Jury Duty: Wondering How To Be Part Of A Jury?
Jury Duty is for every citizen in the United States but not everyone gets lucky to get chosen. A lot of us might be wondering about this as we can’t find a lot of information about this topic. I’ll share my recent experience to give you some ideas on how it works and the process to become one.
How To Be Part Of A Jury?
You receive an official letter with a summons to the court. The letter gives information and lists a landline phone number to call and hear instructions on the date and time you need to appear in court.
First, you are directed to the check-in room and given a form to fill out with all your correct information. This is a big room with maybe 300-500 or more people. Then, we were divided into three groups, each one consisting of 100 or more possible jurors.
They then assigned us to a judge. When the court judge was ready we were ushered to his courtroom.
They seated us, then names were pulled randomly from a basket and called. Those called move to the jury side of the court. That consists of twenty-one people at a time. The Prosecutor lawyer is the first one to talk to everyone and start asking questions, followed by the Defense lawyer.
They released us for lunch break and asked us to come back later for their decision as to who they picked to be jurors. The first batch chosen consisted of six jurors. The lawyers asked them to step down and sit on the right side of the audience. More random names were drawn and called and the same process proceeded as before. We were dismissed at around 2- 3 pm.
The lawyers continued their decision-making process, interviewing a second and third batch of people. They added five jurors from the second batch and this is where I belong.
The man next to me was asked first ” If you are a member of a juror what kind of evidence do you need and look for? As I remember he didn’t give them a clear response to the Prosecutor lawyer turned to me and asked the same questions. My answer was ” It Depends on what kind of trial I am in and the situation?! She responded perfectly! Then she continued asking other jurors. After the Prosecutor lawyer turns the Defense lawyer talk to us! The next thing I know my name has been always mentioned in the courtroom. He then elaborates that for me answering it depends is a perfect answer to the question that the other lawyer throw at me. He mentioned my name a couple of times while he asked questions to the other jurors related to how I answered it.
After our turned they get the third batch and picked three people to join the jury. Those people not chosen are considered as fulfilling their jury duty and are allowed to go home. Those who are picked to be jurors have to report for duty the whole week. It’s a long day and I went home around 4-5 pm.
We had a long day listening to every piece of evidence and testimony from both the prosecutor and the defense. We had to make sure to be attentive to every detail presented to us.
In this case, they presented us with a video of what happened, showing us what the suspect did and how the suspect and victim treated each other. I won’t go into detail about the case but I can let you see the process.
The Victim is allowed to testify in court but not the suspect. The victim and the suspect are neighbors. He testified as well as the apartment manager, police officer who is involved in the arrest that night and the investigative officer.
It’s a lot of details to pay attention to in one day and, to be honest, my head became numb listening to the victim as you can tell his mental capacity isn’t normal. In addition, the Defense Lawyer tried to twist the story and add information just to win the case. We went home at 5 pm or so.
This is the day the jurors start forming their opinions. We started the day listening to both lawyers and their final arguments. Then the judge read us the laws about the case. After that it was lunchtime. We were ushered into the juror room where the court provided lunch for us. Our cellphones and gadgets were confiscated before entering the juror room.
We ate while we talked about the case but before forming our opinion we all cast our vote anonymously by writing it on a piece of paper. The count was: eight Guilty and four Not Guilty. We started talking and we convinced one to flip to a guilty verdict. Then the other one and later the last two flipped their votes to “guilty” after we watched the video of the suspect interview where he gives us a hint that he did it. It wasn’t an obvious confession of guilt, but it was really easy to see if you use common sense.
The lawyers appointed one person to be the one to represent the whole jury to send messages between the judge and us. We asked the judge to read us the rules again and to let us rewatch the video of the suspect’s interview. This action was helpful for the jurors to ensure the decision was fair.
It was a great privilege and experience to be part of this community service but, to be honest, in my opinion, it was too much for me to handle listening to problems from 9- 5 pm. daily. It is not my cup of tea personally.
- The jurors pay their own parking fees. There are a couple of parking places around the area but I preferred the garage parking attached to the Hall Of Justice building in Rochester, NY.
- The parking garage charges $10 for 4-12 hours up.
- A refrigerator, microwave, water fountain, and vending machine is available for jurors.
Entering the Building
If you park within the building try to park at the upper garage. Then you can just enter into the right area. Letter G is nearer to where you enter going to the Hall Of Justice. You might prefer to ride the elevator or walk the stairs. The stairs involved small steps so I used the stairs. When you get in the courthouse security screening is similar to going through airport security. I always beeped the equipment! Not to panic. It was maybe the zipper of my boots. I entered daily with no problem but, of course, they have to take extra precautions to make sure everyone is safe.
When you pass security you’ll be walking towards the left side and follow the arrow where you check-in. If you are chosen to be a juror the Vending Machine room can seat 30-50 people. That’s where you wait before an officer calls everyone to enter the courtroom.
Try to park in the Upper level as the lower level floods in rainy weather which makes it hard to walk to and from your car and into the building. There is ample parking space in the upper level and I never had a problem finding a parking space. It cost me $10/day to park in the garage.
There is no restaurant inside the building, only a little store where you can buy a cold sandwich, chips, chocolates, drinks, and freshly cooked pizza. There is no place for you to sit down in the store. You have to go back to the vending machine room to eat. That’s where the microwave, refrigerator, water fountain and vending machines are located. The small store is located nearby the entrance. If you’re not sure, ask the officer at the entrance where the store is located.
There are a couple of restaurants nearby, two blocks away from the Hall of Justice. Eating there is not really advisable if the weather is stormy in the wintertime. You don’t have enough time to walk two blocks away, order your food, eat it and be back in an hour.
The vending machine is a cash-only machine but the little store inside the building accepts cards if you don’t have cash.
If you wanted to be a juror and wondering how to be part of it. I hope this experience gives you a picture of how it is processed.
Being part of the jury was an interesting experience. It is a privilege that people in some other countries wish they could experience. I enjoyed being there but it’s not my cup of tea to listen to problems 9-5 pm daily. I couldn’t handle listening to it every day but I was glad to be part of it and be with other jurors who disagreed with each other but laughed about it and did not get angry and insult each other. Some people are paid $40 per day for jury duty. It is the law that those who miss work because of jury duty cannot be penalized for missing work. My check arrived one week after my duty.
Overall, being a juror is a life experience that I am thankful for. As a new citizen of the United States, I was able to do my part to be a good citizen. That makes me happy and grateful.
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