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Call of Duty: Weebles Wobble – Part 2

April 9, 2023

In part 1 of this article, I cited a fictitious case with fictitious attorney names and a silly premise. I offer no details of the trial in which I served as a juror.

This experience was not about me but it was very interesting as well as privilege and duty. I had many questions.

At voir dire (vwar deer – Merriam-Webster), what looked like upwards of 200 people had been summoned. From those, a group of 30 was selected. I was chosen second of this group.

I asked how the subgroup was selected from the main group. Software does it randomly. I asked how the replacements were selected for those excused from the subgroup through the voir dire. Same answer.

The judge asked some questions which winnowed the group down to the final 30. After this, the judge left the courtroom and the two attorneys decided on 16 to be excused leaving the final 14. I still wonder about this process as no further questions were asked of us.

How do they know how many days the trial is expected to last? Mine was to be a day and a half. Is it an educated guess? I did not get a satisfactory answer to this one. The trial took 2 half days. The second day was to go until it was done, so it could have lasted into the next day. What then? And since the second day was a Friday, would it go until Monday? (No. The courtroom was only reserved for a day and a half so it had to be finished on the second day.)

I was the first one selected for the actual jury, though that was probably because the first person selected for the first sub-group of 30 had been excused. I think it was my scholarly appearance. Or vacuous expression. The lawyers traded the survey sheets that accompanied the summons that we had all filled out. Apparently, these surveys were only used for the final skinny-down of the list. There were really only a few questions, so this is still very mysterious to me. And I had more questions.

Was my outfit appropriate? (Jeans, shirt, sweater, sneakers) (Yes). I’m glad I wore the sweater.

I carried a seat cushion to voir dire. Good thinking. The jury box seats are more comfortable than the folding chairs of voir dire but left a bit to be desired during the trial. Someone kindly provided me with a cushion that helped.

Could I take my Kindle to court to read in down moments? (No)

Why, when the judge entered, did those at the defense table remain seated while those at the prosecution table stood? There was no one I felt comfortable asking so it remains a mystery.

Jurors wear a sticker to keep others in the area from talking to them. I had a feeling that talking to either attorney could be a problem for the other attorney. Or the judge. I wanted to do nothing that would cause anyone to cry foul. I have watched Perry Mason and Matlock and Rumpole of the Bailey for years. I’m not an expert but have some insight. (Not being a people person, I am wondering if I could have my wife make me a Juror T-Shirt.)

Why did the stenographer type in an odd way? (my assessment) I did research this and got a chance to talk to her after the trial. A stenographer must type at least 225 words a minute. I’m sure I type over 100. Not all words are spelled correctly, but I retype quickly so my average is still pretty high. The equipment is special. And expensive; The stenographer requires no certification in Pennsylvania so it’s a good career option for a granddaughter. Or daughter. Or wife, sister, etc. Men can do this also.

Why is the Tipstaff called a Tipstaff? I did my own research. Google it if you are interested.

Could I take notes? Yes, but notebook and pen are provided by the court. They were taken each time the jury left the courtroom and given back when the jury returned. Jurors were allowed use of the notebooks during deliberation but surrendered them when the verdict was delivered. I take a lot of notes. I only print and I only use upper case letters. My capital letters are bigger than “lower case” letters. This makes things more legible to me. And is harder on my wrist. I take notes to help me pay attention. I have a very active mind. It wanders if unfocused.

What if I had to go to the bathroom? The judge told us to let him know and we would be accommodated. There is a jury room with a bathroom. I had a light breakfast and no lunch the first day. The first day of trial started at 1 p.m. I took my medicine in the morning but chose to forego my MetaMucil. I had no idea what to expect as to jury facilities. I am very averse to attention of any kind in public. Especially the kind that MetaMucil would invite.

To arrive in a court of law for decision, a matter is already serious. At least one party feels aggrieved before trial. One or both parties may feel aggrieved, more or less, afterward. In some trials, certainly, there is no repair outside small satisfaction of justice applied. All lives on both sides of an issue are damaged (or at least affected) in some way to some extent. Likely for the rest of those lives. The burdens are heavy including on those who decide the facts (jury) and the law (judge) and the administrative staff: Sheriff, tipstaff, reporter, etc. Evidence cannot be ‘unheard’; Unseen. I can’t see how there are any absolute winners free and clear in a trial, however it was decided. Even issues redressed had to be borne for the time taken by slow-moving justice.

I do not intend to minimize what I experienced, only to avoid causing any more trauma to those affected. This trial is now history. The process was a learning experience. This was my first stint as juror and I learned a lot. It is a great responsibility. A duty with weighty consequences.

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