Jury Duty Story

Is this cartoon a hoot or what? I think that it so represents the attitudes and thinkings that people bring to the jury box. With all of the legal drama stories on TV and Film I think that people bring a very wide diversity of opinions to the courtroom when they show up for jury duty. I guess that is why the lawyers sometimes take a long time to select a jury.

My Facebook friend Bill is waiting today to be picked for a Jury out in Bakersfield, California. It reminded me of the one and only time that I have been selected to actually serve on a jury. Here is my memory of my week of service in a courtroom in downtown Houston in the spring of 1976:
Jury duty started on Monday and by Tuesday we were empaneled in the courtroom where we sat hearing the evidence for a few days. From what I remember the case was about a guy that was hit by a truck owned by a fairly large company - don't ask me who they were.. don't remember. If recollection serves me right the company's insurance company did not want to pay as they felt the truck driver was not at fault.

The courtroom part was over on Wednesday and we were released to the jurors' room on Thursday morning where we began to discuss the merits of the case. From what I remember at least 11 of the 12 of us had to agree on the verdict.. one person could not hang the jury. Pretty quickly 10 had come to the decision that the truck driver was not at fault - I and one other person did not agree with the rest and would not be convinced other wise.. it is the way that we left the courthouse late Thursday.

Friday morning seemed a bit different.. jurors started saying things like "I can't get off work next week" or "My company isn't paying me for this" - and an odd shift of opinion began to occur.. by early Friday afternoon I watched all but one juror change their opinion about who was at fault in the accident. It was a very weird turn of events. By Friday afternoon we had decided against the trucker's company and we were dismissed by the judge. And no one had to come back on Monday.
I wonder how many trials are decided this way. Surely criminal cases are not. But I do wonder how many decisions by juries are rushed because of the schedules and priorities of the jurors. I know it shouldn't be that way but people can be pretty pragmatic.

Have you ever served on a jury? What are your recollections? Any lessons learned?


  1. I'm not a fan of the jury system for those reasons. I think a trained JD can better decide. I sat through jury selection and was amazed at how the case already being made right there. AND it seemed the lawyers were allowed to say things they might not be allowed to say in trial, even though it was said specifically to sway juror opinions. -ltf

  2. What a wonderful recollection. I had a friend that told me about his service on a jury involving a rape by a older cousin of a much younger cousin (horrible I know, but the crudity of the act cannot cloud reason). Basically, this friend said that the defense couldn't prove that the guy didn't do it. I was aghast. The burden of proof is on the prosecution as he is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I don't know if this guy actually did it, but I felt sad to think that my friend sent somebody to prison for years and years because of a simple lack of understanding of criminal justice.
    I think a good cartoon would also be to show all of the people coming up with excuses and reasons not to be a juror, until all that is left in the jury pool is the original cartoon.

  3. I served on a jury once and was actually elected the jury foreman. It was a trial where a jilted girlfriend was accused of vandalizing her ex's car.

    The arresting officer testified and the prosecutor seemed to phone in his prosecution.

    When we deliberated we honestly believed she was guilty, but the prosecutor had not proven the case beyond a shadow of a doubt. He and the arresting officer thought it was a slamdunk and seemed to treat it as such.

    Since they did not prove their case, and even thought we believe she did it, we voted not guilty.

    It was fun reading the verdict as a foreman. It showed me how sloppy and cocky certain arresting officers can be and how out of it a prosecutor could be.

    If I am arrested, and Lord forbid I ever am, I would like those two at least to be coming at me!

    By the way, the cop was livid when it was over. He was embarassed his slamdunk didn't stick. Sorrry, he was sloppy.

  4. Have been in the pool several times, but never been picked. Excused for being a Preachers Wife and having strong convictions, knowing and having too many police officers in our church or family. And once, because if was a murder case and would take 6 to 8 weeks, I couldn't afford to be off work that long.

    My dearest thinks perhaps we should have unbiased professional juries. It might work! What's your vocation? I'm a professional juror!!

    The cartoon I think is so true.

  5. I have served once. It was a case about a driver driving while drunk. His defense was that he only drove on his 'road' in the small town he lived in. I live in a small town, and was able to show the other jurors how devastating it would be if he hit someone in his 'small' town. We voted for conviction. The defense attorney had left the courthouse, and he was 'dressed down' by the judge. He was almost found in contempt. It was a learning experience about how our system works.

    I was called for jury duty on a murder trial, but was dismissed because I have a brother who is a cop, and his wife is an attorney. The defendant was found guilty and got the hard 40!

  6. I have been called but never served. I have such mixed feelings about juries. it seems so many things are hidden from them and alot is made of the attorneys and the person on trial can almost be forgotten.


I love to get comments and usually respond. So come back to see my reply. You can click here to see my comment policy.