Last week was my turn to be summoned for jury duty so I thought I would share my experience (without too many details of course) for those who have never been so lucky as to get called. The summons came in the mail about 3 weeks before the actual date giving me time to make sure not to schedule any meetings that day (Nov 18th) and informing me that if I was selected that trial would start on the 22nd. Of course I first tried to think of every excuse why I could not serve but the reasons given on the form (65+, physically incapable, full time student, and severe financial hardship) did not really apply even if I stretched the truth. So on the designated day I walked my way to 800 Smithe Street stopping at Blenz on the way for my favorite London Fog because I figured it would be a long day.
A Long Day Indeed
And yes, I was right. The summons was for 9:15 and I arrived at 9:05 to be almost at the end of a very long line. At 9:15 sharp one of the four sheriffs assigned to ‘look after’ the prospective juries checked everyone’s picture IDs. We then had the bar code on our summons scanned and all sat down to wait outside the courtroom. After about 15 minutes we were ushered into the courtroom which was not large enough to accommodate all 120 of us so many had to sit in the aisles or stand. One of the sheriffs gave us welcoming instructions and was quite entertaining, trying to relax the group. After more waiting at 10:00 the judge entered and read the instructions to the jurors and the charges and the lawyers read their witness lists (about 30 minutes). The defendant entered and plead to the charges (another 15 minutes). By now it was almost 11:00 and the jury selection had not even started. Finally the judge, lawyers and defendant moved into a smaller courtroom and we were all allowed to get comfortable. The sheriffs provided coffee, tea and water and those standing were allowed to fill the jury box and other courtroom seats.
Just after 11:00 the first 20 prospective jurors were randomly drawn and moved to the other courtroom. I was not among them so settled in to read UnMarketing by Scott Stratten (before our UnBook conference December 1st). We did not hear anything again until almost 12:30 when the second batch of 20 was called. Again I was not among them. They were moved into the other courtroom but returned 5 minutes later as the judge had adjourned for lunch. We prospective jurors were not allowed to leave but the sheriffs unloaded boxes of Subway. Court resumed at 1:00 (thankfully a short lunch break) and the second batch of 20 chosen returned to the smaller courtroom. Again we did not hear anything for another hour and a half. At 2:30 the judge reappeared with good news for us all. The jury of 12 plus 2 alternates was selected from the first 40 prospective jurors and we were free to go. A round of applause came from the remaining 80 and a very large sigh of relief.
I was very surprised that 14 jurors were selected from the first 40. Given the length of the trial (suggested as 3 weeks) and the seeming importance of it (the sheriffs kept mentioning that they do not usually have such a big pool of jurors) it was surprising that more people did not have time commitment conflicts or other reasons that they could not serve. I give a big thanks to all of those selected before me that are right now doing their civic duty.
I was also very surprised by the friendliness and accommodating nature of our four sheriffs. When you meet them on the street they are usually not very talkative or funny (except maybe a few during the Olympics) but those that were assigned to give us instructions and feed and water us that day were really great. They answered as many questions as they could as honestly as possible and were clear when they could not provide an answer. They also did a great job of calming nerves and making the day as pleasant as possible. So overall my jury duty day went much better that I had anticipated. It really is not as bad as you think when you get the mail and open that little blue envelope. And I even read 100 pages of my book and met a few nice people.