Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Jury Duty

Last year I got a summons for jury duty in the 19th Judicial District Court of Baton Rouge.  It was different than the summons Brian had received in that I was commanded to report.  Brian just had to call in each evening and see if he was needed.  Anyway, at that time I was nursing Matthew and so wrote a letter requesting an excuse.  My request was granted and I was sent a letter informing me that I would be called again on April 8, 2013.  I was glad to be excused and filed the letter - never to be thought of again.  

Until a few weeks ago when I got the new letter.  Bummer!!  

So, Brian took the week off work using his vacation days and I prepared to show up downtown early Monday morning.  

I left home an hour or so before I had to be there because of traffic and parking concerns.  

My first morning rush-hour drive in many, many years.  

Luckily, I found a parking meter a block from the courthouse.  I didn't have to pay for parking - how nice.  

My view of the Courthouse from the sidewalk.  

I spent a long time in the jury waiting room - waiting.  We watched a movie about what happens in the courtroom and our duty as jurors.  

Then they called out 13 lucky numbers.  These people would get to go home and not have to come back the rest of the week.  

Unfortunately, I was not one of those numbers.  

Next they formed the first jury for Judge Erwin.  I was among the approximately 50 people called for this judge.  We took the elevator to the 10th floor.  There were four courtrooms.  Two civil and two criminal.  We waited outside of a criminal courtroom.  There was some confusion about when we were supposed to enter the room.  Finally the bailiff came out and ushered us in where we took seats in the back of the room.  Two young black men in orange jumpsuits sat inside.  

The judge told us there was good news and bad news.  The good news for us was that one of the men had pled guilty and been sentenced to 35 years in prison.  The bad news was that we had to return after lunch because he had more cases on the docket for the day.  

I believe these may be the stories of the two men who sat in the courtroom that morning.  I found them in the paper today.  

So I left the courthouse and sat in the plaza to call Brian.  As I was on the phone I saw the bus from the prison arriving at the courthouse.  

I headed across the street to Subway for lunch.  

The courthouse building from Subway.

The little Subway.

I ate quickly, went back across the street to check out the downtown library - disappointing - and then returned to the courthouse to wait until Judge Erwin was ready for us again.  

From the library looking at the courthouse building - the large garage doors where the prison bus enters with inmates.  

In the jury waiting room there was a movie playing on the projector.  We waited quietly to be called.

We went back up to Judge Erwin's courtroom.  They were ready for another trial.  The defendant was there and the state attorneys also.  They randomly called out 14 names from the jury pool - I was NOT one of them - and they took seats in the jury box.  We sat through three hours of information and the Voir Dire where they question the prospective jurors.  It was quite lengthy.  

Throughout this we learned a little about the case.  Then each side had a chance to challenge any of the jurors.  At this point the judge let the rest of us go with instruction to be back Tuesday morning at 10 am.  

Tuesday morning I drove James to school and then arrived downtown.  I was not able to find parking on the street so had to use the garage parking and walk a bit.  

When we arrived upstairs we noticed that the police officers involved in the case were seated in the courtroom.

There was a quick arraignment.  The man pled not guilty to theft of property.  He could not afford an attorney so one would be appointed to him and he received a trial date for July of this year.

The judge informed us that they had kept all of the jurors from yesterday's case except for one.  So they randomly chose three women - I was NOT one of them - and they took seats in the jury box.  We had to listen to the same process again.  Mostly the same questions.  At the end they chose one of the women to be the final juror and we were told we could go.  

View of the Louisiana state capitol from the 10th floor of the 19th JDC.  

Downtown Baton Rouge and the Mississippi River.

We checked in downstairs with the jury coordinator who told us we were assigned to Judge Erwin and if he didn't need us the rest of the week - we were free to go.  Now we do not have to serve until at least two years has passed.  We'll see how long it takes for my name to come up again.  

I came home in time for lunch!  

My thoughts:  Although I didn't like being "commanded" to appear somewhere it was an interesting experience and I did learn some things.  None of the potential jurors in there seemed to know what  "presumed innocent" meant.  Even though the judge repeatedly told us that the State had the burden of proof in this case.  Two of them actually said that they felt the defense needed to prove the innocence of the accused.  One of those women was chosen today as the alternate for the trial.  Scary.

I also learned that some people have very little patience.  Sitting next to adults who hem and haw about how long they had to sit was a bit annoying.  I almost asked the lady next to me if she wanted a snack and a toy to play with because she was acting like my two-year-old in the waiting room.

I'm glad that I was not needed to sit on the trial.  Hopefully the random system will give me a break and leave me alone for a while.  

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