a day in the juror holding pen [liveblog]

Have you wondered what it’s like to be called to jury service? I got a summons last month and today’s the big day. While I obviously won’t be able to tell you about any case that I get assigned to, I don’t think there’s any prohibition on describing the waiting. Liveblog after the jump!

7:00 am: alarm goes off. it is still dark outside. I briefly ponder the civil penalties for sleeping in.

7:45 am: get required cappuccino at Vivace, realize the free bus fare for public transit to courthouse won’t get used today

7:50 am: I catch a cab and instruct the driver to bring me to the courthouse.

8:02 am: join security screening line. Pretty much like TSA, except no shoe removal and less room to collect belongings on the other side.

8:07 am: pass through metal detector after remembering to take phone out of pocket.

8:15 am: find the “quiet” room and watch the infomercial about jury service emphasizing the appeal of directly witnessing the slow, deliberate pace of the justice system.

8:25 am: fill out “bio” form (name, occupation, previous legal entanglements, prior jury service) while listening to Judge Patricia Clark warm the crowd with a lengthy monologue about the structure of King County court system, random selection, and a brief history of juries in Western Legal Systems .

8:50 am: A speech from the jury pool administrator peppered with coffee and low-pay jokes

9:10 am: the administrator returns to ask for volunteers to donate their mileage and per diem back to the court system to help pay for childcare at the underfunded (oh, the 90s, we miss you) Kent regional justice center.

9:30 am: the names of fifty “lucky” potential jurors set free due to a continuance are read from a non-alphabetized list, punctuated by occasional stabs at humor, For them, justice moved swiftly.

9:55 am: forty more potential jurors are identified. They pick up laminated numbers and return to their seats to await further instructions.

10:45 am: another coffee break, but most people are so entrenched in their diversions that they remain seated.

11:24 am : A panel of 18 for a district court are called. They get to bring their bios to the baliff and it’s off to lunch until 1:20 pm.

11:40 am: the first forty get to go to their courtroom. the rest of us give anxious looks to the clerk, wondering when we get to go in search of lunch. All we get is tips and tricks for getting back into the courthouse faster.

11:45 am : unassigned jurors are set free until 1:30. Look out Pioneer Square: you will know us by our prominently placed badges.

1:25 pm: back from lunch. Pioneer is surprisingly impressive during the afternoon. Zaina’s falafel is not the best in the world as their sign claims (that title, for now is held by the little place in the Marais), but it is pretty great. The Elliott Bay Cafe seems to have broken free of the Bauhaus empire — reconfigured menu, no wifi, and no sign of the double chocolate cookies I so adored.

1:35 pm: The selected jurors have all been carted off to their courtrooms. I’m camping out in the “quiet room” which I like to think of as akin to the Acela “quiet car” [thislife]. The internet here is slow, but I’m clinging to it anyway.

2:43 pm: uh oh. Just called as number 11 for a case.

3:05 pm: report to the lobby where our bailiff lines us up in a big circle according to our numbers.

3:15 pm: report to the courtroom with our laminated juror labels: 1-12 in the box, the rest in the gallery. Court procedures re-explained, introduced to the attorneys.

3:34 pm: voir dire begins, “Oprah style” with a survey from the judge and weeding out of those who can’t serve for more than two days. Then we go into a talk show hosted alternately by the prosecutor and defense attorney in which we are polled for our feelings about police officers, law shows, domestic violence, etc.

4:07 pm: dismissed for the day in the middle of selection.

9:00 am : report to the jury pen.

9:15 am: called up to the courthouse for the dire voir. More talkshow, survey, questioning, etc.

10:00 am: talk show’s over and challenges begin. a lot of shuffling of jurors. we all try to secretly figure out why others are kicked off while we’re still up there.

10:30 am: the challenges are over and we become the real live jury, complete with jury room access. our new home has a coffee pot or two, some old magazines, a boardroom table, and a couple of bathrooms. The bailiff tells us about the schedule.

11:00 am: housewarming break is over, trial begins with opening statements and the first witness.

12:00 pm: lunch break. a great excuse to go to the tiny and super-crowded Mae Phim.

1:30 pm: back to the chamber of jurors, everyone reads quietly or catches up on their twittering.

2:00 pm: back to court. no more witnesses! just closing statements (with powerpoint!) and a packet of jury instructions, read to us by our calm and pleasant-voiced judge.

2:40 pm: we retire to our chambers with the evidence, deliberate deliberatively.

3:12 pm: we have a decision, take a vote, sign the paperwork, and call the bailiff.

3:45 pm: the attorneys reassemble. we turn in the verdict, it’s read and then we are polled individually.

3:55 pm: the bailiff debriefs us, the judge comes back to the jury room to chat, then the prosecutor asks if we have any questions.

4:05 pm: we turn in our badges, notebooks, and pile into an elevator. Swift justice.

3 Comments so far

  1. stan on January 14th, 2009 @ 12:32 pm

    At least you are downtown, and not stuck out in Kent.


  2. wesa on January 14th, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

    The best day to get called for jury duty is the day before Thanksgiving. Then you only have to go in for one day, not two, and are dismissed after. I think every person who was called was released that day.


  3. mmbb on January 15th, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

    Thanks for the account, Josh.
    In my 25 years here, I’ve never been called to serve, so I’ve always wondered…

    Aww, crap! I just jinxed it, didn’t I?



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