Saturday, April 16, 2016


Rural Asotin County with Lewiston Hill in background

I received a summons for jury duty. It came in the form of a questionnaire which appeared in our mailbox. I completed and returned it, noting my age and my cell phone number. I also noted that I do not have a land line. The instructions said I was to serve during the month of April, and they would call me. I wonder if I even survived the initial screening.

I’ve been lectured about the importance of jury duty. Really, I’d be quite happy to do my civic duty, but willingness to serve is no guarantee that you will serve. Meanwhile, it’s simply inconvenient to keep oneself available on the chance that court officials might call. Let’s face it – I live in fear that I will simply forget to check my phone.

"I'm tellin' ya -- there's somethin' in here."
I bet I’ve been called for jury duty eight times over the years. I was called so often in Nezperce County (Idaho) that I began to wonder “why me?” In that system, potential jurors were required to call in every Thursday evening during the month and listen to automated instructions. Most of the time the message was simple: “There is no trial scheduled for the upcoming week.”

Nellie no longer hurries.
Once I was asked to appear and waited with others for two hours while the attorneys settled the case. Seemed like a waste of time. Another time I was chosen as an alternate. I sat with the jury until it was time for them to deliberate and then I was dismissed with the judge’s hearty thanks. I was truly disappointed to be the odd man out, but oh well – I served as appointed.

Once, several years after moving from Idaho to Washington, I received a summons for jury duty in Coeur d’Alene. (I can’t remember what they call that court.) I read and re-read the summons, finally concluding that it was indeed an Idaho court. I stated on the questionnaire that I was a resident of Washington and asked if the summons was an error. I never heard from them.

"It's a little cooler on this side of the road."
But – if you’ve seen what happens when a potential juror is late or doesn’t show – well, it makes you think twice. They’re taken to a room in the back where someone speaks in hushed but stern tones. Then the sheepish errant one comes out holding a pink slip – probably a fine. No, I don’t want to be that person.

Bess pauses to reflect
Recently someone suggested that we should have professional jurors. “We need jurors who understand the law,” this individual said. At first I rejected that idea because I have been educated to believe that I have the right to be tried before a jury of my peers. But then I remembered that the last time I was called for jury duty, one of the selection questions was: “Have you had previous jury experience?” Very few hands were raised (“many are called but few are chosen”), but one woman said she had served on a jury in the Chicago area. Both attorneys were immediately attentive and questioned her closely. They asked her to explain the details of the Chicago case, which she was clearly happy to do, illustrating that she understood the case and the system. And yes, she made the cut. I did not. KW

[We walk our dogs near our home in Asotin County, Washington.]


Hallie said...

I really didn't enjoy jury duty and I thought I would. I didn't like someone's fate being in my hands and I also didn't like the contention with other jurors. There were a couple people who were so toxic I question how they make it through life.

Chris said...

I've been on the list, called once here in town and once to federal court in Cd'A. I knew the family in the town case (their employee was on trail for stealing from them) so I got off, and after sitting a morning in Cd'A waiting, a deal was struck and we were all dismissed. I agree with Hallie, I don't like the idea of someone's fate being in my hands and I suspect I'm easily swayed by good closing arguments.