A person is chosen as a prospective juror member by voting. I decided I was going to stop voting so that I would not get picked for jury duty. Before I had a chance to stop voting I received a letter in the mail telling me that I would be serving on jury duty within the next six months. August 2010 an envelope showed up in the mail with a letter telling me that I would be serving on jury duty for one week at the end of the month. One week is Monday through Friday. I was selected for jury duty the end of August 2010. There was a juror handbook enclosed with the letter stating the jury instructions.
Here is the online link for the juror handbook I received in the mail. Juror Handbook.
During my assigned week I was instructed to call the jury message phone every day after 4:30 PM and before 8 AM the next day. There were four groups, A, B, C and D. I was in group C. The first three days I called the phone number the other groups were chosen to report for jury duty. Day four I had to report for jury duty at 8:30 AM. A lady signed me in right in front of the courtroom where the trial was to be held. After I was signed in I had to go into another courtroom that was not being used at the time. It was a big courtroom and it was full of people. I would say at least 60 people, maybe more. I brought a book with me to read while I waited. I could not read because everyone kept talking to each other. No one whispered when they were talking.
We had to sit from 8:30 AM until after 10 AM before we were asked to come into the courtroom where the trial was to be. We sat in the courtroom listening to prospective juror members get questioned, waiting and hoping that our name was not called. I remember at least four people being dismissed one by one and immediately replaced one by one. Once you were dismissed you were allowed to leave. My name was not called. I did not want to be called. I wanted to leave.
Before I reported for jury duty I read in the handbook that I would be paid each time I had to report to court and reimbursed round trip for mileage. If I served on the jury I would get $32 per day and reimbursed for round trip mileage, which was probably .50 cents a mile. If I did not serve on the jury I would get $16 per day and reimbursed for round trip mileage.
The juror handbook said if we did not report for jury duty we had to go in front of the District Attorney or the court and say why we were not there. If our excuse was not acceptable we would be fined for not showing up. It is better to show up for jury duty and take the $16 or $32 and skip the fine.
Who Was Chosen to Serve on the Jury?
I did have to report to the courthouse one time during my jury duty week. I was not chosen to serve on the jury but I had to spend three hours at the courthouse waiting until they went through each prospective juror member. I was paid $16 plus my mileage. I did not think that it was worth it. I was there over three hours so I was paid about $5.33 per hour.
What Was the Situation?
The situation was a personal injury lawsuit. When I walked into the courtroom with the other group of prospective jurors I sat in the area where the court spectators sat. I did not realize it until the jury questioning started that I was sitting right behind the plaintiff. The defendant, a middle age lady, sat up front with her lawyer. The plaintiff’s lawyer sat up front alone. A prospective juror member asked me, “What is the case about?” I said, “I think the lady up front was hit by a young girl.” A lady sitting on the right of the young girl right in front of me turned around and said, “The lady hit my daughter when she was walking across the street.” The plaintiff’s mother was nice about it. She just answered our question. The young girl was a teenager.
The lawyers kept asking us questions about do we have a problem with people on welfare suing another person for money. The plaintiff was on welfare. The defendants’ lawyer said we do not deny my client hit the plaintiff. I formed an assumption that the plaintiff must be asking for more money than the defendant offered to pay. I have heard in the past if an insurance company offers you money settle out of court because if you don’t you could wind up with nothing. That is exactly what happened to my cousin. The defendants’ insurance company offered her $7,000 she refused and went to court. The jury awarded her nothing. She has had multiple surgeries on her foot. To this day she wears a pain pump. She did not even get the $7,000.
I do not know the outcome of the case that I was selected for. I never checked back. The overall process was a lot of sitting around waiting and hoping that your name was not called. No one that I was in the courtroom with wanted to be on the jury. I heard excuses like I am the only one who makes money in the family so I cannot afford to miss work. The judge would answer that is not a good excuse. That man had to stay and serve on the jury until the trial was expected to be over with; which we were told would be 5 PM, that day. Another lady said she did not live in Brown County. Her family was in Brown County so she did live in Brown county at one time. They did let her go after picking her statement apart. School was starting. One guy said, “I am starting class tonight at 6 PM at the tech college I cannot serve on jury duty.” The judge said, “We will have you there on time.” He was chosen to serve on jury duty. It seemed as though they were selecting jury members based on whether they wanted to be there or not. If you said you did not want to be there you had to stay and serve on jury duty.
How was my jury duty experience unique?
I am not sure it was unique. It was my first experience so I do not have anything to compare it with. I was with a group of people from a lot of different professions. None of us wanted to be there. I just had to sit and listen for over three hours.
What did I learn from it?
I learned not to judge the lawyers when they are questioning the prospective juror members. I thought I had the story all figured out from the jury selection questioning. I was wrong.
Once you are chosen as a perspective juror member you do not have to worry about serving on jury duty again for four years. I was selected for jury duty August 2010. I do not have to worry about serving on jury duty again until after August 2014, which when I think about it is coming up. I have learned to just accept it. I do know people who have had to serve on jury duty three times already.
Maybe I did learn something from this experience. If you do not want to be on jury duty you get chosen to be a jury member so the best thing to do is beg to be on jury duty and they will not pick you as a jury member.
Source: Brown County Clerk of Circuit Court Juror Information.