Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Called to Jury Service

Jury Service - or doing my civic duty.
Weeks ago I received my notice advising that my name had been drawn so I must make myself available and attend the Court as a prospective jury member. I had no reasonable excuse for being let off this duty, so I must be there.
I duly arrived at the court house amid a great crowd of other prospective jurors and a number of security guards and Police, plus a photographer taking photos as everyone arrived! Security was very high, this must be a very high profile case, but, beside knowing the trial would last at least 2 weeks, I had no idea what the case was or who was on trial.
All 200 odd assorted people were crammed into, not the court house as is usual, but into the large church next door, where we were all shown a video advising just what would be expected of any body getting on the jury. We were also told the names of the four defendants the case was trying, but none were known to me. Next came a roll call of everybody there, it turned out at least 25 had no bothered to show up and may end up with a fine, plus about 8 people that were there and had not been called at all, they also will be paid for just being there! Now there's a way of making money doing nothing! Oh yes we shall be paid for our services!
Then we were told 80 names would be drawn from the barrel as a pre-selection panel from which the 12 jurors would be selected.
My name came up very early on and the very last name drawn was my next door neighbour from our old home, how amazing is that, I knew no one else but her! Great we sat together from then on. We, all 80 of us then made our way into the Courthouse and all crammed like sardines into a far too small room, which quickly got far too hot and stuffy, so the court attendant led us into the actual main high Court room, (there was not much more room for us all here either). Soon after the four defendants were led escorted in by several big burly Policemen and settled into glassed off large box.
Suddenly, 'All stand for his worship the Judge' and in came the Judge as he sat down so could we too. he announce the trial, the names of the accused men and the name of the victim then to my horror, the crime...... MURDER. There was a collective gasp from all the jury prospects. The 4 accused then all pleaded not guilty.
The Judge then said as there were going to be about 50 witnesses the names would be read out to us and printed on a screen, and should we know any of the accused or the witnesses we should ask to be excused from service as our names were called.
First name was called an elderly gentlemen walked quickly and quietly in to the body of the Court and sat down in the Jury box, unchallenged, very fast, we all though well this won't take long. But we were wrong! After that easy sellection, about 20 were called and all knew the witnessesss or the Police or the accused and were excused, but then very slowly another couple of oldermen were sellected and took their place and an older lady too, then more had to be escused, seems everybody youngish knew these people, I did recognize a couple of the accused from being passengers in my taxi, but I didn't know them or the witnesses personally. The panel were slowly chosen, mainly older men plus two older ladies, then finally to my surprise and a pale looking young girl of about 22 and a young man of about 28 years, so there was a sort of cross section of the population.
The Judge sent them all out to choose a Fore person to lead them, they were only out a few moments before the Court cryer came back to say he had anothe Juror who was known to the accused menand he needed to be excused and replaced, and just guess who it was, the very first man who got so quickly and easily onto the jury panel! So it was all on again to get a replacement. But soon we were told we should no longer be required and could all go home and await the payment cheque arriving in about a couple of weeks.
My ex-neighbour and I were so glad we had not been chosen as neither of us had reason to be excused and would have hated having to judge which one of those four men had pulled the trigger. We thanked our lucky stars to be out free in the fresh air and sunshine and not locked into the Court system for at least two weeks.
This is the 6 th time I have been called up to be a juror and not once have I got on the jury, I have been pleased to accept my civic duty, but so over joyed that I have not been required.