While I had planned to arrive on time, before 8:20 a.m. I arrived at 8:25 a.m. feeling flustered. My pride in being punctual was wounded. Walking into the courthouse felt as if I were checking through TSA at an airport. A policeman took my purse and coat to be x-rayed. The metal detector alarmed when I walked through it, causing the officer tending the machine to lean forward and look down at my shoes. He grunted, “Buckles”.
Approaching a desk with a “Jurors Check In Here” sign, I apologized, “I’m sorry I’m late. I didn’t allow enough drive time.”
The jury attendant smiled reassuringly and said, “You’re just in time.” He led me down a flight of stairs to a room where about two dozen people were waiting. Within moments of my arrival we watched a film showing what was expected of a jury member. We were instructed to speak clearly, never nod our heads, say yes or no, answer only what was asked. Then we were led up a few flights of stairs to a courtroom.
As I slowly made my way up the steps, I thought to myself, “It isn’t even 9:00 a.m. yet and I’ve gone up and down six flights of steps. It’s a good thing my knee is doing as well as it is.”
The courtroom was large but there were no spectators in it. The case to be tried involved a young man contesting a DUI (driving under the influence) charge. A rap of the judge’s gavel signaled the start of the proceedings.
21 potential jurors had been summoned for the jury pool. In the following hour we were asked several questions to gauge our partiality, reducing the number of people qualified to serve. Questions like, “Have you or a member of your family ever been charged with a DUI?” If anyone raised their hand the next question was, “Will you be able be impartial in this case?” If they answered no, they were excused. Remaining potential jurors were approved or rejected through a collaboration between the prosecutor and defense lawyers. A DUI charge is a civil case, not a criminal one, so only six jurors were needed instead of the more familiar 12.