer could easily be played by Steve Buscemi.

21. You are whisked into the courtroom when the rest of the jury announces their verdict. They give one you agree with, but no one looks to you for approval while you sit in the back of the courtroom. You take this personally.

22. The judge thanks you for your service, and you nearly scream “WHAT SERVICE?! YOU JUST HAD ME SIT IN A LIBRARY FOR HOURS WHEN I COULD HAVE BEEN MAKING IMPORTANT DECISIONS!”

23. You wonder what it’s like to be held in contempt of court.

24. As you’re leaving the courthouse for the last time, a guy calls you and says he found your wallet in a cab. Things start looking up.

Jaya Saxena can't be the only person playing the Law & Order BUNG-BUNG noise in her head constantly during jury duty, right?

Photo by Nancy Hochmuth, via Shutterstock

118 Comments / Post A Comment


I really don't think it's responsible for me to be on a jury, since I'm a hologram.

(wondering if this would work in real life, hoping never to have the opportunity to find out)


@DH@twitter Don't forget your vintage Playgirl magazines!


@DH@twitter I think if you're in a small town in the midwest, yes.



Hehehe. That is my favorite part of the whole thing, that Liz thinks she could actually be the wackiest person in an NYC jury selection.


@Megano! So a rural juror, perhaps?


I've always wanted to be on a jury. I've only ever even had to show up at jury duty once, and when I finally got in the jury box for interviewing I tried SO HARD to look like the perfect juror. Hahaha, no, the prosecutor did not see it that way.


@thebestjasmine Me too. I had jury duty once during a college break when I was unemployed and could have actually used the $20/day! I was really sad when I wasn't selected-- I missed out on a potential $60, if the case went as expected.


@thebestjasmine: You wouldn't have wanted to be a juror on the cases I was in the jury pool for (and got excused from):
1) 90-year-old guy suing his 90-year-old doctor for screwing up his hand surgery
2) 20-year-old African-American guy charged with assaulting a white T officer. I was potential juror #49 and when they dismissed me (for admitting I saw police as positive authority figures), only 2 jurors had been empaneled and the judge told the defense attorney she was heading for a mistrial.
3) 30-ish guy charged with statutory rape/numerous other blecchy things for videoing a 16-yr-old girl doing sex acts in a cheap suburban motel.
Still want to be a juror?


@Bittersweet Yes! Why would any of that make me not want to be a juror? I mean, I know that bad things happen, this is why there are trials and juries are necessary.


@thebestjasmine You are a fair, fair better citizen than I could ever be.

Ten Thousand Buckets

I was called for jury duty once. It sucked. We all had to report the first day, then call them every night for a month (they said) to see if they needed us. They only did callbacks twice, for people numbered 1-74. I was 75.

Also they didn't let us off the hook for over two months, so I wasn't able to take a mini-trip I had been attempting to schedule.


I've had jury duty 3 times but all the cases settled so it was a just 3 days of watching an old VHS of Diane Sawyer explain the legal system.


Being called for jury duty is the worst because I know going in I'll probably never get picked. My lawyerfriends have told me that the whole idea of "a jury of your peers" means having a masters degree by itself usually means I am not a "peer" to the people on trial, so I don't get picked. I always just end up sitting in the courthouse and reading while they select juries and being told "thanks, go home" around 2:00.

Though sometimes I cross my fingers and hope for some kind of scandal in which a college professor snaps and goes on a rampage or something. I always kind of WANT to be on a jury? I'm weird.


@Scandyhoovian When they pass over you for being too educated, it's not because you're not the defendant's "peer." It's because you're more likely to do some critical thinking/not be easily swayed by arguments, and most lawyers would prefer the easily swayed & unquestioning jurors. Similarly: other lawyers almost never serve on juries, and it's not because the defendant isn't a lawyer.


@Scandyhoovian My SO is on her 3rd day of Jury Duty at the moment. She has a JD *and* a Master's. Being a lawyer isn't the silver bullet that everyone thinks it is (at least not in all jurisdictions).


@Scandyhoovian That's not really true, about you having a masters degree meaning that you're not a peer. That's not going to eliminate you from being picked at all.


@Scandyhoovian I do too! But I don't think we have juries very often here, because I have never been picked, and have not known anyone who has been called up even.


@Scandyhoovian Your lawyerfriends are wrong. I practice in Seattle and like having Boeing engineers and Microsoft coders and Amazon and Starbucks corporate types on juries. They are smart and not as susceptible to all that frooferall that some lawyers do (unless I am doing that frooferall, then I want regular non-smart people.) Fun fact: when I was clerking, my presiding judge served on a jury, and he didn't get picked as foreman.


@Scandyhoovian If you want to be on a jury, move to Washington, DC. The jurisdiction is small and there are a lot of courts that need juries, so just about everyone I know has been called at least once (some many more times than that). I just got my first summons, and am sooo excited!


@all huh, I just took my lawyerfriends for their word! I mean, it kind of made sense to me the way they explained it, so I didn't really have reason to question it. Though it's nice to know I may actually get picked someday!

(So what DOES get you chosen? That's my new question!)


@Scandyhoovian It's not so much what gets you chosen, it's what gets you eliminated. You can either get eliminated for cause (for example: a crime like the one on trial happened to you or someone close to you; you know the lawyers or the people in the case; you have medical issues; you wouldn't be able to apply the death penalty in a death penalty case), or either side's lawyer can kick you off for no real reason, but they have a limited number of those strikes to use.


@thebestjasmine I hope it's totally normal that I am sitting here all *CHINHANDS* "PLEASE TELL ME MORE," because that is what I am doing.


@Scandyhoovian Keanu Reeves can *tell* that you want on the Jury, so you can't be on it. Even if you're a Catholic Schoolteacher.


@Scandyhoovian There are paid jury consultants that sit in the room (for high-flying enough trials, not all of them) and tell the lawyers how to use their peremptory strikes - the ones they can use for any reason. This is often "this person is too educated in a relevant area and will substitute their background knowledge for the evidence in the case" but can also be "that person looks like a long-haired hippie who would never vote to convict," or whatever. The lawyers don't have to disclose why they're striking someone unless it's for cause, BUT if the other side thinks it's race-based -- the defendant strikes all black jurors -- then the lawyer has to put up a legit non-race based reason for each.


@Brunhilde Incidentally, that's how my mom got out of jury duty, the last time she was called. (TWENTY YEARS AGO, WTF, I'VE BEEN CALLED 4 TIMES IN THE LAST EIGHT.) She wore blue and white, and a big crucifix around her neck, and as soon as the lawyers heard she was a Catholic school teacher, it was very "oooooookay thanks for your time have a nice afternoon."


Is your SO in D.C.? In D.C., lawyers get picked for juries all the time because they are so numerous!

Also, while I lived in D.C., there was a sad story in the Post about a homeless woman who kept showing up and asking to be on a jury so she would get the $20 jury pay. Frankly, if I were on trial for some criminal thing, I would prefer a jury of the homeless!


I haven't been called yet in my short life; my boyfriend was called once, and reportedly got out of it by jiggling his legs, fidgeting, and generally acting as twitchy and distractable as possible. It apparently worked.

(I wish I had an entire pound cake for lunch. Although I guess it's best that I don't, in light of the aforementioned breakfast cupcake.)


@frigwiggin But it might make up for yesterday's egg fiasco?


@Gertrude It might, at that! The breakfast cupcake only healed part of the damage.


If you're going to eat an entire cake with your bare hands, take it from this expert and eat an angel food cake. Satisfyingly brick- or bundt-shaped, probably as healthy as you can get while still being an entire cake.


@Vicky Johnson "...probably as healthy as you can get while still being an entire cake." AMAZING. That is the kind of diet advice I come to the Hairpin for.

out of order

I am the ONLY ONE in my family not to be called. I hate them, hate them all*, for getting the opportunity to do something that I crave!

*I don't actually hate them, I love the lucky bastards


I have ALWAYS wanted to be on a jury as well, I am VERY opinionated. Closest I ever got was having to phone the automated system every night for a week; my number never came up*.

I would LOVE to hear about an experience as an actual juror, but is it even legal to discuss enough detail to make an interesting story?

*probably for the best as I'd try to rule in favor of whoever was most appealing on a personality level rather than by the facts.


@iceberg Yes! You can discuss it as much as you want after the case is over.


@iceberg You actually can talk about it as much as you want once the trial is over!


@iceberg I always wanted to be on a jury. Then I got called for a child molestation case, and I am very glad that I wasn't chosen. I can't imagine it would be anything but horrible.


@iceberg I was on a jury trial for a drunk driving case. It was actually very enjoyable, except that I had to get up super-early. The case involved a young woman who was arrested for drunk driving. There was a complicated backstory as to why she'd gotten pulled over (her friend had mistakenly reported the car stolen, because he was angry at another friend whom he THOUGHT was driving it) so she hadn't actually been driving poorly when she was arrested. There was no breathalyzer test, though she kind of messed up while reciting the alphabet, I guess? There wasn't really much evidence on which to convict her, and even the police officer who testified against her seemed ambivalent about it. It was odd. She had a very fancy and smooth lawyer, even though she herself seemed a bit rough around the edges. We acquitted her pretty quickly and later she came up to me outside the courthouse and thanked me, which made me feel a little weird. One funny thing was that I asked if I could take notes - I didn't know how much info we were going to get! - and it turned out that if I got a notepad and pen, EVERYBODY had to be issued a notepad and pen, and the judge had to make a statement about our freedom to write things down and the rules regarding it. And a couple of old ladies who had been on a million other juries rolled their eyes at me hardcore for being an overachiever.


@iceberg This is one of my favorite jury duty stories: http://tomatonation.com/stories-true-and-otherwise/one-angry-sars/


@dtowngirl Several years ago I was picked as a juror on a criminal case involving a young woman who had alleged she was raped by her biological father. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. The trial lasted a little over a week with deliberation beginning on a Friday afternoon -- my boyfriend and I had plans to go out of town to a cabin that weekend and so naturally I was unable to think about anything else. I was one of three jurors who felt he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the others didn't feel like there was enough evidence to convict him so it was a hung jury. I still feel sick to my stomach remembering how devastated the victim was when the verdict was read. I felt like I personally let her down. Occasionally I see the other jurors around town, these people that I shared this really bizarre experience with and yet don't know at all... I'm still as angry with them now as I was at the time. I wonder how they're able to live with themselves knowing they let him get away with that, I was so convinced he was guilty. Like someone else said down thread, it made me cynical about the justice system, but I also learned SO MUCH and strongly feel it's something that everyone should experience.

Interesting aside: the three of us who thought the defendant was guilty were the only ones with kids. There was another person with a baby at home, but I think that was critical in terms of being able to take the girl for her word. Also, during jury selection there was a question I can't remember about our relationships with our dads (mine being not so great) and the woman I was sitting next to had expressed a similar sentiment as I had; we were both picked.

I sat in on jury selection when I was much younger for a drug related charge and when one of the lawyers asked us to raise our hands if we ever thought police abuse their powers I was THE ONLY PERSON in a room full of 40 people who did. I still can't believe that. He asked me if I'd ever witnessed this first hand, I said no because I hadn't, and he laughed at me. I was dismissed right after that.

fondue with cheddar

@iceberg The closest I ever came was being called (repeatedly, I might add) for a county in which I didn't even reside.


@iceberg Move to Baltimore. They will call you ALL THE TIME. Last year I was placed on a jury and I got to be the foreperson. They called me "Madam Forewoman". It was the best. The trial wasn't so great. It was about a young teenaged boy who'd been allegedly beaten by a random guy in the street. The random guy's lawyer had this really complex story about how random guy was also beaten by mysterious thugs in the street. Then when they put the kid on the stand, it was very clear that he had some developmental disabilities. They sent us to lunch and pled the defendant out, I'm pretty sure because the prosecutor knew she wasn't going to get anywhere.


Gurl, it is CHUNG-CHUNG. Wanna fight about it?


@JessicaLovejoy I think you'll find it's TOON-TOON.


@JessicaLovejoy I saw it written as "DOINK DOINK" once, which is my favorite.


@JessicaLovejoy I believe it's DUN-DUN, followed by dun dun dun duh-dunn, baaoooow.


@lora.bee and then 'dweee, dweedley dwee dee dee.'


@lora.bee DUN-DUN seconded!

Real talk: I'm actually always secretly annoyed when anyone onomonopias the L&O noise as anything other than DUN-DUN.


@JessicaLovejoy It is DEFINITELY CHUNG-CHUNG, or at the very least, CHUN-CHUN.


@ThisLittlePiggy But BUNG BUNG! How happy is that to say? So happy.

Judith Slutler

@discombobulated It's totally DOINK-DOINK


@Emmanuelle Cunt "DOINK-DOINK" is... a joke? If not I am enraged!

But not really; but it did irrationally aggravate me enough to visit Wikipedia and learn that the noise is an "amalgamation of nearly a dozen sounds, including an actual gavel, a jail door slamming, and five hundred Japanese monks walking across a hardwood floor."

In the Hairpin commenting system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the regular commenters who comment all normal-like, and the obsessives who look at Wikipedia in an attempt to prove something to themselves that doesn't matter. These are their stories.


@JessicaLovejoy Agreed, it is definitely DUN DUN ! But also, onomatopoeia.


This post is perfect timing -- I'm sitting in jury duty RIGHT NOW! I was almost put on a criminal case but got in my head and decided I couldn't be impartial. Just waiting for what's in store next...


My dad got stuck on a grand jury once. It went for months.

Meanwhile, the only time I got called was after I'd technically moved out of state but hadn't taken myself off the rolls yet. They agreed that it was a good reason to not show up.


@anachronistique That happened to me just last month! I haven't lived in Erie County in seven years :(.


@anachronistique I was in the potential jury pool with someone who was moving out of state the NEXT DAY (only a little over an hour away but still). That didn't get her out of it (though she sure was happy when one of the lawyers blackballed her).


This exact thing happened to me! But in DC. And I didn't lose my wallet. But I did miss a week of work to serve on a jury for a trial over a $20 drug bust, and then only found out I was the alternate AT THE END. I was taking notes and everything, while some (real) jurors were falling asleep! I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHETHER THEY FOUND HIM GUILTY OR NOT!


@cherrispryte YES, I was surprised that she knew in advance that she was an alternate, in lots of places they don't tell you until the end because they want you to pay attention.

Yankee Peach

I was a juror once NYC. I remember lots of Chinese food for lunch, shopping at Century 21 and a boat load of stress trying to decide if we were doing the right thing by the Defendant. After we delivered the verdict they hustled us all out the back elevators to waiting cabs. I went home to bed and stayed there for two days.

emily eileen

@Yankee Peach

house shopping?


@Yankee Peach most excellent discount shopping, with a few locations in the NY/NJ area. Saw/over-handled my first legit Missoni item there, and finally understood that they ARE beautiful and not garish, like they sometimes seem in print. BIG CITY LARNIN'


@emily eileen There is a clothing (?) store called Century 21 in NYC... or so I hear. Haven't been but I have heard of it by reputation.

The Hons

This has been me! I was an alternate in Brooklyn in a civil case involving an old lady who got hit by a city bus. She was actually not fine. Michael Jackson died in the middle of the case and suddenly the streets outside the courthouse were full of people selling airbrushed t-shirts. I was watching Season One of Trueblood and gave myself a fake Louisiana accent every time I went to buy coffee.
My judge tried to get us to finish the case a day late so he could visit his elderly mother for shabbat, but my fellow jurors were not having it.
I think I spent most of my jury pay at the Mac on Montague.


@The Hons Wait... they pay you to be on juries in NY?


Ooooh, I want to do jury duty so bad! I've been selected a few times but never actually called to the courthouse.
My sister, however, got to be on the jury of a MURDER TRIAL! In Philadelphia! Lucky bitch.
(They found him guilty of manslaughter, I think. Drug buddies had a fight, Guy 1 left the apartment of Guy 2 and then came back later pounding on the door and saying he was going to kill Guy 2. Guy 2 called the cops, and THEN opened the door, got attacked, and stabbed Guy 1 in the chest. Just say no, kids!)


@KikiCollins So curious about this! Obviously details are missing, but how was this not self defense?


@franceschances I think it came down the fact that he opened the door before the cops got there. He could have just waited, but I believe his defense was that he was afraid the other guy was going to bust the door down before they got there.


So, really he saved the door's life...


Ahhh, finally registered to comment!
I've been called 3 times and have served on a jury. The experience actually made me quite cynical about the justice system. The jury I was on really did have a kind of "12 Angry Men" dynamic in that the decision process was highly influenced by one charismatic and convincing speaker.
I also found that a lot of the decision-making was influenced by the jurors' (myself included) frustrations, in that we had been sitting at the trial all day and were not allowed to leave until we made a decision and were not provided any food. It's scary to me that the final decision was made, in part, due to the jurors being hungry and one hold-out juror just wanting to leave so that he could smoke a cigarette. Since everyone wanted to eat something and to go home, there was a huge amount of pressure (from each other) to be agreeable and not be "difficult."
Even five years later I find myself thinking back on the experience fairly often and wondering if I made the right decision.


@WhiskeySour *note to self: if ever on a jury, bring many many snacks*


@WhiskeySour I had a similar experience, I *think* we reached the right verdict, but there was one juror who was quite dominating, trying to chivvy everyone else – funny how groups fall into patterns, with him quickly taking on the mantle of 'leader' whether we wanted one or not. While I'm pretty sure it was the right verdict, you do realise how precarious the whole system is.


@nestingdoll That's exactly how it played out. I do feel like we made the right decision, in the end, but the system is so very dependent on the individual personalities and biases of the jurors that I realized that the law is not evenly applied at all. I mean, I generally knew this before the experience, but seeing it in action was a whole different thing.
The idea of professional jurors is certainly interesting to me now. So many problems with all ways juries can play out!


@WhiskeySour My husband was foreman on a jury when our daughter was a baby. They had to decide whether a guy who'd been in prison for 26 years on a rape charge was still sexually dangerous. Burden of proof was on the state, and per the judge's instructions, the state couldn't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, so the jury had to order his release. My husband has always felt they did the right thing legally, but keeps fingers crossed that he'll never hear about that guy again. The law is a strange thing.


I've found the best way to get out of jury duty is to move from county to county every year or two. They finally found me last year, but I had already moved!
So sad, not eligible there. /sarcasm/

Tuna Surprise

Last year I was a juror in a NYC for a criminal trial.

After having a little time to reflect, my overall impression of jury duty is how hard it is. In a criminal case you really feel the burden of having someone's life in your hand (even when it's not a capital case). I ended up being the foreperson and I had to stand up and read the verdict out loud. The defendant and his entire defense team were openly weeping when we convicted. Even though I had confidence in the verdict, it made me feel awful.

The fun part was arguing in the jury room. I was really opinionated and enjoyed telling people what I thought and hearing responses from others. My co-jurors were overall very thoughtful and open people.

Hello Dolly

I served on a grandy jury for 3 months and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The only downside is I can't talk about it, even though it's been a year, except to say 'OMG WTF stupidity!' and outdoor concerts at campgrounds are like an unfinished Death Star.


@Spicy Bubbles Argh! I am so intrigued!!

J Walter Weatherman

@Spicy Bubbles They are prone to being blown up? They house hand-lightning battles? They inspire father/son reconciliation?


I don't know if this is common, if anybody else has experienced this, etc, but my favourite part (only enjoyable part) of jury duty was during the actual juror selection process when the judge says "Accused. Look upon the juror! Juror! Look upon the accused." and then they have a face-off where you're staring down the cold hard assault/weapons carrying/thieving suspect.

SO. DRAMATIC. (actually my number was never called during juror selection so I never got to do this OR try to come up with excuses for why I couldn't be there. boo)



Did you all have to wear powdered wigs and flowing scarlet costumes with lace collars? CANADA!


@atipofthehat no, we didn't HAVE to ... but I did anyway.


@redheaded&crazie Is that a real thing?! That sounds like the coolest thing.


@SarahP i'm afraid not (unless @atip knows something I don't - which is possible) ... no powdered wigs or flowing scarlet costumes that I saw anyway! i wish canada were that cool

I smell burnt toast

Even though it is not the point of this article, I still cannot get over the cake thing.


Ugh. I've been called to jury duty four times by my hick-ass county in Maryland in the last eight years, and my mother has only been called once in the last thirty. The second time, I did get out of it for college exams, to my eternal relief, because I vividly recalled the first time, in which I had to actually serve on a jury.

I'm still baffled that I got picked, considering I was A) 19 years old, B) massively, visibly hungover, C) wearing horrible junky thrift store clothing that I thought made me look punk, D) had magenta-colored hair, and E) clearly did not know my ass from a hole in the ground. I do, however, find it completely hilarious that they made me the foreman. The trial itself was stretched out over two days, and involved some creeper who had decided to hang out on his front porch without any bottoms on during an art festival, so everyone could see him flappin' in the breeze. As he'd already also had several convictions for this sort of thing, along with voyeurism and whatnot, it didn't take us long to reach a consensus.

Also, my totally shady employer - a shitty, run-down Ramada Inn - gave me those two days as my two days off from work for the week. I didn't know this is actually illegal until much later, and now I want to go back in time and kick everyone's ass who was involved in treating me like crap there.


@Anji Yes! I am only 25, and in a span of probably four years I was called THREE TIMES. Once I was away at college, so I got out; then again when I had just graduated and missed a whole week of my hourly-pay job for a really stupid case; then a year later I had moved out of the state and my mom called to tell me I'd gotten called again. I was able to get out of it because you can't serve twice in one year or something, but I was PISSED. My mother had been called once like, twenty years ago, and I'm pretty sure my 56-year-old father has NEVER been called. I really can't believe all the people here who WANT to be on jury duty, I really hated it and have not registered to vote in my new state because I don't want to get chosen (I tried to get out of it that time they finally caught me, but apparently I don't lie well enough).

Maybe I'm a bad citizen or something, but whatever, it's the worst. (except your case sounds kind of hilarious in a gross way, so I am jealous of that).


also, I really and truly do not understand how they pick jurors for the super popular murder cases that get publicized in the news. I mean, I know of course that this process probably takes way longer than the usual afternoon, but who really lives under that much of a hole?!

then again, I suppose these people do exist. When you're on a jury of a major big media trial, how are you kept from going home and reading the news? Or is that allowed once the trial begins because you've already heard all the details since you were sitting in the courthouse? (but then you would be influenced by the media so I'm guessing no)


@redheaded&crazie jury duty: the most mysterious mystery of our time


@redheaded&crazie Yeah, I always wonder about that too. It's REALLY amazing. Also amazing is how it is possible to sequester people, but they really do it. Vincent Bugliosi writes about how difficult this is in both Helter Skelter and his book on the OJ Simpson case.


@redheaded&crazie My 7th grade teacher was on a big complicated murder trial for a month or two! It was crazy! I was deeply impressed by her. They got to go home and the rules about no media used the honor system. She said the craziest part of the trial was they took the jury to the site of the crime.


@E I would find that pretty messed up - I know that just happened here too where the jurors were taken to the site where a little girl was raped and murdered. I can imagine I would be ruled out for inability to cope with the emotionality of the situation or something like that. That is indeed pretty fucking impressive.


@redheaded&crazie I guess, I think it's dreadful, but important. Like...you wouldn't skip a funeral for someone you love just because it's hard. I'd like to think when the time came, most people would be willing to do their duty. She didn't brag about it, but the sense I got was she sort of was telling us that jury duty does really matter and we should take it seriously if it was our turn someday.


@E That's true, I'm sure nobody finds it easy to be a juror on a murder trial. I was definitely excited to "do my civic duty" when I was called for jury duty although it was more boring than dust.


@redheaded&crazie I imagine sequestering was much easier before the internet - they just put them in a hotel room and didn't allow them to watch TV or get the newspaper. I remember stories around OJ time that said jurors were like flying through books and movies and kept requesting more and more of them because they were so bored. If I'm remembering right, their books and movies had to be approved by somebody and couldn't be like true crime books or documentaries, and the stuff all had to be brought to them and checked for godknowswhat first.
Even then, they obviously had all already heard about the case, they just tried to prevent them from being influenced while it was going on, or from hearing about any inadmissable evidence that had been leaked to the press.
But yeah, now with the internet, there's no way you'd be able to prevent people from seeing and hearing SOMETHING about a huge case.


@redheaded&crazie Scranton Strangler.


Congratulations on getting your wallet back!


By the way, this wasn't a bitchy remark like "This story is so irrelevant," I was genuinely enthusiastic! I live in fear of losing my wallet, it has so much sentimental value, like everything else I have ever touched. Obviously, on top of its practical value.


@Ellie One time I was using my wallet as a clutch purse, and I left it on the bus WITH MY KEYS in it!! I called the transit people and the wonderful girl on the other end stayed on the phone with me until the bus came back around on it's route, and they told the driver to stop where I was and I got my wallet back! Thank goodness for people like that.


My mom loves jury duty, which I only know because the two times in my life that she's had to go she gets all weird about it, saying things like, "I can't tell you anything, of course, until THE CASE is over," even though it ended up being something like a burglary several towns away. My dad still tells stories about the time he was on jury duty years ago, and he "thought the guy was innocent but [he] was the only one!"
I wonder if my parents told jury duty stories on their first date? Probably not, since it was at a bluegrass festival


I was called once for jury duty, but it was 2 months before I was actually 18. I was SO PUMPED to do it, but then my mum explained how I would miss school, which would ruin my applications to university, etc (it was my last - OAC, Ontario represent! - year of high school). Plus the fact that I was 17, so, yeah.


A former coworker of mine served on a weeklong trial with Anthony Edwards of ER and Top Gun fame. The poor guy was stuck listening a week of "Goose!" quips without the opportunity to escape to his famous person lair.


I got called once, but never selected. Never even interviewed. I sat in a room for four hours while they played Daddy Day Care, or something with Eddie Murphy being really over the top, at a low volume, and tried to eat my soy yogurt as inconspicuously as possible. Bam! Civic duty complete.


Jury duty! I have only had it one time but I actually got on a MURDER TRIAL for 2 weeks. Not sequestered or anything, but actual murder, you guys. It was super interesting, I kind of loved it. Civic duty etc! I think I got picked because the judge asked me if I could be impartial and I said something too smart/philosophical like "can anyone really ever be impartial?"


I went through a time of getting called ALL. THE. TIME. and have served twice. Once, I hung in the jury pool room all day and was dismissed by the endearingly cantankerous court official straight out of central casting.

The other time was miserable. I had tried to get the date and place changed, as neither suited, but NO DICE. So, I had to be out my door by 5:30 and take multiple buses before the sun rose. Then, I asked if I had to surrender my plastic, super flexible knitting needles as weapons. I got a weapons claim check for my knitting!

At the interview, the judge was totally nasty to me; my form indicated that I had an upcoming exam and that I considered the pre-dawn public transit commute to be a safety issue. She hissed that she would excuse me but reemed me out for not rescheduling. ("But, your honor, I tried!" I did NOT plead because, hell, she was excusing me anyway). With a final disgusted "THIS IS NOT SERVICE!" she let me go.

If it weren't for a sympathetic mouth twitch and side-eye from the court official, I might have lost it.


I got called last year and the room I was in, which was like an airport terminal had floor to ceiling windows looking out at the patio at my work. I was watching all my coworkers talk on their cellphones at break at all day. Then they called us up to a hallway, where we stood around in groups of 40 or so. Then they let us into the actual courtroom, and I was SO EXCITED, we WERE SO CLOSE, then they said we should go get lunch and come back, and when we got back the defendant had plead guilty to B&E and I spent the rest of the afternoon napping in the airport terminal room.

Emma Peel

The culture of trying to get out of jury duty at any cost drives me completely nuts. I totally understand most of the cases are boring and it can cause substantial problems in work, school, family life, etc. (And I'm not trying to minimize those or to say there aren't valid reasons not to serve.) But I've done some work on wrongful conviction cases and of course there are many many people at fault BEFORE the jurors in those, but occasionally I will read the trial transcripts and think, gah, if any of these people were thinking properly how on EARTH did they find him/her guilty?

Being on a jury is perhaps the most important thing you can do as a citizen of the US. I firmly believe it's more important than voting in terms of one person making an actual concrete difference. It is a few days of your life versus years of someone else's (or millions and millions of their dollars). Please, please, please do your civic duty if you are called and not excused. Please.


ALSO, OMG JAYA I'M SO SORRY. In my case the alternate wasn't announced, but I was CONVINCED it was going to be me and was slightly seething with this presumed knowledge from the start. We ended up losing a juror along the way because he happened to know someone involved so I never found out for sure.


I am always terrified of getting called for jury duty because a family member was murdered in a violent way when I was a kid, and every time I sit in a courtroom I have terrible flashbacks of the trial/accidentally crossing paths with the accused/convicted murderer in the hallway. I got called last week but didn't even get selected, but I still had an awful panic attack in there. Had I been chosen, though, I would've gotten $60 a day PLUS mileage, which is pretty sweet.


I reflexively liked your comment before I read it because I really really like your username, and I apologize, that is inappropriate of me.


@Inkcrafter hey, no worries! It's totally okay. :)


I did three months of jury on a murder case. It was a strange experience that I sometimes forget about and then it pops back into my head and i think 'oh yeah, that happened'. It was a strange bonding experience with the other jurors in that for a very small amount of time we felt like a small family. We spent so much time wasting time together (you never realise how much time you have to wait on trail - i got very good at sodoku and read Oprah magazines for the first time in my life) that it was strangely bonding. We even got together for a dinner reunion after... but we eventually all lost touch. The hardest part was that I ended up getting dismissed at the end - as they always have too many jurors in case people have to leave for some reason and they do a lottery at the end to see who will leave. Both myself and the other young guy (I was in my early 20s at the time) who got dismissed talked about how we would have been not-guilty all the way so it was strange to find out a few days later that the jury found them guilty. Apparently there was a scene when the verdict was read and people were shouting at the jury and some jurors were crying etc. It is strange to think that had you not been the person picked in that lotto they would have been found not-guilty. Side note - they got a mistrail in the end I believe with the judge saying there wasn't enough evidence (which there wasn't).


@call_her_alaska reading back I see I used the word 'strange' quite a few times (buy a thesaurus girl) but my edit function isn't working. but it was all pretty darn straaaaange.

Porn Peddler

I am really surprised to see how many people would be pumped to serve as a juror/how many people were indeed pumped/wish they could be jurors for murder trials.

People who want to get on jury duty: have you ever actually been to a trial?


I had the lovely experience of serving jury duty in the bronx a few years ago during winter break in college. you have to file through a really long security line to get in, and after the lunch break, everyone filing through the line smells like weed. I cannot imagine the balls it takes to show up to a court house and go through police security stoned.


This was pretty much exactly my experience, except the case was about a 19-year-old named Ishmael (yep) who punched a cop on New Year's. I felt so bad for his court-appointed attorney.

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