Lawyers Are Never Picked For Jury Duty. Right?

Anyone who believes that lawyers never serve on juries is wrong. I’m a lawyer, and I’ve been selected* twice. My first time on a jury, six years ago, was for a federal criminal case. This time, earlier this week, I served on a jury for a civil case in state court. Thankfully, the trial lasted only two days, but even that short amount of time without access to a phone or Internet during the day felt more like two weeks.

I have no idea what the headlines were on those two days, but the buzz in the courthouse was about an event that happened in that building shortly before I was empaneled: Bill Cosby’s conviction on three counts of aggravated indecent assault related to an incident that occurred in 2004. There was some disagreement among my fellow potential jurors about whether justice prevailed in Cosby’s case, but everyone was relieved to have missed being among the jury pool during the three days it took to select that jury. We could’ve been.

Bill Cosby has a close connection to my hometown. The house where the 2004 crime took place is down the street from my middle school. Cosby attended and served on the board of Temple University, where my Dad works and where almost every member of my family went for college and/or their graduate degrees. Last week, Temple rescinded the honorary doctorate it awarded to Cosby in the early 1990s.

This week, nearly two hundred miles away, my alma mater revoked the honorary doctorate it awarded to Cosby on Commencement Day in 2003. Ruth Bader Ginsburg received an honorary doctorate that day too, and Mr. AMB and I received our bachelor’s degrees. It was a very soggy day, an experience that informed the graduation that took place in my first novel, Two Lovely Berries (New Adult), which features the strained relationship between a set of identical twins, Aubrey and Nora Daley:

I haven’t been writing, reading, blogging, tweeting, or gardening much lately. Instead, I’ve been focusing on my family, working excessively, and addressing everything that piled up while I was on jury duty. I plan on catching up with everything and everyone soon.

Have a great weekend.

_____________________________

* “Selected” isn’t the right word. I wasn’t eliminated by strikes as a result of my answers to the questions the lawyers asked during voir dire. People ask me why I don’t try to get out of jury duty. Apart from the fact that it would be perjury to lie during voir dire to get out of service, why would I want to get out of it? It’s an inconvenience, but it’s also an important part of our justice system and an interesting experience.

**I discussed the Cosby case on this blog in Would You Want a Kids’ Book Endorsed by Bill Cosby?. As I wrote then, “It won’t be easy for Cosby’s defense to get around the fact that he’s admitted under oath that he gave women illegal sedatives in order to have sex with them.”

14 comments

  1. I’ve been in Jersey (CI) now over 40 years, with only a couple of parking tickets against my name. We don’t get a whole lot of jury trials but I’ve always wanted to do maybe one. Now I’m probably too old 😦

  2. When I went to jury selection, I wasn’t chosen. They asked me if I felt there had to be proof in a case or if I would just take someone’s word for it. I can’t remember being quite so mad in that particular way when I said there should be some type of evidence, not even physical, that something happened.

    1. Interesting. I guess they were trying to get at whether you would want additional evidence to corroborate a person’s testimony. I don’t know what type of case this was, but I do know that the corroboration issue often comes up in sexual assault cases, where there often isn’t any physical evidence, especially if the window for a forensic exam closed by the time law enforcement got involved.

  3. I’ve been on three jury duty assignments, within a year and all were a very negative assignment. One was a murder within a gang war and was very difficult and emotional. The other two was possession and sale of hard drugs, black tar/cocaine and result of stabbing/shooting individuals. Each trial was a full five days in court and then jury deliberations. The two drug cases presented visual evidence witnessed from ten stories up in an office building looking down onto a shaded tree lined street. Very confusing presentation and on one occasion disrupting the court proceedings. Ended in a hung jury in all three cases—-in my opinion the state only had circumstantial evidence, poorly presented. I do not wish to sit again. Even the jury foreman harassed us as a guilty verdict was wanted—we deliberated two days on the gang murder and one and half days on the drug trial This is a long time; since the first half-day each jury member had made their decision. The rest of the time was spent with the Forman and other members beating down those who said not guilty. Prior to declaring a hung jury the judge interviewed each jury member and was just slight off from threats—saying we need to look harder for a guilty verdict. The first case five members of the jury voted not guilty and the other two cases three members voted not guilty. I voted not guilty on all three cases. It was interesting, and I saw the attorneys and judges showing anger and bad behavior. Since I feel it is my responsibility to serve when called, I will serve. I only hope I get something less emotionally draining. These cases were all in the Los Angeles, California county court. I live in Santa Monica, California and we are in L. A. County, therefore I’m sire I will be getting more calls to jury duty.
    You are right Stel–‘be careful what you wish for’

    1. I can’t imagine having to report for jury duty three times in one year and serving each time! Where I live, after you’ve shown up, you aren’t called again for at least a year. Here, you might get called twice–once for federal and once for state–in one year, but not more than that. It sounds like your experiences were terrible. I’m sorry that happened to you, but thank you for serving. Jury duty is an important part of our justice system.

  4. Wow, you served on two juries! I’m — kind of envious? Like you say, it’s an inconvenience to do but it sounds REALLY interesting. I had jury duty recently and nearly got seated, because the judge had told the two attorneys they had to seat a jury THAT DAY. So even though they obviously had grave reservations about me, they chose me for the jury and like, swore me in and stuff; and then after we’d been waiting in the back for a while and I’d been schmoozing with all the other jurors so they’d elect me foreman, they called me back and were like “actually we are replacing you with someone else.” I was relieved from a work perspective but it was frustrating! I don’t think I will EVER get that close to being on a jury again — lawyers really do NOT want anyone close to social workers, they especially don’t want a child protection worker’s kid, I don’t trust police, I’ve been the victim of a crime, there’s just so many reasons not to keep me. 😦

  5. I was on jury duty this year and was even foreperson! It was a quick case in that it was done in less than an hour and we were done deliberating in less than 30 minutes.

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