I had not been summoned to jury duty since I was 19 years old. The system finally caught up to me. I had to call the night before and was hoping they would just say – thank you for your service. However, that was not the case – I was to show up at to the courthouse. I came early to find parking and get through the security process. I walked down the long hallway to the jury assembly room where I was greeted with a lady who said to scan my summons and fill out a questionnaire. Once I completed it, I sat down with the other 150 people whose fateful turn for jury duty happened to be the same day.
We watched a video the court produced to coax everyone into seeing the positive side of jury duty. I understand that it is our civic duty yet it is an inconvenience for many. An hour and half passes – I have now gotten through my work email and downloaded our next book club selection and then the court representative says that she is going to list names of the folks who are to assemble outside in the hallway for further instruction. I did not know what to expect with this process, so I listened to about 25 names being called and then she called mine. I got up and walked to the hallway, where I waited for about 25 more minutes to have approximately 70 people assemble in this long narrow hallway. The bailiff then gave us instructions for the next phase. We walked up three flights of stairs to the courtroom and waited for further instruction. The first 12 were seated in the actual jury box and the others were to file in each row without leaving an empty chair. The judge then introduced himself and I noticed the two attorneys along with the accused who was going on trial. It was a bit eerie. The judge described the case along with handing out a calendar. This case would last about a month to a month and half.
The judge discussed “hardships” that were acceptable by the court. I did not fall into any of those and was then instructed to go back downstairs to fill out another questionnaire that was more extensive and pertained to the actual case. Let’s just say the questions were around gangs and murder. Once it was completed, we were free for the day but would need to return at the next day.
The next day came quickly. I sat in my car to check email and do a few conference calls before heading towards the courtroom. I locked my car and started walking. I heard a loud knock and realized it was an inmate trying to get my attention from the jail – super creepy. There were about 70 folks in the hallway. I guess half got excused from the day prior. The bailiff took roll call and let the12 jurors who would be in the juror box line up. The rest of us were escorted into the courtroom. After more information about the case was provided along with the list of witnesses, the judge began his questioning of the 1st potential juror. He proceeded with the next 6 or 7 then we took our first break. Once we came back, the judge said that they excused one of the jurors and for the court assistant to call another name to fill the empty chair in the juror box. I had just settled into my chair, when MY NAME was called. Yes I had to proceed to the juror box. The judge then asked me a number of questions starting with my occupation and he had flagged several areas on my two questionnaires that he wanted additional information on. At one point, he asked if I could be non-bias and be an impartial member of the jury. There was an incident that happened to a close family member, where they were wrongly accused of something and later cleared, but not without a lot of pain along the way, that prevented me from being 100% objective and it would have been challenging for me to be impartial.
The judge then said that he would have the attorneys ask me further questions. My time in the juror box continued. The judge proceeded to question many others and even excuse one lady during questioning. I strongly think she has her excuse before she walked in the courtroom and was boarder line rude. The stories were interesting, sad and enlightening. Many had experienced murder of someone they were close to. It was close to and time for lunch. We all returned 1 ½ hours later and assembled in the courtroom. There I sat in the juror box. A few had been excused over the lunch hour and replaced by new folks. The judge continued to question people until he had about 16 people completely questioned, including myself. The judge then turned it over to the two attorneys for questioning. The plaintiff’s attorney questioned another person in the jury box and then it was my turn. He asked me many questions and at the end, I had to honestly say that I could not be 100% objective and it would be challenging for me and it would not be fair to the accused for a fair trial. The defendant’s attorney gave an interesting speech but asked not real questions of all of us. The judge then shared that it is now time for each attorney to have peremptory challenges which gives them the opportunity of excusing folks but that they did not have an infinite number of people they could excuse. He also said that no one should take it personally if they are excused. The plaintiff’s attorney went first and excused the gentleman to my right and in the row below me. The defendant’s attorney’s turn was next and the accused was giving input and it was the lady to the right of me. Next was the plaintiff’s attorney and he called my name. Yes – I was being excused and the judge and he both thanked me for my service. I proceeded to get a blue sheet from the bailiff and brought it down to the jury office to be officially released.
After reflecting on this experience, it was more interesting than I originally thought. Although it was an inconvenience from the perspective of taking time off work, it was what the judge originally said to everyone – “many of you may not want to be here, but many of you will find this an interesting experience.” At the end of the day, I wonder who the final 12 jurors were and how the case will end. We do have an interesting judicial system and everyone is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
By Friday, I needed a great appetizer for Friday Night Bites and this Charred Sugar Snap Peas with Shallot Garlic Dip was simply perfect. We enjoyed with a chilled beer!
Charred Sugar Snap Peas with Shallot Garlic Dip
Shallot Garlic Dip
1 small Shallot, finely minced
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
¼ Cup Sour Cream
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
¼ teaspoon Salt
8 grinds of fresh pepper
1 ½ Pounds of Sugar Snap Peas, untrimmed and divided
1 Tablespoon of Finely sliced Red Chiles
To make the dip, add the shallot, garlic, sour cream, lemon juice, olive oil and salt/pepper to the mixing bowl. Stir well and let sit in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Trim all the end of the sugar snap peas. Half of them, toss with a teaspoon of olive oil and grill until lightly charred on both sides. Remove from the heat and let cool. The remaining halves cut on the bias and toss in a bowl with the charred ones with a touch of olive oil. Place onto a platter along with the chilies and a small bowl full of the Shallot Garlic Dip. Enjoy.