Category Archives: jury duty

Jurty Duty: Day 3

September 21, 2006 (Thursday) – Jury Selection Day 3

This is the third entry 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.

I’ve taken yet another day off of work and still don’t know one way or the other whether or not I’m going to have to serve on this jury. It’s really frustrating. I’ve started rearranging my schedule with the anticipation that I might have to serve although at this moment I don’t think I’ll end up on the jury. Most of the folks that are going to have to continue working in the evenings like myself are getting excused for cause.

Here’s the other frustrating part about all of this: They haven’t told us why they are doing the things they do. They haven’t said how many alternates they’re going to pick or how many preemptory challenges each lawyer gets. The judge is more than happy to tell us stories, especially when you get a lawyer, a Mr. Rubenstein I believe, trying to drop names of superior court judges to get out of serving. By the way, if that lawyer ever reads this, you have a horrible choice in your shirts and ties color wise. I just wanted to let you know that. Okay, back to where I was talking about the selection process. Anyways, it’s difficult to understand what’s going on because they really haven’t given us any details other than the only people that matter are one through 25. They also haven’t said why they have 25 people being interviewed when they only seat a jury with 12 people plus alternates. Based on the number of chairs in the box they seat 12 and then have 4 alternates but that’s just a guess at this stage on my part.

8:30 am – Everyone is back today. We get started pretty quickly. They excuse a small batch of people that they must have decided on after the session ended on Wednesday. It’s still going slow with the questions and excusals. Most of the people I’m sitting with are getting frustrated by just how much the lawyers talk (specifically the defense lawyer) in trying to get their point across. The defense attorney seems sincere in his communication but it does get a little repetitive at times. Maybe people just don’t trust lawyers in general so they just assume to be skeptical. Isn’t it great living in a cynical world?

They’re pushing through with interviews. More questions to folks. Some of the questions seem to go on forever. I can completely figure out why they are targeting some people and not others. For a few it seems pretty apparent why they’re drilling them with questions, though. I’ve sat with the same people each of the last few days and I found out today that the woman next to me has a PhD in organizational psychology. I’m not really sure what that means compared to normal psychology but we’ve been spending out time comparing notes on what each question from the attornies is meant to tell them about the prospective juror. One of the other guys in our group, if you will, is a car salesman (he actually seems like a pretty nice guy) and to help aid him in his quest to get out of jury duty wore a bright sky blue shirt with the words “It ain’t easy being easy” on the front. Classy. But if you’re reading this, can I still get a deal on that car?

4:15

They’re only removing a few jurors at a time now. Most people that are up there are staying up there and when they remove someone from the top 16 they are sliding them over from the 17-25 slots rather than replenishing from the remaining jury pool (which is still huge). I think they’re only about about number 54 or 55 of us. They originally pulled close to 140 I believe so there is still a huge pool left.

The judge decided to send us home for the weekend. He says they’re not going to finish swearing in the jury today so we’re going to start again on Monday morning. He doesn’t hold court on Fridays. There is a definite groan from most of us because it means yet another day of jury selection and we still don’t have any idea what is still left. We don’t know if they have started using their preemptories or not or if everyone is just being excused for cause up to this point. My suspicion is that all the excusals are for cause up to now.

Back to work tomorrow…

Monday – The fourth day (and hopefully last) of jury selection

Jury Duty: Day 2

September 20, 2006 (Wednesday) – Selection Day 2

This is the second 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.

8:30 am – We file into the court, section 28, at the courthouse. People start getting to know each other in the jury pool at this point. I had found out the night before that our judge was the one that presided over the Laci Peterson case. The judge is also technically retired but under some kind of special appointment.

8:45 am – The clerk starts to take roll. We’re missing about 5 people out of roughly 105 people. I found out this morning that they pulled another 50 jurors in the afternoon after I left the first day. The courtroom is packed pretty tight at this stage.

9:40 am – The judge dismisses us until about 10:20 or so because the jurors still missing are en route to the courthouse. Apparently one thought it was the next Wednesday. So, one out of 103 got it wrong. Yep, this is starting out well. Another guy that came in late at 9:30 had stated he heard 9:30 and not 8:30 am. Again, one out of 103 got it wrong. I just decided to sit around and watch an episode of Stargate Atlantis that I had missed the week before and had made a copy of so I could watch later.

On a side note, it turns out the head bailiff is a retired Marine Corps soldier and likes to sing so while the judge is chambers she starts to sing to us. At least we have some entertainment. She’s not bad, actually.

Note: It turns out that for $2 a month AT&T DSL customers can get access to their WiFi hotspots at most McDonalds, Barnes and Noble, and UPS store locations. I signed up for that because on day I noticed I could see the WiFi hotspot at the McDonalds across the street from the courthouse. It will make it easier to stay in touch with work at least.

10:30 am – We get started again. Everyone is present. The judge admonishes some of us because people have moved from the numbered seats. We hadn’t been told yet but the first 25 seats are very important. I’ll give more details about that later. They start to discuss the process for jury duty selection. This is when we find out that the folks sitting in seats 1-25 are the only ones that really matter in the process. Everyone else doesn’t matter until you get into the those first seats.

There was an obnoxious juror, who I will call Jim Bob, today that was making comments after the judge excused someone such as, “So you’re the one that decides if we get out of jurty duty” Later on today the judge excused him. I really didn’t agree with that. Obviously, you can’t have that guy on a jury because you know he’ll disrupt it but he should have held him in the jury pool until it was completely seated so as to punish him for his behavior. It sends the wrong message.

There are two other obnoxious potential jurors. One runs a PR firm and he’s trying everything to get out of jury duty. He’s kind of whiney for a public relations guy. First it’s a press conference with the governor (nice name dropping there buddy). The judge handles him pretty well. He tells him that he doesn’t think the governor would mind if he was doing his civic duty for a jury rather than being at the press conference. The second one is some sort of civil lawyer. He really has bad taste in his suits. Whoever picks out his shirt and ties really needs to be smacked around a bit. He’s name dropping and trying everything to get out of jury duty. The judge is also pretty much blowing him off at the moment. I have a feeling that both will get dropped, though, for one reason or another.

They’ve asked a few questions but it’s really slow going so far. They say it will speed up a bit more as it gets going. At this point I’m skeptical but hopefully they will prove me wrong.

11:30 am – A few other jurors and I head off to lunch. We have about 90 minutes before we have to be back so we took our time getting back.

1:15 pm – We get back to court and they excuse a few more people and question a few more and then at about 2pm or so they excuse us for the afternoon because there is some court business that has to be attended to. I’m writing this a few days later so I’ve forgotten exactly the reason but I figure at least I can head home and get a couple of hours of work in.

Let’s do a little summary here. I’ve taken off two days of work for a grand total of about 4 hours of jury selection, if that. This is getting off to an amazing start. At least I still have Internet access at the courthouse.

I’ve started to prepare my co-workers that I might have to serve on a long jury. I don’t think I’m going to get picked based on the people that have been excused so far but it’s really hard to say. We haven’t really gotten into the process it seems so there are still a lot of questions from the other potential jurors and myself about how all of this really works. I wish there was more information given so at least we knew what was going on.

Tomorrow: Day 3 – Jury selection continues.

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

Jury Duty Notes

I was called for jury duty sometime ago but originally requested a postponement due to a vacation I had scheduled. I was rescheduled for September 18th and I reported as required. The first jury pool request was 90 people so I knew this was going to be a big case. They started to read names from the list. My name wasn’t called…until the very end. I went up with everyone else to the jury room to find out the next step.

I can’t say much more than that except that I’m still in the jury selection process and it’s now September 22nd. We didn’t have selection on the 19th and the 20th ended up being a half day. We had a full day yesterday and this court doesn’t operate on Fridays so come Monday I will be back in court again.

If I get excused then I’ll publish all my notes and thoughts from the process as soon as that happens. Otherwise I’ll post a message that I’ve been selected and that you won’t hear more about it for about 4-5 weeks. After my work on the case has ended either way I’m going to publish detailed notes from the experience. It’s been an interesting and at the same time, extremely boring and frustrating process.

I will say, however, that it is interesting how often they point out that the burden is on the prosecution to establish guilt rather than the defense to establish innocence. I thought everyone in this country took Civics class in junior high but I guess not.