I was called up for jury service for this week. Here’s what happens:
I got my jury summons in the mail two weeks before Christmas. I had to send in my response within 10 days of receiving the summons. The response could be:
a. Yes, I will attend jury service
b. I would like to defer my jury service (with reasons to why)
c. I would like to be let off jury service (with reasons to why)
I said I would attend.
Two weeks after I sent in my response I received my confirmation letter that my response had been recorded.
On the Tuesday 30th January I rocked on up to court (Monday 29th January was a public holiday) and was directed to the Jury Assembly Area. This was a big room with loads of chairs and a few couches. There was a kitchenette, loads of tvs and also some ‘quiet’ rooms. I managed to snag a couch and settled in on my kindle (leyendo ‘Harry Potter y la pierda filosofal’). After about 15 minutes we were addressed by one member of court staff and were asked to watch two videos about the being a juror and the court process. Not long after these videos finished the court staff began to read off a list of random names, to which one would raise their hand upon hearing their name and receive a numbered tag. About 20 names would be read out, and this happened three times. I was called upon during the second round of names. If your name had been read out this meant you were a part of the a potential jury group.
After maybe 15 minutes of downtime, my numbered group (representative of the courtroom number) were asked to come to the front and follow a member of court staff to the courtroom. We were brought into the gallery of the room and asked to remain until the final jury had been chosen. We were read a list of names that included the judge, lawyers, defendant and witnesses for the case, and anyone who recognised these names were to alert the staff immediately. The lawyers and defendant both came into the courtroom, lastly followed by the judge for whom we had to stand. The judge re-iterated what the earlier videos had said with regards to jury selection and trial process. If for some reason we felt as though we could not sit on the jury, we needed to speak with him before sitting in the jury box.
The process for picking the final jury was also at random. Names were quite literally pulled out of a box. If your name was called you needed to immediately go and sit in the jury box, however the lawyers have a right to call ‘challenge’ to any juror without explanation. This happened three times and in this case the individual had to return to the gallery where we were sitting. We finally had the twelve jurors (I was not picked). The jurors were they asked to retire to the jury room to choose a foreperson. This is a person who represents the jury and generally speaks on behalf of the jurors during the trial. The foreperson was picked very quickly and they returned with the foreperson taking the seat closest to the judge. The last aspect of this trial we were a part of was then to witnesses the swearing in of the jury, whereby each of the jurors were to either make and oath or affirmation that they would judge the trial in a fair and unbiased manner. However when we got to juror 3 (Let’s call her Mrs. A) she did not seem to understand it was time for her to say ‘I do’. The judge asked Mrs. A to come forward and shared a few private words to ascertain her language skills, before alerting the courtroom (probably more for the staff and lawyers benefit, not us) that she unfortunately would find it very difficult to understand the trial and was therefore being relieved of jury service. The lawyers both had no objections and Mrs A. returned to the gallery to sit with us. Just after this one of the other jurors signalled to the judge if he might have a word (let’s call him Mr. B) to which the judge agreed. They spoke quietly for a minute and Mr. B returned to the jury box. The judge then announced once more that if any juror felt as though there were any issue they were worried about, both then and throughout the trial, that they may raise their hand for permission to approach him at any point. As the jury was one short, another name was randomly drawn from the box (not me) and this juror went and sat in the jury box. The oaths and affirmations were started from the beginning (as Mrs. A had only been juror number 3) and all seemed to run smoothly until we reached Mr. C. At his turn to say ‘I do’, Mr. C also seemed slightly confused as to what to do and was asked to approach the judge. After a few quiet words the judge announced that Mr. C had no language barriers to worry about and that he may return to the jury box. I think the process can be flustering and so foreign that some people don’t quite realise when it is their turn to speak. Mr. C returned to his place and then confirmed his impartiality to the trial. The rest of the jury followed suit.
As the jury process was now complete, we were asked to return to the Jury Assembly Area to wait upon more news. Back to the kindle it was. We were given updates every now and then; the reasons we were being kept in was that there were a few ‘stand-by’ trials that were being waited upon as to whether they would go ahead. At 12pm we received news that these trials would not be starting today and we were free to leave, however we would need to return the next morning to repeat the process.
Wednesday morning I rocked on up to court, slightly more confident than I had been the previous morning. I scored a couch seat (again!), got out the kindle and waited for some news. Once everyone was settled a round of names called and numbered tags handed out. I didn’t get one. This potential jury group was sent upstairs and after some time we were told that this trial was waiting for something legality related to be sorted, and so we needed to hang around incase a back-up pool was to be picked. There were also two ‘stand-by’ trials that may go ahead. In the end we were given news that the awaiting trial had been deferred due to whatever the problem was upstairs, and the two ‘stand-by’ trials would not be going ahead, so we were free and with no more trials scheduled for the week, free of jury service!
Wednesday afternoon I got a call: ” Hi Jonjyn, this is the court staff. I’m so sorry by the deferred trial has been re-set for tomorrow and so we require you to be at court tomorrow”. So close!
Thursday morning I repeated the process once more. Yes, I got a couch seat! I passed the time with the kindle (again!) and after only an hour of waiting we were told that the trial had again been deferred and that we could leave (definitely this time) and that was the end of our jury service.
I was grateful I was given the opportunity to go into the courtroom and experience the jury selection process. It did make the morning go quite quickly, without the commitment of having to sit on a trial for a number of days. The Wednesday was ‘the worst’ because I did just have to sit and read for a few hours. But if that’s considered ‘the worst’ it really wasn’t that bad. Thursday was just as fine because it was literally an hour of reading before being released forever (well, two years minimum).
It’s an interesting process and I would recommend it if you get the chance, even if you don’t end up sitting on the jury.