The sixth amendment

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

About a month or so ago I received word that I would be needed to fulfill my civic duty and serve on a jury.  The term was one week, although I would only need to go in if needed that day.  So when my week came, I checked the court’s website each night to see if I had to report in the next day.  Monday – nothing.  Tuesday – nothing.  Wednesday – nothing.  Jury duty’s not as hard as I thought.

Finally Thursday I was called in.  Orientation was at 9am and was given to us by the clerk of the court.  This guy was great… he had a nice, friendly, calming voice and a way of describing the process and how important our part was in this process that made me proud, interested, and excited to judge this case as open mindedly and fairly as I could.

Then we found out what the case was… a misdemeanor traffic violation.  Really?  So what… someone got a speeding ticket and wants a jury trial?  Even the clerk acknowledged that sometimes you get cases that you question, “why would this go to trial?” but he reminded us of our duty and once again, I sat up straighter in my chair determined to do the right thing.

Then the wait came.  Actually they really only needed seven jurors and they had 22 of us there so there was only about a 1 in 3 chance that I would be doing anything.  The juror waiting room had tables and chairs scattered about where we sat waiting to be called up.  They had wifi which was nice and a separate “lounge” off to the side with water and coffee.  We weren’t supposed to talk to each other – I wasn’t sure how big of a deal that was – so we all sat there silently reading or working on laptops.  The door to the lounge needed some serious oiling.  It’s squeak was amplified by the dead silence in the room.  People sitting around waiting drink a lot of water and coffee so it seemed like every 30 seconds or so a loud creak cut through the silence.  That and the sound of newspapers rustling were the only sounds I heard for near to an hour.

Wikipedia provided this picture. The courthouse wouldn't let me bring my camera inside 🙁

The only exception being when out the window we caught an unusual sight of 4 vtol aircraft flying by – definitely a rare spectacle which caused brief excitement in the room before we returned to our quiet waiting.

Then at a little after 11am, the clerk of the court came into our room and announced the case had been settled out of court and that we could all go home.  A somewhat anti-climatic end to my foray into public service.