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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