Civil Responsibility: The dreaded Jury Duty.

The right to a jury of our peers!

If you are of legal age in NYC, at some point or another you would have received a summoning to jury duty. Whether or not you actually attended or were put on a case, well that’s another story. I never quite understood exactly why, but people seem to hate jury duty. I enjoyed it, reminded me of my paralegal studies in High School.

Here are some of the reasons people have provided as to why they could not serve on a jury:

– I have to be at work, I cannot be away for long

– I have children, I cannot be sequestered

– I’m gay, thereby biased in this case of violence against a homosexual man

– I’m biased against race X due to past experience

– I know the defendant, we used to chill on the block *nods at defendant and throws up gang sign, defendant lightly nods back, does not return gang sign*

– He’s really cute

During any jury selection you will hear these, among the many creative excuses that our peers will present in order to escape said jury duty. Eventually these people serve the 3 days or whatever it is and they are good for another 6 years or so.

When choosing a juror, the lawyers for both sides interview candidates. Each with the goal of choosing jurors that will better serve their client’s case and agenda. However they can each disqualify a juror that they feel could work against them. Sometimes jury selection takes months and months to complete. In some cases you end up getting picked up for a case, and then the justice system can prevail. Yay for justice!

Having served jury duty in the past, I’ll say it’s no cake walk to try and get everyone to agree on a case. You have 12 different people, from 12 different walks of life, with different experiences and their own unique views on life and their own set of ideals. Ultimately, they all have to agree on a single outcome.

On the jury that I served on, we had a black gentlemen who said, “she’s innocent in my book, they can say whatever they want out there, but I know she’s innocent, right?” Everyone looked at each other then, uh oh. When asked why he said that by another juror, he replied “Cause she’s a sista, and we gotta look out for our own, f*ck those legal pigs, right?”

In any case, someone on the jury panel didn’t agree with that, (obviously) and they reported it anonymously to the bailiff. At that point we were each called in separately, forced to take an oath, then questioned on the gentleman’s statements. It’s obvious you cannot say something like that, in fact I believe he could have gotten in serious trouble over it. Not very smart in my opinion.

The honorable Kenneth C. Holder was a very nice judge, so the juror got lucky and shortly thereafter was simply relieved of jury duty and replaced by an alternate.

While serving on the jury you listen to all the facts, details, testimony from witnesses, and then at the end you all sit in this room and decide the fate of the accused.

In our case, there was plenty of gray area, so deciding was really difficult. Ultimately we decided that the prosecution did not present enough evidence to convince us all beyond any doubt that this woman committed all 3 charges brought against her. We did find her guilty of one infraction that was very obvious, “forging a signature”. This happened over a period of 2 days or so, and many hours of back and forth discussion over the laws and what actually happened.

Jury duty is an important part of our judicial system. It shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Have you served your country providing this essential service? If so, share your experience with us in the comments section, even if you were one of the ones that ducked jury duty, we at NYC Talking want to hear about it!

Bonus questions:

How difficult do you think it will be to pick a jury for the George Zimmerman trial?

How long do you think it take for them to come to an agreeing decision?


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