Jury Duty (part 1 of 2)

February 28, 2014

Journal, Lloyd

I had Jury Duty this week, and I’ve been boring Lauren with the details (that were not directly related to the case) all week long. Now that the trial is over, I can bore you with them as well. That’s your warning. It’s going to be a longish post. Feel free to zone out.

First of all, I found the whole process fascinating and I’m very glad that I got to participate in our judicial system. Nearly everyone I know complains about Jure Duty, but it was entirely interesting.

I’ve been on the Jury Duty list for about 3 months now and have another 3 months to go. There have been 9 cases in the first 3 month; all but one has been settled without coming to trial. On Wednesday I actually had to go to the courthouse.

Thirty-some of us arrived at 8:30, took our seats, and waited an hour while the sheriff rounded up the other 3 people who had Jury Duty. One of them had clearly come directly from bed. He had an impressive array of bed-head. Another was just coming off the night shift at our local muffler company (which I later learned now employs 700+ people). The third was a nicely dressed young lady who was hauled out of work.

While we were waiting, I talked to the people on either side of me. Sewing Lady was on my left and Ice Fisherman was on my right. The best parts of the conversation were when Sewing Lady and Ics Fisherman would talk directly to each other.  I think I might have had more in common with Sewing Lady than Ice Fisherman.

Once everyone was there they brought forth The Tin Coffee Can Of Justice and drew out 18 names. I was number 7. That turned out to mean that for the next two days I was sitting closest to The Defendant who I happened to know. Awkward.

The Judge swore us in and asked if any of us had a reason we couldn’t serve on The Jury. One women had had recent back surgery and The Judge dismissed her. The Tin Coffee Can Of Justice was brought forth again and another name was drawn.

The Lawyers for The Plaintiff and for The Defendant then asked us questions for about an hour. Any member of The Jury could be dismissed “for cause” if they could not be impartial in the case and each of The Lawyers could dismiss 3 of The Jurors “without cause” for any reason that they might like.

It turns out that it would be easy to get dismissed from The Jury. All you would have to do is say “No” when one of The Lawyers asked you, “Do you think you can be impartial in this case even though you know The Defendant?” Just for example.

These are the questions that they asked that I didn’t answer:

  • Are you a volunteer firefighter?
  • Do you know any of these people who will be mentioned in the trial and how?
  • Have you ever had insurance with Farmer’s Mutual?
  • Are you a smoker? (Several were, one lady smoked cigars)
  • Does the idea of a closet smoker upset you?
  • Have you ever been involved with a fire?
  • Are you involved with Farmer’s Mutual in any other way?
  • Are you a parent, have you ever had to discipline a child for not doing something?
  • Do you hunt, camp or fish?

There were probably more questions. Those are the ones that I remember. If you indicated that you would answer yes to any of those, The Lawyer would ask you some follow up questions. It was obvious that, in addition to determining who might not be able to give their client a fair hearing, they were also trying to build a rapport with The Jury. I think they were both good lawyers and did a good job on both counts.

Can you tell what the trial was going to be about from the questions? At some point as it was becoming more and more obvious from the questions what this case might be about, they just came out and told us that an insurance company was suing someone who they believed, through negligence,  caused a building to burn down.

These are the questions that I said yes to (and some of my answers to the follow-up questions):

  • Do you know The Defendant?
  • Do you smoke, but not consider yourself a smoker?
    • Cigars
    • Once a year at our family reunion.
  • Are you not “from seward”?
    • Missouri.
  • Have you ever been involved in a legal action?
    • My wife and I were sued in small claims court.
    • The plaintiff didn’t appear so the case was dismissed.
    • I wish he would have shown up.
  • Have you ever had an insurance claim?
    • Hail damage.
    • It was handled very well by the insurance company.
  • Have you ever been in a supervisory role?
    • Yes.
    • Yes, I’ve had to fire people.

For the first question, I told them how I knew The Defendant and they asked if I felt like I could be impartial. I’ve only spoken to him a handful of times, so I said that I thought I could. But I was pretty sure I would be one of The Jurors who would be dismissed “without cause”.

It turns out that to be dismissed “without cause” you should:

  1. Be a volunteer firefighter (x3).
  2. Be a smoker (x2).
  3. Have canceled your insurance policy with The Plaintiff because of a claim turned out badly.
  4. Really dislike smoking. (This person may have been trying to get off jury duty.)
  5. Have had built the Insurance Company’s building. (This was Bed-Head.)
  6. Got your first loan to buy a motor cycle from The Defendant

Or, to be more general, you should answer yes to a lot of questions and/or talk a lot when you give your answers. I was a little proud of the fact that I think I talked more than anyone else who was not dismissed. Of course, I was the only one wearing a tie, and I had shaved off The Old Testament Patriarch Beard on Monday.

After that everyone else in The Jury Pool was dismissed (they had to sit there for 2+ hours and then just go home). The Bailiff took The Jury to The Jury Room where there were home made cookies, trail mix, coffee, soda, water and Worthers (which I ended up using like cough drops. I must have sucked down a dozen of them.) We also had the world’s narrowest conference table. It was about 12 feet long and 2 feet wide.

We were called back into The Courtroom, The Judge gave us some instructions and The Trial began. I was eventually elected Jury Foreman, but I’ll tell you about that and The Trial tomorrow.


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About Lloyd

Lloyd Sommerer is a middle/high school teacher who likes to build websites, read books, grow beards, make fun of Lauren’s prototypes and eat the sauce of the picante.

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11 Responses to “Jury Duty (part 1 of 2)”

  1. Brad Said on:

    This is really interesting. (no sarcasm)
    And it is VERY different from the jury process in Baltimore City.


  2. CousinSam Said on:

    Spoiler Alert! Lloyd trimmed his beard.


  3. Peggy Said on:

    A cliffhanger…….you.

    And yup, in Balto. You’d be dismissed immediately because you knew the defendant……but I guess in your town you’d never gather a jury if that was the case.



    • Karla Said on:

      I was thinking the same thing, Peggy. There’s no way they could get a jury if you didn’t know any participants. I was dismissed from a jury pool once because I knew the prosecuting attorney. I remember it was my birthday and I was pregnant; as much as I’d like to be a juror, I didn’t want any part of it that day.


      • Lloyd Said on:

        I thought I would be dismissed too. Lauren actually knew the defendant much better than I did. I said that I knew them through Lauren and they asked if I considered them a friend, acquaintance or… I don’t know what the “or” would have been. I answered acquaintance right away. THey asked if that would keep me from being impartial and I answered, I believe honestly, that I didn’t think it would.


        • Lauren Said on:

          Are you kidding? You could be impartial if I was on the stand.

          No, wait. You’d find me guilty no matter what. 😉

          Also, you are welcome for the beard nagging, Mr. Foreman.


  4. Kristi Said on:

    You were the foreman? All those years as Dad’s valet paid off. You dressed the part very well, I’d say. Nice shirt and tie. (Did you have cuff links?) Well-groomed beard.


  5. Beth Said on:

    I have had jury duty in Seward twice. You have described my experience EXACTLY. Except I was one of those 2+ hours bench sitters… I was very disappointed not to have been drawn from The Tin Coffee Can of Justice.


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