Jury Duty: Day 1

September 18, 2006

Jury Duty Day 1 – First Selection Day

This is the first in a series of entries on my role in the jury in a double murder case in the county of Contra Costa, California. You can see a more detailed view of the case including links to these posts and other items at this page.

Setup – I had previously postponed my jury duty due to a family vacation. I picked September 18th as my continuation date and so on the morning of the 18th I went to the courthouse in Martinez, CA.

8:15 am – I show up at the jury duty assembly room with jurty duty summons card in hand. I get in the first line to turn in my card and get my survey.

8:30 am – I receive the survey and start to fill it out. It asks me questions like, “Do I have any family or close friends that are in the law enforcement field?” and “Is there anything that would preclude me from making a decision in a civil or criminal case?” and so on. I don’t remember the exact wording but your basic survey to give the lawyers some information about you when you are selected for a jury. I go and turn it in after about 10 minutes.

9:00 am – The first jury is called. The woman says there will be 90 people called. I know this is going to be a big case because you don’t call 90 people for a jury for a snatch and grab or an assault case. As the names roll off the list I think I’m going to be safe. Then they get to about 82 or so and my name is called. “Crap” is all I can think at that time. Well, I was thinking of stronger words actually but I’ll leave it with that for a public blog.

9:15 am – We’re called into the courtroom and sat down. The first 25 people that had been called or put into the jury “hot box”. The judge, Richard Arnason, starts by welcoming us and so forth and then tells us about the case. It’s a double murder with robbery and firearm enhancements. He has the defendent and the two lawyers stand up and introduce themselves. I’ll add more detail about these three in later postings. He also tells us that the trial is expected to take about 3-4 weeks. You can hear the groan from the jury candidates. Three or four weeks! He tells us that the hours of his court are generally 8:30 – 4:30 or so with mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks along with lunch. The judge likes to joke about the A’s and Raiders a lot.

The judge then tells us that all they’re going to do today is hear hardship cases. Everyone is told to fill out a hardship application if they want to apply for hardship otherwise they are free to go until Wednesday morning at 8:30am when we are scheduled to begin jury selection. I filled out a hardship form even though I don’t really qualify for a hardship. It can’t hurt and the upside is I get out of having to sit on a 4 week jury. First off, I should say (and will talk about it more later) that I think jury duty is a necessary part of citizenship. And a case like this is extremely serious. While this isn’t a case that involves the death penalty, if convicted the guy will probably get life in prison based on the details we’ve been privy to up to this point. But the timing of this case is terrible for me. I’ve got deadlines coming in November and December that I can’t miss and the reality is that I will have to work evenings and weekends to stay caught up. If I were single it’s not that big of a deal but I still have to take care of my daughter so it becomes a much bigger burden.

My hardship is rejected and we’re told to come back on Wednesday at 8:30am.

11:00 am – I board BART and head for the office.

Tomorrow: Day 2 – Jury Selection Continues

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