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Thursday, November 09, 2017

Murder and Mayhem: Jury Duty Day 2

I'm rarely bored, but the first day of jury duty was extremely tedious and it was amazing how exhausting it was to be trapped in that room all day doing nothing. On Day 2, I brought writing notes with me. I knew I wouldn't get any work done, but I thought I could transfer them into notebooks. I didn't count on other jurors suddenly getting talkative on the second day. On day one everyone pretty much stuck to themselves. I did get some note transcription done, but not as much as I'd hoped because I was called upstairs to be questioned for a jury.

It was 10:40--that time is emblazoned in my mind--and they called up 59 jurors to be questioned for a  trial. Our case? The murder!

We had to be seated in the order in which we were called. I was juror number 48 of the 59. This would end up being important later. The seats were hard wood and not at all comfortable and I was seated in the second row behind the defendant. He was dressed nicely in a suit and tie and was wearing glasses. He looked nothing like the picture in the paper from when he'd been arrested.

Yes, I'd read about this case in the newspaper and I knew there'd already been a mistrial earlier this year. One of the early questions--possibly the first question--was if anyone knew anything about this case. I raised my hand and so did 2 other people. Sadly, this did not immediately disqualify us.

If anyone thinks it would be exciting to be called for a murder trial, let me tell you it is sadly disappointing and mostly boring. They started the dire voir questioning (Or is it voir dire? I distinctly remember it being called dire voir, but when I searched online, they say is is voir dire).

Anyway, they started asking questions of the jurors in a large group. The prosecutor started asking if anyone knew people who might be called as witnesses. There were a lot of police officers and sheriff's deputies and we had to EMTs in the panel. Guess how many law enforcement officials they knew? Yep, pretty much all of them. And each time they had to be asked if they could be fair and impartial given their relationship to the witness. The prosecutor even apologized for asking it over and over again, but said it was needed for the record.

It took forever to get through the names and I swear, he mentioned half the people who live in the county. The rest of the questioning didn't get much more interesting especially when the defense kept asking about who was familiar with the weapon that was used in the murder. Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney asked questions about it, including who was a firearms expert? Well, crap, we're in Georgia and everyone is carrying weapons down here all the time. Half the room was an "expert." OMG, that was also long and boring questioning.

I did mention my author status because at the beginning we were asked to stand up, say our name, where we lived, and who our employer was. No one cared about what I did for Delta, but I did get asked questions about being an author toward the end of the ordeal.

I also got called into a private session that I didn't expect. That wasn't about being an author, it was about what I knew about the case from the newspaper. It was unsettling to walk into a room and have not only the judge, prosecuting team, and defense team there, but the accused murderer as well. They asked if I would be substantially prejudiced because of the news article and I said, marginally, not substantially. And before I left, I closed with something I've seen on T-shirts for writers: Anything you say or do can and will end up in a novel. No use taking any chances, right?

As it turned out, I didn't need to worry too much. The jury along with three alternates was picked by juror 37. Remember, I was juror 48.

Finally at 6pm we were dismissed by the judge with the caveat to return on Wednesday. The groans were audible. BTW, the jurors who weren't called up to be questioned for this panel? They were allowed to leave at 10:40 in the morning! I would have liked to have been one of those people.

PS: The murder defendant was found guilty, but the trial started on Wednesday (the day after the jury was seated) and ended the following Thursday, so I could have been trapped for 8 days!

Join me next week for the third day of jury duty.