I spent a few days this last week as a member of a jury in a criminal trial. This is my second time serving in a jury in spite of only being summoned to service twice. I guess I have one of those faces.
Jury duty is one of the more painful civic duties for a full-time traveler. It requires being in a specific place at a specific time, just for the chance you are selected. If you are self-employed (as I am) then you also lose out on work during your service.
Being in a jury is an inconvenience, but it is educational. It also gave me more confidence in our legal system as I observed some of the inner workings of our judicial system.
In my case, the jury ruled not guilty of the serious charges against the defendant. Everyone on the jury thought something happened but there was not enough evidence to remove reasonable doubt. While the accused may have been guilty (of something) and gone free, we avoided the horror of convicting an innocent person.
I’m glad that it’s hard to convict somebody of a crime, and that we are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Tips for Jury Selection for Full-Time travelers or otherwise busy folk:
Being excused from jury service is rare. Most excuses result in a delay in your service, not being excused all together.
You can shift your assigned jury time. The court knows that people have obligations and are willing to work around them. If you have a family reunion or a work conference, they will be happy to schedule your service after you return. Your jury paperwork will include instructions on how to notify the court of any such issues you have. Expect to receive another notice soon after your conflicting event.
You might be able to ask for a specific dates. Full-time travelers rarely return ‘home’, but you might be planning a trip through your home state sometime soon anyway. I delayed once because of a family reunion. When I received another notice shortly after that, and I called the jury clerk at the number listed on my summons to explain our situation. The jury clerk was both cheerful and happy to work with me, and assigned me to the week we already planned to be in town visiting family.
Even if you receive jury summons, you might not be selected for the jury. The jury selection process takes about a half-day. If you are not selected, you are usually done with your jury service for a few years. Jurors are selected in a random order. The computer system assigns you a juror number and you are selected in order unless excluded. Valid reasons for exclusion include knowing anybody involved or having a family member convicted of a similar crime. High numbers are less likely to be selected.
You will be told the expected length of the trial during the jury selection process. If you have scheduled travel, know the dates in advance. The court will ask about conflicts for the trial period, and you might be excused.
Be ready if you decide to delay. When I was first summoned, my juror number (called a reporting number on the paperwork) was in the 20s. When I delayed, my juror number was quite low. After my request for the specific dates, I was juror number 1. Juror number 2 had also asked for a delay of one week. With low numbers, we were more likely to be selected for the jury unless we were excused for some reason. Your local court system might well run things differently, but that’s how it rolls here in Utah.
Go, and enjoy your jury service. In spite of the inconvenience I really enjoyed my time. The ‘commute’ on the local mass transit system down to the court was a nice change of pace. I learned more about the criminal court system and enjoyed the time with the other jurors. Being a good citizen is important, and I was pleased to be support our legal system in such an important role.