It was bound to happen.
After nearly 22 years of eligibility, I was summoned to court for jury duty. In the past, I had received a summons just before moving to another state or while living as a college student in another state. Once in LA I even had to call in on a Monday morning, only to be told that I need not report and that my jury duty had been fulfilled. So when I received a summons in April I let my supervisor know but didn’t think much of it.
On Sunday night the week of my duty, I called in and was told to call in again the next day. On Monday and Tuesday it was the same: I need not report but should call in the next day. So on Wednesday evening I nearly forgot to call in again. At about 8:30, I called and heard a recording telling me to report to the county courthouse the next morning. I left a message for my boss and headed to court the next morning.
As I’d heard from others, jury duty consisted of reading a book while sitting in a big room with about 100 other people. A round of names were called to go to jury selection, but mine was not one of them. We were given a long lunch break and told to return in the afternoon.
That afternoon, I was thinking, “This jury duty thing is okay. I get a day out of the office, and I’m serving an important civic duty.” I’d heard once that by being available, jurors help the system but influencing cases to settle without going to trial. Just by showing up, I was doing a positive thing.
Then they called my name.
I followed about 60 other jurors into a courtroom, where we learned that we were part of jury selection for a murder trial that was expected to last 2 1/2 weeks. The crowd let out a collective gasp. It quickly became hot and stuffy in the room as names were randomly selected to move up to the jury box for interviews with the attorneys. It was interesting to hear their questions, and I couldn’t help but wonder why they asked what the did. I tried to guess what they were looking for and what the case might hold. I hadn’t heard of the case, so I didn’t know why they cared about certain opinions.
The attorneys had gone through a number of potential jurors and seemed to have settled on twelve. But they still had to choose three alternates. Six people were seated for questioning, and two were eliminated.
That’s when they called my name.
I was suddenly terrified. I had always thought I’d serve happily, willing to do my small part to keep the wheels of justice turning. I felt bad when I heard people talk about lying in order to be dismissed. But I never imagined I’d be called to a murder trial. Now I was hoping they’d ask some question that would disqualify me. I was ashamed of the thought, but there it was.
Moments after I’d been called up, and shortly before we recessed for the day, I was confirmed and sworn in as an alternate juror for a murder trial.