We’d like to excuse juror #8

I got called up to duty yesterday. After a week of tours, demonstrations and speakers, I finally got asked some questions in a court room. Unfortunately, one of those questions led to me being sent back downstairs later on. Now I don’t watch a lot of TV shows about courtrooms so I might get some of this terminology wrong. But here’s what happened:

They called my name for one of the cases that went to trial yesterday. Along with 23 other people, I went to a different floor and after a short waiting time in a couple small rooms, we all were seated together in a court room for what is called the voir dire process. That’s the process of selecting jurors for a case.

I was one of the first eight people questioned by the defense attorney and the prosecutor. Since ultimately I was not selected for the jury, I can tell you it was an OVI case between a young woman vs. the city of Columbus. The prosecutor asked the eight of us collectively what we considered obvious signs that someone is intoxicated; we answered with things like slurred speech, stumbling, etc. She asked what signs make it evident a person driving a car is drunk: swerving, speeding, and the like. The defense attorney then asked us if we felt it possible that an officer of the law could be mistaken about whether or not someone’s drunk if he or she did not administer the proper sobriety tests. We agreed that this could, in fact, be within the realm of possibility, although I knew in the back of my mind I thought it unlikely. But they have those tests for a reason, I suppose. Anyway, after this first round of questions, one woman was dismissed by the defense attorney. I’m not really sure why. A guy my age took her place, and he was dismissed shortly after for saying out loud what I’d been thinking earlier: he said he highly doubted an officer would be mistaken about whether or not someone’s too drunk to drive, and that it was pretty easy to tell. He was excused by the defense.

Then we were all asked if any of us had been cited for drunk driving or any other OVI offense. A couple had; they were asked by the defense if they felt this experience would lead them to be biased in the case. They said they didn’t believe so. We were asked if we ever knew anyone other than ourselves who had been cited. I said I didn’t know anyone directly, but I had known someone who had been hit by a drunk driver. He asked when that was and some details about it; I told him a friend of mine from high school had been struck by a drunk driver in 2004.

“And how is your friend doing now?” the defense attorney asked me.

“Oh, she passed away,” I said. I was not asked if I felt this experience would cause me to be biased as the others were asked, and I was excused a minute later when the judge asked for any dismissals from the defense and the prosecution.

So, that was the end of my time in a court room. I still have the chance to be called up today through Thursday, but considering I didn’t get called up at all last week, I’m not sure it’ll happen. Regardless, it’s been interesting. They sure do go out of their way to keep you happy around here while you wait. I’m starting to think working in the office around here wouldn’t be the worst gig in the world. I don’t even know what kind of background these folks have. Do you have to go to law school to randomly select jurors every two weeks? If so, I’d think they’d be feeling kind of bitter about paying off those student loans.

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