Sunday, October 07, 2007

Jury Duty

For the first time in my life, I've been sorta chosen for jury duty.

I've been called a number of times, but never chosen. Sometimes I would go and sit and wait, only to be told that no jury would be needed, which I discovered usually meant that the defendant had decided to plead guilty, most likely a plea bargain. If that happened, I would be out of the court house by 10, so I always dressed for work -- a skirted suit, heels, and a brief case. Sometimes they would have a jury and alternates empaneled before they got to me. And several times I would actually get to the questioning part and the defense attorney would ask me my highest level of education and I would say I have a Masters and he would object to me as a juror and I would go to work. After this had happened a few times, and once a man who I knew had a Ph.D. was questioned before me and selected, I asked an attorney friend what was up with this. And he told me that defense attorneys do not want a woman of my age and education level because we wouldn't have a post graduate degree unless we were willing to go against peer pressure. We were much more likely than women with less education, younger women, and men of all types to have a disciplined mind. It meant we wouldn't lose track of a piece of the prosecution's case if the defense tried emotions and tricks. Which was certainly flattering, but also frustrating, since I've always believed that jury duty is like learning the issues before voting -- a good citizen does it.

And so it stood until Friday. When I was called for grand jury selection. Now, I've never been called for the grand jury before, and I've never been called in Alaska before, either. So, I have no idea if the petit jury selection here is the same as in California or the grand jury selection anywhere else is the same as here. There was a pool of 60 people, out of which they selected 18 regulars and then 18 alternates (six for each of the three months this grand jury sits). Names were drawn, no questions were asked, and that was that. So, I'm a grand jury alternate for December. Since many people leave the state in December, and grand jury* members are allowed to do that, the likelihood of an alternate being called is higher in December than any other month. Since the grand jury meets one day a week, I might be called up to four times, although that is unlikely.

At last. I can feel like a good citizen.

* In Alaska, the grand jury hands down felony indictments, and in a single day may hear the prosecution case in six cases. So, one day's work would have nothing to do with any other day's work, and continuity of individual jurors is not necessary.


kenju said...

I have always thought it would be very interesting to have jury duty, but the one time I was actually called, they seated the jury before they even interviewed me. Women with degrees are not often chosen for duty here. Good luck with yours.

Tabor said...

I had the same experience at least twice. Once I told them I had a Masters and also some post-graduate work, I was dismissed. Geeesh!

Betty said...

I have always thought it would be fascinating to be on a jury. Especially in a criminal case. Alas, I would never have been chosen because my husband was a criminal lawyer. He's long gone, now, but I've still not been called.

Mary Lou said...

I was called to jury duty every year until 2001, when I was chosen to serve. THe trial was a week long, and I was the foreman, It was really interesting! especially the voir dire. Since then I have not been called at all.