Friday, January 8, 2010

Jury duty - day 4

Twelve jurors are required for a jury. These twelve are selected from the three groups. The groups are purely there for organization. They could just as easily go through the potential jurors one by one en masse but I guess someone somewhere along the way figured that splitting up the main pool into smaller groups was more efficient or something.

Each potential juror is asked to go into the courtroom one at a time where there is the judge, the crown prosecutor, the defence attorney, the accused, a few court personnel and any jurors already selected. The juror is asked to step into the witness box and swear to tell the truth and is then asked a question. The juror must answer the question and is then judged on it by two "triers" who had been previously selected from the same pool of possible jurors. The triers' job is to decide whether or not the potential juror can perform a juror's duties objectively. If the both triers say the potential juror is acceptable then the person is asked to step down from the witness box and look the accused in the eye. Then the crown prosecutor is asked if he finds the potential juror acceptable. If yes, then he says "acceptable". If no, he says "challenge". Then the defence attorney is asked to declare acceptable or challenge. If after this, the potential juror has been deemed acceptable by all parties, then the potential juror is now a real juror.

The morning in the jurors' lounge on the first floor was uneventful for the first couple of hours and then at about 11:30, we were called into a courtroom on the sixth floor.

While the generalities in jury selection are the same, the details vary from judge to judge. In today's case, the judge addressed us potential jurors, told us about our responsibilities and then the drawing of names commenced. Three groups of twenty five were formed. I was the fourteenth person in the second group.

My second group was escorted into another courtroom to sit and wait until we broke for lunch at about 1:00. Coming back from lunch, we heard that the first group was finished and out of those twenty five people, only four had been chosen to sit as jurors. Our group of twenty five was further divided into three groups and the ten in my group were led into another room to sit and wait while the first ten were led into the courtroom for their questioning.

A couple of voices took over the conversation in the small room, something about someone's relative being a hunter when he was a kid and was now a sniper with some police force somewhere in Ontario. Something about how when he was a baby, lying on his back he would pee and the pee would spray right into his own mouth. Something about how now he is one of the best snipers in Canada and how the peeing in the mouth was a precursor of this.

This is what I was thinking about as I entered the witness box.

"Yes, I do," I answered when asked by a court officer if I would swear to tell the truth.

The judge addressed me next and asked if I had any reasons to be excused from serving jury duty to which I said no.

The defence attorney then stood up and announced that he would ask me the question.

Now, I'm not allowed to say what the question was but I can probably say that it had an ethical foundation which only makes sense since it is a court of law, not a court of mathematics or plumbing or whatever.

I gave the court my answer in my calmest pleasedontfreakoutpleasedontfreakout voice. Meanwhile, I was still thinking about the pee pee in mouth/police sniper story.

I looked over at the two triers. They looked back at me. They consulted with each other in whispers. Then one of them looked back at me and announced, "Accept."

So I passed the first out of three.

One of the court officers then asked me to step down from the witness box and to stand on the floor of the court in front of the judge and look over at the accused. I did this. I tried to remain expressionless but some part of my brain was still thinking pee pee in mouth.

Someone asked the crown prosecutor if he wished to challenge or accept.

He looked at me and said, "Accept."

That was the second out of three. One more "accept" and I would be a juror.

Lastly, the defence counsel was asked his opinion. He looked at his pad of paper where he'd scribbled some notes down. He looked at me. He looked at his pad. He looked at me. He said, "Challenge."

It kind of felt like failing to graduate even though I'm still not sure it's something I would have wanted to graduate into but, you know, with all the build up, it was like a game where you have winners and losers and it felt like I had just lost in the third inning. I know I wasn't supposed to view it that way but part of me still did.

The other part of me was thinking thank God.

I was then led out of the courtroom and sent back down to the main jurors' lounge on the first floor where I spent the remainder of the afternoon with the rest of the losers.


Ian said...

Now I can`t get that pee/sniper visual out of my head.

Barb said...

Next time I get called for jury duty I'll be thinking about the pee in the mouth story and I'll crack up and the guys in white jackets will come take me away and thank you very much for that Fred!!