Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jury Duty!

I've had the most interesting day yesterday! I was called in for jury duty! Not once did I fret about it, I was quite looking forward to it. I had never been called before. I did express concern over the need for an interpreter, but living in a town that the State Deaf school resides in, I was pretty sure they were used to having Deaf people around.

We were required to be there at 8:45 am, and court would promptly start at 9. My interpreter was there-- a school counselor at the Deaf school who also happens to be a certified sign language interpreter. 20 of us showed up (not counting the interpreter) and 4 were chosen to be alternates and asked to leave after explaining what was expected of us as jury members. I admit, I hoped I was one of the 16 that get to stay.

After being sworn in, the judge explained a little bit about law terms and basic knowledge of the charges: breaking and entering; assault or battery; sexual assault 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree; burglary; to name a few. We were members of the Grand Jury reviewing cases for indictment. In other words, we weren't putting anyone in jail-- we were deciding whether or not to let the State pursue the case against the accused. If we passed the bill, then the next morning, the accused would be in court to set the date for their trial.

We heard 16 cases, which ranged from sexual assault, IE: sex with a minor under 16; breaking and entering and burglary; a severe case of battery in which we were shown pictures of the victim (ouch!); and other more sensitive cases that we are not allowed to share. The lawyer would come in with the court clerk and the officer who was witness to the report or investigation, tell us the facts and evidence and then leave for us to discuss and decide if there was indeed a crime. It was not up to us to decide if the person was innocent or guilty, that is for the trial and for their lawyer to prove. We had to decide if the State had a case to go forward on. Most were open-and-shut: the evidence was glaringly overwhelming. But there were a couple we had to talk about and then asked the Lawyer, the court clerk and the witness to come back in for more questioning.

I truly enjoyed the chance to serve on the Grand Jury. It was a long day, and we were there until 5 pm. It was like being on the inside scoop of what happened to people in the county. There were some we had heard of in the papers, but now we had details on exactly who, what, when and where. It reminded me of being on Judicial Board in school, hearing student cases and then deciding punishments.

I wouldn't want to be a Lawyer, but I think it would be interesting working in the courtroom somehow. Maybe someday... but then again, after hearing several cases of sexual assault on minors, mostly teen girls, it makes me worry for my own daughters. I was relatively naive about crime that goes on in our county until yesterday. Hopefully I can do my job as a parent right, teach my kids to use their judgement and get out of situations that "don't feel right in the gut". But most of the sexual assault cases were under aged girls that consented to sex with older boys, not instances where the sex was forced. As a young girl once myself, having an older boyfriend had appeal, rather than dating the "silly boys" from school. As a parent, I wish those older boys would leave the high schooler girls alone and date from their own age bracket.

At the end of the day, before falling asleep, I felt good about doing my part in the justice system. I hope the cases we heard get fair trials and if they were found guilty, get the punishments they deserve.


Cheyenne said...

I've never done jury duty but I have served as a witness to an accident. That was kind of fun.
When my daughter turned a certain age I would tell people I was going to lock her up until she was at least 21 or so. Never happened. She turned out just fine.

Anonymous said...

There's a difference.. you were on a grand Jury duty. That's different than normal trial jury duty. You should make that clear.
At least you had a chance to decide hearing people's fate. Good job.

jenny said...

Cheyenne-- The closest I have ever come to court is what I have seen on TV. I knew with a small town court, it probably wouldn't have been a fancy one, but we just had a new courthouse built so it was a really nice court room. The Bailiff told us the old courthouse was really small and the new one was a big improvement.

I know what you mean about locking up your daughter.. I say the same thing! LOL

Anonymous-- I did make that clear: "We were members of the Grand Jury reviewing cases for indictment. "

I have nothing against hearing people-- I would have made the same decisions I made had the accused been a deaf person.