Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A stacked deck

In the Fulton County jury waiting room.

When I returned back from Chapel Hill on Monday evening, I had to check on the jury summons I received about a week ago.

I had to call into an automated line to see if my group number would be required to serve. Of course, it was.

I made my way down to work, parked, then walked over to the courthouse. When I got to the jury waiting area, it seemed it had changed since the last time I was called for jury duty five years ago.

First, it had wi-fi, something I didn't realize. People were there with their laptops and power cords and I just had a travel book on Sydney (this gave me a bunch of time to research the first and last day of our honeymoon!).

They ran a pretty nice introduction video by the State Bar of Georgia on jury service. Then names were called out when judges needed jurors. My name wasn't called out in the first pool of 60 names. But it was #6 for the second. The 48 of us went up to our courtroom.

I've been summoned to jury three times so far in Atlanta and once when I worked in Little Rock, Ark. Because I'm a reporter, I've never had to serve on a jury. Lawyers typically don't pick us because we cover so many topics and easily could have previous knowledge of a case, particularly criminal ones.

In 2006 when I was called to jury duty, I primarily was excused because I had covered court cases and had interacted with the district attorney. Before that, in Little Rock, I was excused because I'd written articles on drug cases.

This time seemed a little different. It was a civil case, which meant the bulk of my excuses working on criminal cases was out the window.

Another thing that was different was an indication of the times that we live in. The judge had to tell us to not Facebook, tweet, or do anything else in social media related to this case. We didn't have this warning the last time I was called to jury duty.

I did have a few outs that potentially could disqualify me from serving on that jury -- I have an extensive background as a health reporter, having worked the beat in three states.

But the trump card came when one of the attorneys asked me what my fiancee does for a living. The case involved a person who works in that industry.

Although I would have fulfilled my civic duty as a juror if picked, I was honestly relieved when my name ultimately wasn't called to serve for that five- to six-day trial.

1 comment:

BLAARGH! said...

yeah, you're lucky... I got picked for a 2 day trial that ended up lasting 2.5 weeks... schiester defense lawyer tried every stupid trick in the book, wasting everyone's time... the deliberation lasted about 3 minutes.
Having said that, you do get to meet some interesting folks, so it's not all bad...