For most people, jury duty is an annoyance that comes around a few times in their life. For me, I was actually stoked when I got my summons! Ever since I was in about junior high, I have been obsessed with all things law. I love reading books and watching shows and movies about court cases and controversial topics. My interest in law peaked in high school when I joined our school’s mock trial team and continued into college when I took criminal justice courses for fun. Serving on a jury was the closest I would ever come to getting in on the law action, so I was thrilled when I got my chance.
Of course being summoned doesn’t guarantee you will actually sit on a jury, so I prepared and appeared on the day I was required to hear my fate. My day of jury duty did not go at all how I had imagined (not to mention I had no clue what to actually expect), so I thought I would share a little ‘a day in the life’.
8:20 am: Arrive at the Denton County Courthouse – the letter seemed so adamant that you would be reprimanded if you arrived late or our of dress code, but the first thing I noticed was how relaxed jury duty actually was. A good third of those summoned showed up late and many were dressed very casually. This is basically just a time of awkwardness – decide which strangers look the safest to sit next to and then you decide how soon is too soon to get out your book to pass the time.
8:30 am: A lady, whose title I don’t remember, gives a little speech about donating your jury compensation and then gives you a brief overview of what to expect from the next hour. She then turns on this exceptionally cheesy – although I found it to be mildly amusing – video that explains how the court system works, what jury duty is, and a fact vs. fiction segment about the justice system. Honestly, I thought the video was unnecessary, but they included snippets from well-known law movies from the 90’s and early 2000’s such as Legally Blonde, My Cousin Vinny, and Liar Liar.
9:00 am: A judge has you take the jury duty oath and then explains all of the ways to get out of jury duty: exemptions and hardships. He goes through each one and then, for people who hadn’t done this part online, has them each come up and explain their situation and then they figure out if they can leave or if they have to stay.
9:30 am: The lady returns and explains how many cases they have to pick juries for. On my day, they would need half of us. She then says where and when the first case is being held and begins calling out names. If your name is called, you say ‘here’, retrieve your letter saying when and where you have to report to, and then you leave. My name was the first called during the second round. I was to report to a JP court in Carrollton at 1pm.
10:00 am – 1:00 pm: Kill time. Luckily, Carrollton is back towards my home, so I just stopped into the coffee shop my husband works at to chat, work, and eat. I was able to get a little work done in my down time. Just a side note: your job cannot fire you for serving on a jury, but they do not have to pay you; some can even require you to make up the work.
1:00 pm: I arrived at the Carrollton courthouse a little before 1 and had literally no idea where to go or what to do. There was no sign or receptionist, so I just kind of walked around like a moron until I saw some lady and decided to ask if she was here for jury duty. She was and instructed me to go into this door and sign in. Then more waiting.
1:15 pm: We are called into the courtroom. The judge enters and addresses the defendant, only to realize that the defendant was not present. We were then thanked for our time and released.
Yep, I finally get my chance to serve on a jury and the darn defendant didn’t show up to his own trial. I want to be a person who believes in our justice system and be excited to participate, but today definitely felt like a waste of time having to drive all over our county when the defendant doesn’t even care enough to appear. Such a disappointment!
Have you ever served on a jury? What was your experience like?