The Would-be Juror.


The original movie poster

What’s has been your experience with jury duty? What would you tell a friend or a relative who receives that summons in the mail?

Recently two friends grunted at me, “I’ve been called for jury duty. I’m not going.”

“What do you mean, you’re not going?”

“Why should I?”

“First, you have to. That’s why they call it duty. You perform a critical community service. Second, it’ll be a great experience…”

“How would you know? You’ve never served on a jury–news boy.”

“Well, yeah…but I’d jump at the chance.”

Journalists are not exempt from jury duty. In fact, many of us would whoop at the mailbox and run into the house waving the summons, already thinking of all the juicy trials we might get assigned.

That’s precisely why many journalists never get selected for jury trials, I suspect. Too enthusiastic. Also, the typical news erudite is privy to so many details of some cases, particularly the high-profile ones, prosecutors and defense attorneys doubt we could be impartial.

This is how I imagine the courtroom interview would go:

Do you think you could set aside all you’ve seen and heard and judge the case solely on the facts presented at the trial?

I could. I know I could. I’d be open-minded. Fair. Impartial. Please. Pick me pick me pick me.

You’re excused, thank you.

Drat.

Probable Cause

Granted, I understand why a lawyer might look at a journalist with reasonable doubt, you could say. Journalists witness a lot that never reaches the jury room. We may have arrived at the crime scene before the detectives, or covered prior court appearances where things happen that can’t be easily erased from memory (When a person brought in on a murder charge smiles and waves at the camera, that’s a lasting, and not-so-good first impression).

Reporters also hear things, outlandish things, some true and some not.  But above all, it’s hearsay. inadmissible as evidence.

That said, journalists serving on trials isn’t unheard of.  At a TV station in California, I had an assignment editor seated on a  jury for a trial in which a local judge (of all people) had been accused of cocaine possession. The AE even knew the accused, yet the deputy district attorney and the defense team felt he could serve as an impartial juror.

So go figure.

(BTW, the jury convicted the judge.)

Still, I’ve never received a summons in the mail in my career. Coincidence? Luck of the draw?

Who knows? Maybe I’m due. And there are some cases close to trial. One or two real juicy ones, too.

How about you?  What’s has been your experience with jury duty? Tell me, am I right? Was it just the greatest experience?

For a little inspiration, watch the original movie trailer.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Would-be Juror.

  1. Valerie Silva

    I received a summons, but was never called. At first I had to get a deferment and then I found a time that I could go. The issue for me, as a pharmacist currently working in a small pharmacy, is to find coverage if I need to be gone. While I’d be happy to serve, the uncertainty aspect of the selection process is difficult. How do you find a relief person who can be available any day during a 4 week period with only a few days notice as to when they are needed? I wonder how other people work this out.

  2. I know just what you mean I received one but never ever got a phone call but I know why and I to think I could be open because of my experence.
    I spent 10 years in Law Enforcement and Chief of Police so I more then just a person off the street could know what is right and what is wrong, my wife got one not to long ago and never got selcted or intervied One question has anyone in your family been in Law Enforcement lol there it is.

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