lessons from jury duty

On 2/26/13 and 2/27/13 instead of getting work done I had to report for Jury Duty.  Thankfully my job still paid me for those two days, or else that would have been problematic.  It wasn’t all bad though since it gave me the opportunity to see the courtroom process first-hand and I learned a few key tips over that two days:

1. If you are summoned for Jury Duty, you need to show up.  If you don’t, they can come and find you and there might be a warrant to take you into custody.

2. If you find yourself the defendant in a criminal case, please get a lawyer.  Do not represent yourself, you’ll look like an idiot and it’s best to have a (highly paid) professional to formulate your defense.

3. Also, make sure to dress up for court (especially if you’re the defendant).  The defendant in my case had his shirt untucked and didn’t have a suit jacket for the first part of the proceedings.  Over the lunch break he acquired a jacket and tied his tie.  However, the next day he had his shirt untucked again, his jacket on inside out, and two ties, both loose and sloppy.  It looked ridiculous, and all these small things add up in the eyes of the Jury deciding your fate.

4. Make sure to deny everything.  If you’re pleading not-guilty, you need to immediately and repeatedly say “that never happened” or “I didn’t do it.”  At no point in the very lengthy process did the defendant in my case actually deny his alleged crimes.  Now while the defendant doesn’t need to say anything (presumed innocent, burden of proof is on the State), this still matters to the Jury.

5. Stop talking when the Judge bangs the gavel and tells you to stop.  In fact, it’s always a good rule of thumb to do what the Judge tells you in the courtroom.

6. On a related note, under no circumstances tell the Judge that she is “ignorant and incompetent.”  It won’t go over well.  This actually happened in my case, the defendant called the judge “ignorant and incompetent” on record, in front of the rest of the court.  The court clerks (law school students) and the Jury could not stop laughing at how ridiculous that was.  Such a foolish decision.

7. If you find yourself accused of three counts indecent exposure on a corrections employee, do your best to avoid intentionally committing indecent exposure while addressing the court.  Yep, that happened in the case too.  The defendant exposed himself in front of the Judge, prosecutor, Jury, and several policemen in the court, while speaking before the assembly.  That action (more than any other factor) cost him the case.  We were deliberating for hours and once five of the Jurors agreed that they did indeed see the defendant expose himself in court…  It wrapped up quickly after that point.

So, the case got more interesting, the court bought us all pizza for while we were arguing in the back room.  I got a whopping $30 stipend for my two days of effort, and completed my civic responsibility.

Now I’m trying to remove my name from the voter registration list so they don’t summon me again.

lessons from jury duty