Jury Duty

As residents of the District of Columbia we are eligible for Jury Duty every 24 months. And DC certainly takes advantage of this…

I got called to report to Jury Duty in August, after previously serving as recently as June 2007.

DC has a rule: one day or one trial. The last time I was called I only had to serve one day–I actually sat in the jury waiting room starting at 8am until they released us at about 4. My juror number was never called and I wound up thinking of it as not much of a hassle. But this time my juror number was called in for a panel around 11 am.

I was 12th on the list of about 80 or so candidates. We were escorted to the courtroom and the first 14 of us were seated in the juror box with the rest of the group. The basic circumstances of the case were shared (a man was being tried for possession with intent to distribute over 1/2 pound of marijuana in SE DC) and the voir dire process began. By the end of the day I knew I was chosen to sit on the trial.

The H. Carl Moultrie I Courthouse, seen from 6th & C NW by flickr user M.V. Jantzen

No need to go into all the details of the trial, but I actually found it to be a great learning experience, and I truly felt proud to be serving my civic duty. Of course the trial only lasted a day and a half, and deliberation was about another full day, so fortunately I didn’t have to miss too much work. And while it’s not ideal to be sitting in a room without windows for several days in a row, I learned about my fellow jurors’ unique backgrounds during all the downtime we had–we were 9 women and 3 men, including the proprietor of some local restaurants, a former National Geographic editor, a student at UDC (who missed her first day of classes due to the trial!), a hill staffer, an attorney, and a nurse. I was impressed with the caliber of people who were chosen for the jury.

The most interesting part of the experience was post-trial, when both the prosecutor and public defender debriefed us. They told us some details they weren’t permitted to share during the trial for one reason or another, and also wanted feedback on their work–almost as if we were critiquing a performance! While I say it was an interesting experience, I’m certainly content waiting another 2 years before participating again.

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  1. 1

    pqresident says

    it's really refereshing to read a positive post about jury duty. many I've met grumble or roll their eyes when they say they've been called down to Indiana Avenue by the DC court system. a democracy and our justice system is a participatory undertaking so when I had my turn a few years ago, I was interested in participating. the judicial alternatives history offers are not so desireable. nicest of all was being able to go home for lunch!

  2. 2

    IMGoph says

    i was called for a jury this summer, and ended up on a 3 week trial (it was a medical malpractice case).

    ended up meeting an ANC commissioner, former amtrak workers, people from ward 3 to ward 8. it was longer than i would have liked, but still a very interesting experience.

    if i may ask, who was the NG editor (wondering if i know them…)

  3. 3

    Scenic Artisan says

    i'm curious about what kinds of things they said during the debriefing. i've never sat through that. what kind of advice was given?

  4. 4

    KimFromTheK says

    @pqresident, Thanks!

    @IMGoph, unfortunately I didn't get her name, but she was recently laid off as part of cuts they made at NGeo.

    @Scenic Artisan, the filled us in on what happened to the defendant's accomplice (he pled guilty and his sentencing trial was taking place the following week), answered questions about circumstantial evidence that they couldn't provide during the trial, and basically wanted feedback to questions like "how did you feel about having the defendant stand trial in his own defanse". We had questions about the jury selection process which they provided answers to as well.

  5. 5

    Scenic Artisan says

    yeah having known the accomplice pled guilty would be interesting knowledge….

  6. 6

    Anonymous says

    I was a juror in a trial a couple of years ago (and recently got another notice to serve). The prosecutor and defense attorney did a debrief after that trial, too. During the debrief, we found out that the defendant, whom we found guilty stealing a motor bike, was also awaiting trial for a much more serious and violent crime (attempted murder, IIRC) and was headed back to the slammer no matter our verdict.

  7. 7

    si says

    I once served on a drug trial and they gave us all kinds of info about the guys mother being arrested for having crack in her underwear & she was pleading guilty.. etc. It was an interesting experience, we found the guy innocent in about 5 seconds but they took longer because they wanted another day off of work..sigh. The weird thing about that trial was that they picked me even though i lived right around the corner in columbia heights. I wasn't a neighborhood busybody back then:)