Guilty as Charged!

Once again I’ve been called to jury duty. (You can read about my past adventures in jury duty, here and here.)

But unlike the time before, in which I was dismissed at lunch time without so much as a by-your-leave, let alone a glimpse of the inside of a courtroom, this time I actually got picked to serve on a jury. And for a criminal trial at that!

But more importantly, I got to be the foreman. Or forewoman.

Actually, Madam Forewoman, to you!

Which meant I had to get all serious and studiously examine all the evidence–hereby known as Exhibit A and Exhibit B. After all, as the forewoman, it was my responsibility to get to the truth.

All the court trials and tribulations begin here, in the jury lounge. Who will be called to serve and who will be sent home? One never knows.

All the court trials and tribulations begin here, in the jury lounge. Who will be called to serve and who will be sent home? One never knows.

During the trial, I’d nod and stroke my chin, as witness after witness gave gripping accounts of the events that transpired. I’d feverishly scribble my observations in a notepad that had been given to me for the purpose of the trial and had been carefully labelled, “Juror #3.” That’s me!

Here’s a glimpse of what I wrote:  “Witness #1 appears smug.”  “Witness #2 has beady eyes–can he be trusted?” “The judge is a hottie.” Of course, when I learned that the bailiff would collect our notes at the trial’s end, I crossed out that last observation.

Each day, I’d wear my juror badge with pride as I paced the hallway, waiting for the bailiff to give the sign that we could reenter the courtroom, following one of our many breaks. As forewoman, it was my job to round up all the suspects–I mean, jurors–each morning to make sure we were all present and accounted for, and ready to enter the courtroom together. I permitted no funny business and gave the evil eye to any of my fellow jurors who dared utter a word about the case outside the courtroom.

Each night when I returned home from a long day of upholding the law, I’d look into the bathroom mirror and practice saying, “Guilty as charged, your Honor!” as well as, “Throw the book at her!” and “Not guilty by reason of insanity!” After all, I had to cover my bases.

During deliberation, I asked that we review the evidence, including carefully reading the documents that were at the crux of the matter. I posed a theory about the defendant’s vehicle that had been photographed several times and was included as Exhibit A. I squinted at the grainy photo to see if I could make out the defendant who, according to the prosecutor, was “allegedly” sitting in the motor vehicle at the time.

I challenged my jurors to question motive and I sent a note to the judge demanding additional information that might help us make a more informed decision. To which, the judge, in a rather snarky tone, wrote back that we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for new information and that it was up to us to form a decision based on the information that had already been giving to us. Sure. Whatever that means.

I had no choice but to put on a brave face and turn to my fellow jurors. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” I thoughtfully said while choking back a tear. “It’s now up to us. We hold the fate of that woman in our hands.”

The jurors, perhaps not understanding the gravity of the situation, looked at me askance and then rolled their eyes. Which, no doubt, was their way of putting on a brave face, too.

In the final analysis, we found the defendant guilty on both counts. But I must say, it wasn’t a clear-cut case like you find on courtroom television dramas, such as “Law and Order” and “The Good Wife.”

Guilty on both counts. And the crime?

Two misdemeanors for violating a restraining order, including leaving a voicemail on the cell phone of the person with the restraining order, and driving up to the home of said person. As part of the terms of the restraining order, neither of these actions were permitted.

Which compels me to make the following observations:

  • Certain cases that shall remain nameless are a waste of time for the judicial system, public monies, and for the jurors.
  • The rich seem to enjoy airing their dirty laundry and thus wasting the time of the court system.
  • Lawyers should never call a witness that tells you right off the bat that they have a bad memory because they think they’re channeling their brother’s schizophrenia.
  • Don’t rely on blurry photos as evidence, especially when they’re taken by a sister-in-law on her cell phone while she was standing at quite some distance.
  • Make sure the defendant doesn’t come to court appearing intoxicated. Bad idea to wear furs, too, shabby ones at that. Not a good way to get the sympathy vote.
  • On the other hand, may I suggest for the rest in the courtroom to wear colorful clothing to liven things up a bit? Just because the courtroom is drab and colorless doesn’t mean everyone else has to be. Unless you’re the defendant…then dress the part. Black or navy blue suits are ideal.
  • Real life courtroom drama is nothing like you see on TV. There are no quirky judges. Lawyers don’t seem to prep their witnesses. I know from watching courtroom dramas that you’re supposed to give yes or no answers and not offer any additional info. So why didn’t the witnesses in the case know this as well?

Now that I’ve served a sum total of two and a half days, I won’t be called for another three years. And somehow, I can’t wait. I just love jury duty!

So, what’s been your experience with jury duty? Do tell!

39 thoughts on “Guilty as Charged!

  1. Glad you made the most of it! I’ve made note of the pointers. 🙂 I’ve never served, but somehow I get the feeling that that might change soon. Not sure if I want a grisly crime or misdemeanor.

  2. I’ve never done jury duty, but have spent MANY an hour covering trials for the newspaper. I guess knowing so many of the “participants” (lawyers, judges, etc.) makes me “tainted.” Thanks for sharing your experience as Madame Foreman. Nothing like living vicariously through one’s friends!

  3. The judge is a hottie?

    Want to bet they read through your scribbles?

    As to jury duty, I get knocked off every single time I am called (4 times since I have been at this address). They should take me off the rolls. I am considered tainted because I am a victim of violent crime and volunteer with Victim Impact.

    Loved your experience with jury duty. One must wonder though, why in the world would someone choose to take this to a jury trial, what a waste.

    • Val, all of us on the jury were wondering just that. Why was this allowed to go to trial. The thing of it is, they didn’t explain and we weren’t allowed to know why the ex-husband needed the restraining order in the first place. What did she do? Whatever it was, the fact that she violated it twice was enough for them to take it to trial. So we didn’t know the why but we had to rely on the facts at hand and rule on whether she violated the RO or not. Still, it was an experience I won’t soon forget.

  4. I served on a jury when we lived in Dallas – an ugly trial I would prefer to forget. In San Diego, I’ve been called several times, but have always been dismissed. I haven’t received a summons in a few years, though, so maybe it’s time. I do wonder how they decide who to call… it feels very random. My husband gets a summons every year. 🙂

  5. I’ve managed to avoid it for my entire life. When I was going to paralegal school one of my teachers offered this advice if ever arrested: If guilty, ask for a jury trial. If innocent, go with just the judge. Nice to know you were so diligent, but I think I’m going to follow his advice.

    • So you’ve never been called? Here in San Diego, there must not be enough people to go around. I’m constantly receiving a summons. It’s crazy how many times I’ve been called!

  6. I found it a fascinating experience . . . twelve people from all walks of life in a small, airless room, doing our best to make judgments based on evidence, and not what we ‘think’ happened. I found myself very focused, listening with great attention to detail.

  7. Your writing is so good, I had a clear picture of everything as it happened! ❤ I would like to serve jury duty with you. You know how to have fun with it. Did you put your suggestions into the box?

  8. Yet another cousinly coincidence, Monica: I’ve been called three times for jury duty, made the cut three times (a surprise, since I thought we lawyers always got tossed first), and was named forewoman all three times! And while Lady Justice may be blind, I could tell from fifty yards that our judge was a hottie and I spent more than a few minutes wondering if judicial robes were like kilts (i.e., was he going commando under his?!?……).

    • I wonder if there’s a just for judges. If so, sign me up! Maybe we’re chosen forewomen because we have that take-charge personality. It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it!

  9. I’ve never been on jury duty, Monica, But if I had, I would have convicted OJ, Zimmerman, & Cassie Anthony!

    You may have a bright future ahead of you, dear!! xxx

  10. Ah now Monica, the judge being a hottie would have me doing jury duty in an instant. Never done it myself. I watch The Good Wife and I always figured real life courtroom drama was nothing like it.
    I love how you’ve observed that the courtroom needed more color and er, how is it possible for lawyers to call that witness channelling a brother’s schizophrenia – does that person then have a diagnosis of said schizophrenia?
    Oh and how is a grainy photo taken on the sister in- law’s cell phone even admissible? Was that the only photo? I’d better stop, I’ve been watching too much of the law 😉 I do enjoy using the word admissible though.
    I’ve enjoyed this post so much, as serious as it was, I could not help but giggle at the mention of the defendant wearing a shabby fur.

    • MM, that courtroom was so drab, done in hues of gray and grayer. During the trial I found myself getting all teary-eyed, not because of the testimony, but because I felt the negativity from the lack of color! It was sad. As for the guy channeling his brothers schizophrenia, he gave us all a good laugh.

  11. The judge is a hottie? Do you have any evidence of that? LoL!
    I agree, folk need to stop looking like peeling paint and put some color on. I’d come in with pom poms as pigtails or pjs, like Michael Jackson. He caught on to this and all we could do was criticize 🙂

  12. Looks like you’re a good citizen, Monica. I was only ever called once to serve, and at the time I was going to be in Vietnam. SO, I’ve never done my duty as juror. Good for you, my friend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

  13. Hello Monica.
    Good post.
    I have only been called for Jury service once and that was over 25 years ago, I was excused as I already had a holiday booked, (I sent them a postcard!).
    I loved your observations Monica, I can imagine you there polishing your badge!!!

    • How did you know I was polishing my badge? 😉

      I can’t believe you’ve only been called once. Don’t you live in a small community? I live in the 8th largest city in the US and the 2nd largest city in California, and in 20 years of living here, I’ve been called at least four times! Plus I was called once while living in Maryland.

      • No always lived near a city Monica, off hand I don’t know more than about 4 people who have ever done Jury service come to think of it.

  14. I love your observations about jury duty Monica. I had to serve on a criminal trial, a gang murder, a couple of years back. It was hard because we all thought the defendant was guilty, but one holdout said he would never vote guilty because they didn’t find the gun, so he is now on the streets, a free man. Sigh! However, it is the best system in the world, I realize, and was grateful to see how the process worked.

    • Seeing how the process works can only serve to enrich your life and give you a point of reference. Serving on a jury is educational and I for one am glad for the opportunity.

    • Well, maybe this time you’ll be assigned to a good case. Just think of it as a writing exercise. How would you describe the courtroom? The defendant? You never know. One day you may be writing a story that calls for a courtroom scene, at which time you’ll be able to draw from your experience as a juror. I’m just saying. 😉

  15. A whole week of it. Decision wasn’t easy. It was a matter of ones word against another. In the end, our verdict was ‘not guilty.’ I hope we did the right thing. Not that I doubted my decision. However, even with all the facts presented, humans can get it wrong, sometimes.

  16. I’ve always been grateful for the bus ride downtown to serve. No, I don’t want to become part of the story or a story driving myself to a part of town I only see when I do jury duty. Once there I’m grateful to the bailiffs who take care of us and the professionalism of the judges. Goodness I’ve already purged my memory of the cases, but I do remember one case the prosecution certainly had not done their job, we did need more information and it was my gut feeling the guilty defendant got off free.

    • Our judge gave a nice speech about jury duty being our patriotic duty, and to think of other countries where the concept of being judged by your peers is unheard of, that he made me get all teary listening to him. I felt right then and there we should all answer the call when we get it and do our best to serve, rather than find ways to get out of it.

  17. Never had the privilege of being called to serve jury duty. I do know that EVERYBODY I’ve ever talked to about it says it’s nothing like what they expected at all. TV culture isn’t real life, and apparently people continue to be surprised by that. Throw the book at her!

Comments are closed.