Monday, October 14, 2013

Courthouse Blues

Today I was down for jury service. I'm pretty sure that I am one of a handful of people who actually want to do jury service so I had my fingers crossed.

We all gathered in the assembly room where we were told there were two High Court trials running that week. One was lasting a week and the other eight weeks. This news was greeted with groans.

They did the ballot for the short trial first, drawing out about 20 names for the jury to be selected from. They all got badges and were taken up to their court room during the ballot for the long trial. Apparently it went quite straight forward with only one challenge for the first thirteen names called out. So eight fulfilled their jury service by simply standing in a court room for a wee while.

Then it was the ballot for the big trial. There was a good chance my name would be called because there were between seventy and ninety names to be selected! And it was. We we're read the list of witnesses in the assembly room because there were 200 of them! That led a few people to approach the court staff to say they knew some of them. They were told if their name was called they could ask to approach the judge to ask to be excused. Because it was a long trial anyone who would be disadvantaged by having to sit for eight weeks was also told to ask to approach the judge. Then we were also advised that anyone with English as a second language and might have trouble understanding was also to request to approach the judge. This became even more important when we discovered that some of the defendants required an interpreter!

So once everyone was advised we trooped up to the court room. The lawyers and the defendants were already present. The judge came in and then the charges were read out and the defendants were asked how they pled. Once this was done it was empaneling time.

It started out well with the first two or three names getting to their seats no problem. But then it alternated between challenges and excuse requests. So I was hoping I had a chance, especially since I fit the profile the defence lawyers seemed keen on - middly aged European woman not overdressed. They did not like European men one bit. Alas after a long list of names the jury was formed and I was not on it.

Then they had to go off and choose a foreperson. We had to remain in case one or more members could not carry out their duties. It was a long wait and the judge eventually asked the court officer to check on them. Apparently two were unsure they could get time off. So I might get another chance! They were given 5 minutes to find out if they could. Unfortunately they were both able to so my chance was gone.

So at midday we rejected or excused jurors marched back downstairs to the assembly room where the 20 or so who hadn't come out of the ballot box plus the eight from the other trial were waiting. Once we were all there we were advised we were no longer needed - we had discharged our jury duty and were excused (if we wished) from serving for two years.

So I didn't get to experience a trial but I got a good look at what a courtroom is like during a trial.i also discovered that US law shows have given us a false image of what lawyers dress like. It was the High Court so gowns were de rigeur but all were very sartorially challenged and personal grooming only seemed to have been achieved but two female barristers, two male barristers and the judge.

The upside is I shall be able to NaNoWriMo without having to forgo sleep. Yay!

No comments: