Jury Duty: What I Learned

You can learn a lot about people by watching them at jury duty.

Today ended three days of jury duty for me at our county courthouse in Newark. After my group of prospective jurors was called, I reported to the same courtroom, on and off, for three days. It was mostly a waiting game: Waiting to see if my name would be randomly selected out of the 100-plus pool of prospective jurors crowded into the courtroom. Waiting to see if I’d be interviewed by the judge, the prosecutor and the defense lawyer. Waiting to see if I’d be chosen to sit on the jury or be dismissed from serving on this criminal case.

As it turns out, I wasn’t chosen to serve. I was dismissed as were the 10 jurors already picked and the remaining 75 or so prospective jurors still seated with me in that courtroom. We were all dismissed. Why? We don’t know. The judge said he couldn’t give us any details. I'd love to know though.

Have you served on a jury in Newark, or like me, were you dismissed? Did you learn anything?

Driving home from Newark I thought about what I learned during the hours I spent in the courthouse this week:

  • Personal hygiene habits vary widely. You can be beautiful to look at, but if you stink no one wants to sit next to you, especially for whole days at a time in a jury box.
  • Some people booze it up during their lunch break. This makes them very friendly, so friendly that they want to nap on your shoulder -- yes, the shoulder of a stranger -- during the afternoon courtroom session.
  • The fellow seated at your jury room break table who assures you he can answer any question you have about jury duty is the same guy who just finished bragging to anyone who’d listen about how he has managed to avoid jury duty for the last 25 years.
  • The really large dude who pushes himself into an already full elevator thinks he’s a size 36 slim and maybe he was. . .10 years ago.
  • One man's liberal use of Axe cologne means 11 other people's eyes are watering by the time the elevator doors open on the 12th floor.
  • When the judge dismisses some prospective jurors from serving on a panel they break into spontaneous grins that they then try to hide behind their hands. 
  • When the judge dismisses a few other prospective jurors from serving they actually dance a little jig as they exit the courtroom.
  • Some prospective jurors cough so hard and so often you think their lungs are going to be ejected from their bodies at any moment. Don't worry though. They always sit next to me.
  • The older the prospective juror, the louder he complains about his time being "wasted" standing/waiting around for the judge to arrive and the jury selection process to begin. She yells at the sheriff's officers and demands to speak to the presiding judge so he can explain why she has to wait. Younger prospective jurors just stare at these folks. Amazed.

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