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So I have completed my service to the circuit court system of Montgomery County, Maryland.

February 11, 2009, 12:33 PM

So today, I had jury duty, which involved sitting and doing nothing for a shade under three hours over at the Montgomery County Judicial Center in Rockville.

According to them, they had a small docket today judging by the number of jurors that they called. So I got in and found the jury waiting room, where they gave us our little juror badges. Then we watched an orientation film, where the late Ed Bradley, as well as Diane Sawyer, explained why jury service is such a high calling, and how it basically works and what happens. Then it was time to play the waiting game. I found a nice place to park myself and pull out the Lappy, and I took care of some odds and ends while waiting to see what happened. I did some work Email, I fooled around on Wikipedia for a while, and watched some videos on YouTube.

Then after about an hour, my number, 73, was called up, along with the numbers of about 30 other people by my best estimate. I went up to Courtroom 14 on the sixth floor with the other prospective jurors, and we sat down in the gallery. At the front of the courtroom, the attorneys for the prosecution and the defendant were seated at tables, as was the defendant himself. Then the judge, the Honorable Mary Beth McCormick, came in, and things began. She explained that this was a criminal case related to an alleged violation of a protective order. The jury’s job was to determine guilt by the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, and sentencing would be up to the judge. We were all sworn in, and things got started, as the process of voir dire began. The judge asked a number of questions to us related to disclosure of information that might affect our service as a juror in this particular case, and in the event that anyone had something to disclose, those individuals were called up, one at a time, to make their disclosure to the judge and the attorneys for both sides. While disclosures were going on, the judge activated a “husher”, which turned off the microphones and played white noise over the sound system.

Following all the disclosures, the judge started seating jurors by calling their juror number. Twelve individuals were seated. Each was then instructed to stand, and the attorneys for both sides were asked to determine whether they should seat that juror. If both sides voted to seat the individual, the person was seated. If one of the attorneys voted to excuse a juror, the person was excused from that case, and sent back to the jury commissioner, for possible reassignment to another case that day. Then they called some more numbers to replace the three jurors that the attorneys voted to excuse. Of those, two were seated, and one was excused. So they called up yet another juror, number 71. 71 was seated, and so they had a jury of twelve people, and could now begin. The judge instructed the rest of us to go back to the jury commissioner’s office for further instructions.

So I wasn’t going to sit on that jury, and just as well. I wasn’t particularly enthused about sitting on a jury for a criminal matter. But I did come close. They were calling jurors in numerical order for seating in the jury box, and since 72 was not called to the courtroom, as number 73, it would have been me if they had to call anyone beyond 71.

Then when we got back to the jury commissioner’s office, they had good news – there were no other cases that needed jurors assigned to them, and so we were sent home. Excellent. They cut the checks for our fifteen bucks, and we were on our way.

So all in all, it wasn’t as painful as I thought, and the ladies in the jury commissioner’s office were very nice and were committed to making it as painless as possible. And so while I grumbled a lot about having to go, it wasn’t all that bad. I wouldn’t necessarily mind wanting to sit on a jury, but if I had a choice, I would rather sit on a jury for a civil case than a criminal case. I’ve watched courtroom shows like Judge Judy and the like lots of times, plus I once watched a civil case in real life in Waynesboro, Virginia back in 2000 for a paper I was doing for a college class. And even discounting TV court shows, civil cases are just more interesting. It’s fun watching people battle out their differences in court, and no one goes to jail, though someone may end up in the poorhouse at the end of it. I really don’t want to contribute to sending someone to jail if I can avoid it. I don’t want that on my conscience.

So all in all, like I said, not as bad as I thought, and I’m off the hook for this for at least three years.

Web site: Jury information for Montgomery County. I was glad that they had wireless Internet, so I could at least hop online while waiting.

Song: Brian Regan talks about jury duty and nonsense judges.

Quote: Meanwhile, the jury commissioner's office says that they will be replacing their video with a new one soon, and that it's currently in the editing stages. It's a good thing, because currently, they have about ten or so high-definition televisions mounted in the ceiling of the jury waiting room, and they were showing a low-definition video, possibly a VHS tape, which honestly looked bad on those high-tech monitors.